- 2016 Hillary for America
Hillary Clinton may have lost the election, but her campaign’s digital arm used technology in innovative, creative ways – it put a live fact-checking interface on the homepage during the debates, created an interactive tool that compared what the two candidates were doing at various years in their lives, and made it easy to find ways to support and connect with the campaign.
Now the platform that helped the Clinton team organize online followers is available to any group with like-minded values.
Timshel, a three-year-old startup founded by Michael Slaby, the chief integration and innovation officer of Obama’s 2012 campaign, aims to make it easier for organizations and nonprofits to collect donations, plan events, and gather data from supporters. The platform used by the Clinton campaign is called the Groundwork, and a week after the election, Timshel made the technology available to other progressive organizations that want to use it.
The Groundwork gives groups the technological building blocks to create websites that can incorporate petitions, pledges, user accounts, event planning, and donation collection systems – tools that are often difficult to leverage, especially for small organizations. The Groundwork also makes it simple to track engagement, fundraising and other progress measures over time, and plans to debut tools for tracking nonprofits’ actual impact in early 2017.
Groups who want to use the service can sign up online, and their first 10,000 interactions with supporters (sign-ups, donations, inquiries, etc) are free. After that, a monthly subscription costs $1,500 plus additional charges based on the volume of interactions an organization gets.
But Slaby is clear that the platform is not open to any group who wants to use it.
“We’re a progressive minded organization and we’re not shy about our values,” he said. “We don’t work with Republican candidates, we’re not going out and helping the NRA with their digital programs. Our values are our values, so we’re still paying attention to who’s using our tech and who we’re supporting.”
If, for example, a pro-gun group wanted to use the Groundwork, Slaby says the company “would politely decline.”
Although Timshel was planning to make the Groundwork available to charities and progressive groups regardless of who won the election, Slaby says the mission of the platform has crystallized with Donald Trump’s win.
“Our focus on trying to help scale and provide infrastructure for human progress or social enterprise in some ways just got more important,” he said, citing the recent uptick in financial support for organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union.
Slaby is careful about avoiding the overly simplistic there’s-an-app-for-that approach to solving major problems, and doesn’t credit the Groundwork for the digital strategies the Clinton campaign employed.
“The creativity was theirs, we were just sort of an empowering function. By handling the underlying infrastructure, by making that build process easier, they were able to do more and more creative stuff,” he said.
Slaby believes that by creating better websites and digital campaigns, progressive groups will be able to achieve their goals more easily. And indeed, in the few weeks since the Groundwork platform became widely available, he says more than 100 groups – including Democracy Builders, which aims to engage disenfranchised Americans in politics, and Rhize, which helps coach movements and connect allied groups – have already signed up.
“I think what we’ve seen in the progressive community generally is sort of a bit of an awakening – some people are worried and frustrated and really active and engaged in a lot of new things,” he said. “There is a lot of energy right now and we’re trying to help provide infrastructure for that energy.”