Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Data Driven Campaigns Can Help Small Nonprofits

graphic via Robert Kirrily on Flickr

I really dislike numbers, but sometimes it can't be helped. SSIR has a good article about learning from Obama's data-driven campaigns. They make it about measurement, but I make it about reach.

Here's the gist of it:
  1. Target your audience for the best returns on your outreach. Example: Obama's campaign focused on buying ads in places where they could reach the most potential voters, not the biggest audience.
       
  2. Do research on what works by looking at what is happening in academics and science. Example: Obama's campaign asked advice from behavioral scientists about what could get people to the polls.
       
  3. Design outreach for specific segments of your audience. Example: Obama's campaign targeted the segment of 40-49 year old women potential supporters and offered them incentives directly tied to what that demographic found appealing (George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker).
       
  4. Get the most inclusive database system you can - even if you have to pay for it. Don't segregate your data into silos; tie it all together to get the most out of it. Example: The Obama campaign tied their voter registration database to the website and their campaign database so they knew which registered voters did what and used the data to target their outreach.
       
  5. Invest in data science by learning or having someone on staff who can accurately measure and help you analyze the data you're getting from your system. Example: Obama's campaign reportedly had ten times the data scientists than Romney's did and Romney's campaign delegated some analysis to outside firms, who were less responsive.
       
  6. Don't be afraid to go where the data tells you. Example: data analysis found that Reddit was a popular gathering place for key targets, so Obama made a virtual appearance on the site, even though Reddit was not well-known to his senior aides.
Two more things:

It bugs me that the article focuses on your community like they were just 'targets' or numbers. But you don't have to see them that way.

Also, I know some of you are going to complain about the amount of money Obama's campaign had, which you don't. Don't throw away these ideas just because you think you can't afford them. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have (as Teddy Roosevelt said) and make plans for the future to find a way to get what you need so you can do more.

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