I just finished another IPDI report, “Constituent Relationship Management: The New Little Black Book of Politics” (available as a free PDF from their website). Like the Mobilizing Generation 2.0 book I read and blogged about a month ago, I found that the essential take away from the IPDI report is that, newsflash, people still matter. Many of the authors included in the IPDI report frequently and strongly emphasize that the emphasis in constituent relationship management (CRM) should really be on the relationship not just the data or what the data does for you.
Obviously, in the web 2.0 world campaigns need to respond to the people they’re asking to do anything– from fwd an e-mail to make a donation. Mobilizing Generation 2.0 touched on this a little too, now that we’re used to being in contact and getting feedback quickly, it seems weird (and actually downright sketchy) when we don’t get at least an auto response saying “thanks for your input, we’ll get back to you soon.”
On some level this seems really obvious, right? I mean, isn’t politics all about shaking hands and kissing babies? Every time I go out on a canvas or volunteer at a phone bank the organizer tells me that even though they have direct mail, robo calls, etc. it is still vital that the voters meet the people involved in the campaign. Not only does this face-to-face contact put a neighbour in the place of a political advocate, it makes everyone involved in the conversation just that much more invested in it. The volunteers have to cement their own bond with the organization and the people they’ve contact see how important it is to members of their community.
A major argument that is present in most, though not all, of the essays included in this book was the growing importance of institutional memory. CRM can help organizations and campaigns call on activists even if they’ve been in something of a holding pattern during an off year. I know that it would mean a lot to me if my next e-mail from Planned Parenthood was something like, “we know you did X back in 2006 so we know we can count on you for Y in 2010…” Even if that was a product of the computer program, I think it would go a long way in making me feel like the organization needed me, not just anybody.
Anyway, I think that this guide underscores what so many webby people have been talking about for years now– it is still people that are doing what you ask them to do. Putting data into a database program doesn’t change the fact that if the people don’t feel a connection to you or your organization you wont have a snowball’s chance in h*ll of making political progress.