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Election 2016

How The Democrats’ Leading Software Provider Is Planning To Win You Over

NGP VAN is unveiling some new features, including app updates that generate talking points tailored to voters’ moods.

How The Democrats’ Leading Software Provider Is Planning To Win You Over

[Source Photos: Flickr users Lorie Shaull (Clinton), and Gage Skidmore (Trump)]

The next time a volunteer for Hillary Clinton or another Democratic candidate shows up at your door, they may know more about you than you ever imagined.

NGP VAN, the leading software provider to the Democratic party, is rolling out some new automation features this week. They include: forms on websites that can automatically fill out volunteer information; automated generation of emails for voters; and even updates to their app that generate talking points for campaign volunteers depending on how a conversation goes.

"There are over a million volunteers this cycle for Democratic campaigns, and this will help to engage them," NGP VAN's Aharon Wasserman told Fast Company. A major part of the upgrades, he added, is leveraging technology previously used for campaign fundraising to instead make sure voters go to the polls this election.

Using the script branching feature (below), volunteers can talk to voters door-to-door while referring to a smartphone app that provides what NGP VAN calls "dynamic canvassing scripts" that contain talking points which change depending on the response given by the person opening the door.

Another automation feature the company added to its SaaS (software as a service) web app automatically generates volunteer workflows, which trigger follow-up emails based on responses knocking door to-door, and creates single-click sign-up forms. This functionality takes advantage of 40 million "action profiles," similar to cookies, that the company has acquired from users.

The emails are designed to be increasingly personalized as the election cycle goes on; these features are commonly found in commercial customer-relationship management software such as Salesforce, but are not as commonly seen in the world of politics.

Statewide Democratic parties served as beta tasters of both new functions before they were launched. According to Don Fisher, technology director for the Democratic Party of Oregon, which beta tested the features, "Being able to engage volunteers with these tools will allow us to run a much more efficient and smarter field program than before. It’s a game changer for us, especially in this important election year."

NGP Van, which formed from the merger of two smaller companies in 2011, is just one of a host of startups serving either Democratic- or Republican-affiliated campaigns. A private company, NGP Van primarily serves Democratic political campaigns and affiliated organizations and is part of a larger ecosystem of campaign tech startups.

The media frenzy of this November’s expected Clinton vs. Trump showdown is spurring Democrats to spend big on campaign tech. As Fast Company’s Shane Show noted earlier this year, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had the edge in high-tech campaign tools compared to Donald Trump. In an interview with the Associated Press, Trump said campaign data use was "overrated" and that he doesn’t plan extensive use of data analytics in the months leading up to November.

Will 2016 be the Snapchat election?

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