The use of political data for targeting voters is being pushed to the limits and it is time to expand its uses past voter contact.
In the democratic political world, there is one data base to rule them all: VAN.
The VAN (Voter Activation Network) is the database that nearly all democratic campaigns use to target voters as a part of their “field” operation. Field is when campaigns knock on doors of or make phone calls to targeted voters.
VAN is an extremely powerful system that holds information of every person in America who has voted (and many of those who haven’t) since the early 2000s. Information in VAN includes which elections people have voted in, responses to survey questions and party support scores based individual’s personal information.
Essentially, VAN allows democrats to target people in ways that are unimaginable to people. But this targeting has been primarily used to convince people to vote for certain candidates. Now, it is time to expand political targeting to fundraising.
The company that owns VAN is NGPVAN. The “NGP” part of their name is another database that they provide. NGP is a fundraising database that holds only the information that campaigns put into it. For example, if John Smith donates to the Ross Dahlke for Governor campaign, I would have to enter in John Smith’s information and create a new contact for John Smith and then attribute a donation to him. Whereas in VAN, if John Smith said that he would vote for me, I would look up his existing profile in VAN and mark him as a supporter, I wouldn’t need to create a new profile for him.
Financial donation information is much harder to gather than voter registration data and there are legal protections on many lists of political donations, but it’s the next step to maximizing the potential of political campaigns.
If I work in political analytics, I hope to be able to create a fundraising targeting system that could create lists of only the best potential donors. Instead of candidates wasting time on fundraising calls to people that may not donate, or not donate as much as they could, we could use existing demographic and issue profiles of candidates that could get the most out of fundraising efforts.
Data has changed the way that voter contact operations work. Soon, data will change the way that political fundraising works.
This post was inspired by NGPVAN’s blog: