Ask Idealware: eAdvocacy Alternatives to Kintera?

Lenny asks: We're an all volunteer 501c4 that has been using Kintera. They're asking a great deal of money for continuing to use Kintera. We would greatly appreciate suggestions of other service providers. We talked to Democracy in Action but they only help c3's

We do action alerts on state and local issues that enables our readers
to send email to officials like the Governor, state legislators, city councils, and county commissions. We can segment the list and target specific geographic regions, and we're able to provide copy for the readers to send as well.


Heather Gardner-Madras, of gardner madras | strategic creative says:

When Laura asked me about fielding this question I was eager to update my knowledge about what is available in this space, having worked on building such tools back in the day. So I contacted some of the smartest people I know in this arena including Rowan Price and the rest of Free Flow Data, TJ Griffin of Jackson River LLC and Jon Stahl at One Northwest. Unfortunately what I found out just verified what I already knew - your options for email advocacy are pretty limited right now.

Apart from Kintera there are really only 2 other major players that offer the email your representative feature complete with district look up and contact information: CapWiz (which is now Capwiz·XC and owned by Roll Call) and Convio, which is not likely to be less expensive. And although Democracy in Action is exclusively C3, they do have a for profit sister company Wired for Change that works with C4s. However I am not sure you can find the eAdvocacy tools you are looking for through that company.

If you don't need automated user districting and know the email addresses of your advocacy targets, CitizenSpeak might also be worth a look. CitizenSpeak started as, and still maintains, a simple system to create targeted email campaigns, but they recently rebuilt their platform as a Drupal module which opens doors to integrating this with the Drupal CMS. Since its a free open source service you won't find the power and features available from CapWiz and Convio, of course, but it seems to be a solid open source option for smaller organizations mounting targeted campaigns.

These are the main choices that I am aware of but of course I might have overlooked something great. So if readers know of a good option I missed, please leave it in the comments.

There are a couple reasons worth mentioning for this drop off in "Write your Representative" email tools and vendors:
1. Its not economically strategic for vendors to build and maintain email advocacy tools.
In addition to the normal software development costs, the expense and difficulty of maintaining accurate and usable legislative target databases can become prohibitive.

2. The rise and proliferation of Webforms as the only means of online contact for elected officials.
Add to the expense of maintaining up to date contact information the more recent hurdle of cracking the ever growing and mutating number of webforms that legislators now require for contact and the market seems even less profitable.

3. There are growing doubts about whether email blasts to congress are effective.
Many nonprofits have cut back on eAdvocacy due to the reduced effectiveness of this approach in bringing about real policy change. The sheer volume of email congress receives has increased to the point where as Colin Delany says on ePolitics "Hill offices largely ignore them and will often treat thousands of identical messages as essentially a single message ..." At a state level and for custom targets like corporation heads email advocacy can still be effective, but this is obviously a much smaller market for vendors.
So the upshot is that in moving away from Kintera and assessing other tool options, this might be an ideal time to investigate other means of mobilizing your supporters and trying new routes for advocacy as well.

The Ask Idealware posts take on some of the questions that you send us at ask@idealware.org. Have other great options? Disagree with our answer? Help us out by entering your own answer as a comment below.

Comments

Advocacy Online is now in the

Advocacy Online is now in the US. They are officially launching at the NTEN NTC 2009. The product is definitely worth checking out.

Ghazal Vaghedi is their US contact: ghazal@advocacyonline.com

FYI - thedatabank

FYI - thedatabank www.thedatabank.com has been doing online advocacy systems since 1999.

Thanks csbagnall and david

Thanks csbagnall and david gelhufe for the additional options.

I had seen Advocacy Online in my net wanderings but assumed it was intended for non-US campaigns. It would be interesting to know if it offers state level US target information.

The Sunlight Foundatin API is interesting I found the link broken and believe the correct link is http://civicrm.org/node/205

A number of groups have done

A number of groups have done work integrating the Sunlight Foundation API, which provides the current information on districting and contact information for members of congress with CiviCRM. The result is a semi-custom e-advocacy solution.

This is certainly not a commercial product, but there are a number of CiviCRM experienced consulting firms that do this type of work including Dharmatech and Trellon.

Try Advocacy Online

Try Advocacy Online http://web.advocacyonline.net/
Also look here for a live example
http://www.cafod.org.uk/shinealight
See under 'What you can do'
This widget can also be integrated with Facebook.