: We are a small group of "progressives" in the tiny town of Westport MA (pop. 14400). The Good Old Boys are trying to sell off the beautiful environment to their developer friends. We would like to set up a SIMPLE website and constituent relations management system. We plan to keep a "scorecard" of local officials' votes. Periodically we plan to send action oriented emails containing links to newsarticles and offering sample letters to the editor or to your selectman. I have read the articles on your homepage--very helpful. However, we are neophytes. And of course we have virtually no budget. Where do we start?
Alan Rosenblatt, Associate Director of Online Advocacy at Center for American Progress Action Fund, and author of the DrDigipol blog, responds:
There are a variety of approaches you can take. One would be to create an email campaign to the editor of the local newspaper using CitizenSpeak
to set up a campaign to send messages to any email recipient, including the editor of the local newspaper. The next step is to set up an email relations manager. civiCRM, an open source constituent relationship management database, integrates with CitizenSpeak, so that is one option, though it may be a bit advanced.
Another option is to contact DemocracyinAction
. While they normally charge a few thousand dollars a year for their system (called Salsa), they are very open to working out arrangements with small, progressive non-profits. The Salsa system includes a email blaster, a CRM, scorecard functionality, campaign and fundraising abilities (including emailing editors). The system integrates very easily into a simple website.Laura Quinn, Director of Idealware, adds:
In addition to the tools Alan talked about, you mentioned a website. I don't have much to add on top of the options offered in our A Few Good Tools to Manage Content on Simple Sites article
, but it's important to think through how everything fits together. Using something to manage your site that also handles other core functionality for you will help reduce the number of moving parts you need to manage. CivicSpace on Demand
- which will support your website, database, and email functions, and integrates with CivicSpeak - might be worth a look.
Unfortunately, there's just no silver bullet here. It's possible to do most of what you're asking for free (CivicSpeak
integrated with CivicSpace
, for instance)... but you'll need some substantial technical know-how or help to get it going. CivicSpeak is a a friendly (and free!) option for you, but without someone technical on hand, you'll likely need to invest some money in a tool to help with email blasting and some way to manage your website to keep scorecards - and everything else- up to date.
You might also consider joining the ProgressiveExchange
email list, if you haven't already - it's a great discussion list full of people who are using technologies to advance progressive causes (note that new members are moderated to ensure progressiveness - by a loose standard). The smart folks on that list would likely have some great thoughts on this question as well!The Ask Idealware posts take on some of the questions that you send us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great option to suggest for this question? Hate our responses? Help us out by entering your own answer as a comment below.