Move Your Campaign to the Cloud…Now!

If you are not utilizing available tools, your political or advocacy organization risks being disrupted at the ballot box.

Starting a new campaign? Or trying to light a spark within your existing advocacy organization?

We hear a lot about how campaigns and advocacy organizations use technology for voter contact, outreach and analysis. (Well, let’s be honest, most are used for fundraising.) But these tools are often limited to the biggest of players and are far beyond the means of most political/policy groups — especially state and local efforts.

Moreover, while voter contact is THE most critical thing you can do during a political or advocacy campaign, you can’t get your message out if your organization is struggling.

Too often political/policy organizations are stuck in a crushing cycle — launched on passion and commitment; thrown together to meet the most pressing needs; assembled from a wide-range of characters and assets/technology; and held together by inertia and hope (if not a little duct tape). They find themselves unable to capitalize on success. They lack the ability to rapidly scale. They become burdened by an unintended “digital bureaucracy” of legacy systems and processes brought in by staff and supporters — each of which hampers critical internal communication and decision-making. Sadly, by default, most organizations resort to communication and management through email — a sure sign that things have gone wrong.

You need to launch and operate your political/policy organization like a startup — lean, flexible, efficient, mobile and secure. From day one!

The recent availability of cloud (or web-based) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) products and processes has revolutionized the formation, launch and operation of businesses large and small. There is NO reason that these same solutions should not be applied in the world of political and policy advocacy. This is disruption that should not only be welcomed, but fully embraced.

As the treasurer / compliance officer / legal counsel / consultant to many federal, state and local campaigns, PACs and non-profit advocacy organizations, below are a few of the solutions that I recommend clients immediately explore and implement. These recommendations are generally based on the following criteria:

  • Ease of use and existing widespread adoption;
  • Device agnostic (apps work with Mac/PC/iOS/Android);
  • Mobility-first (can be used anywhere with wifi or 4G);
  • Inexpensive (relative) with pay-as-you go costs;
  • Wide integration with other services;
  • Scalability; and
  • Security (backup and access).

Communication and Collaboration Hub

#Slack ( Slack is designed for pure online interaction and collaboration. Much like an instant messaging or social system that can also be used to share files, calendars, etc. Slack reduces email clutter and encourages the free flow of information among team members.

Slack offers a slew of easy-to-use communication and social features: chat rooms (channels) organized by topic; private groups; and direct messaging. All content inside Slack is searchable — including files, conversations, and people.

Slack is best utilized by integrating some of the apps outlined below to create a single location to organize teams for precise communication and collaboration.

Most of Slacks features are free, but some advanced features (or a very large number of users) may require a subscription.

Content Creation

GSuite (Google Docs)( like their website says, Google’s G Suite offer pretty much “Everything you need in one package.” With GSuite, you get email (Gmail); shared calendars (Google Calendar); messaging and video conferencing (Hangouts); document creation (Docs, Sheets and Slides); and document storage/sharing (1 TB of Drive). GSuite also integrates with the note-taking app Google Keep.

GSuite is somewhat unique in that it allow for simple real-time document creation and collaboration.

GSuite integrates well with other collaboration and communication apps listed here. Free accounts are available, but upgraded features are worth it.

Microsoft Office 365 ( like GSuite, you get email and calendars (Outlook); document creation (Word, Excel and Powerpoint); and document storage/sharing (1 TB of OneDrive). You also get the note-taking app OneNote.

Office365 integrates well with other collaboration and communication apps listed here. Higher-end plans also include Skype for video conferencing and Teams for project management / collaboration.

Document Storage and Sharing / Paperless Office

Dropbox ( likely the most popular way individuals and organizations save documents online. Recently, Dropbox has introduced enhanced control, sharing and collaboration features to both its consumer (Dropbox Pro) and Business products.

Integrates well with other collaboration and communication apps listed here, as well with other third-party apps and APIs. Free accounts are available, but upgraded features are worth it.

Box ( one of the first cloud-based document storage apps, Box is targeted towards enterprise use. Box has some of the widest integration with other third-party apps such as Adobe and Office365. Box also has some of the most useful collaboration and sharing features in the doc storage space, but some of its best functionality is reserved for its pricier plans. However, many features are available with a free account.

Google Drive: Google’s Drobox-like online document storage solution. See GSuite above.

OneDrive: Microsoft’s Drobox-like online document storage solution. See Office365 above.

Note-taking / Project Management

Evernote ( Evernote is a popular app for note-taking, organizing and archiving that syncs to various devices automatically.

(Note: I couldn’t live without Evernote.)

Evernote allows users to create a “note” which can be a piece of formatted text; a full webpage or webpage excerpt; a photograph or PDF; a voice memo; or even a a handwritten electronic “ink” note. Notes can also have file attachments. Notes can be organized into notebooks; notebooks can be further organized into stacks. Notes can be sorted, tagged, annotated, shared with comments or annotation. All notes are fully searchable.

Here are some additional useful Evernote features: web page and images clipper; PDF annotation; business cards scanner; email forwarding into notes.

Evernote has a free basic level, but almost any power-user (especially campaign communication teams) will want to upgrade to Plus or Premium subscriptions.

Dropbox Paper ( Dropbox Paper is in public beta, but it is certainly worth a look.

Dropbox Paper is an all-in-one work tool and shared workspace where your team can simultaneously create and maintain documents; assign tasks and to-do lists; and share files via Dropbox and Google Drive. Dropbox Paper is know for simple content creation — you can easily paste or drag-and-drop copied text, photos, code, links and charts. You can also message colleagues within a document (including sending stickers and emoji).

Dropbox Paper is basically a mashup of Google Docs and Slack. It’s free.

Google Keep: see GSuite above. Google Keep allows the user to make different kinds of notes, including text, lists, images, and audio. Sharing options enable real-time note cooperation with other users. Free.

OneNote: see Office365 above. OneNote is a robust note taking app from Office 365. OneNote is very similar to Evernote but less simple; some prefer it to Evernote because it is easier to export content.

Trello ( Trello uses the kanban paradigm for managing projects (work items or tasks are visualized as cards). Cards are supposed to progress from one list to the next (via drag-and-drop), for instance mirroring the flow of a feature from idea to implementation.

Trello is free, but more advanced features and users requires a subscription.

Milanote ( Milanote is currently in invite-only beta. It is one of the most promising new note-taking/collaboration tools.

Milanote can been described as a combination of Trello, Google Keep and Evernote. Milanote allows you to create a seemingly limitless canvas where you can create and organize multiple mind maps, project cards, and to-do lists. Milanote is based on visual organization and allows for simple pinning of photos, links and text. All content can be arranged and re-arranged with ease. Milanote allows for team collaboration.

Milanote is web-only (not downloadable as an app) and is currently free; there is a waiting list (but you can answer some questions to get early access).

These are a few suggestions to bring your organization into the modern cloud for maximum efficiency and productivity. In coming weeks, I’ll be featuring how to best setup and utilize these handy apps.

If you would like for me to help you set up a system for your organization, please contact me at my firm, The Ruppert Co., LLC.

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