Using CiviCRM for Political Campaigning and Constituent Support (Boston CiviCRM Meetup: Mar. 23, 2010)

2010-04-08 10:18
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Will Brownsberger, Massachusetts state representative, presented at the March 23, 2010 Boston CiviCRM meetup, which was held at the One Laptop Per Child offices.

The primary focus of Rep. Brownsberger's presentation was his campaign site,, which uses a combination of CiviCRM and a custom Drupal module to coordinate the canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts of his campaign volunteers. Donald Lobo, project lead of CiviCRM, plans to turn the Drupal canvassing module into an add-on to CiviCRM, but donations are needed to support the development necessary for this. A project plan is visible on the CiviCRM wiki. You can download the custom Drupal module that Rep. Brownsberger uses from his site.

During the course of his presentation, Rep. Brownsberger explained that it was legal for his office staff to use the same CiviCRM database as his campaign volunteers, as long as the staff were restricted from accessing fields that were specific to campaigning. CiviCRM ACL can handle this.

Rep. Brownsberger also outlined a few other interesting customizations in his CiviCRM implementation. The most important of these is the address parsing routine that normalizes addresses and groups individuals with the same address into a household record, so that he can save money on mailings. He uses data for the property assessor's office to prevent people who live in separate apartments, but who didn't specify an apartment number, from being grouped in a single household. A version of the address parsing routine will be incorporated in the next version of CiviCRM, but his PHP-based version, which runs as a cron job, is available for download from his website.

Another particularly interesting customization is the way in which Rep. Brownsberger syncs user records between his campaign site ( and, the WordPress-based site of his current office. He uses a cron job to sync the username and email from one site to the other, so people who have an account on one can use the same login on the other.

After Will Brownsberger's presentation, the group had an open discussion for about 30 minutes, focusing primarily on how to use CiviCRM for fundraising, and how it compared to non-open source solutions, such as Raiser's Edge. The sense of the group was that CiviCRM activities and relationships were sufficient for many organization's needs in terms of tracking their communications with potential donors and grantmakers. However, Raiser's Edge has a stronger reporting component than CiviCRM has as yet. Also, it was clarified that the CiviGrant component is actually for the use of grantmakers in tracking applicants, rather than for grantseekers.

The group decided that in the future meetups will be held alternatingly on the fourth Tuesday or Wednesday of the month at various locations in Boston. The next one will be held on April 28, at a location that is yet to be decided. Evan Donovan will be presenting on TechMission's use of CiviCRM on their sites and, with particular reference to how they have used it to promote enrollments in their online college and internship programs.

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