Political campaigns, like other nonprofit campaigns, are very careful about the money they spend. If you’re looking to start a political campaign for whatever office, you have to start counting your pennies and hoarding any money that comes your way.
The problem is that almost everything about a campaign costs money, from campaign materials, to advertising, to paying staff. So whenever there’s a chance to get something for free for your campaign without sacrificing quality, you should jump at it.
Your campaign will be managing donations, potential voters, volunteers, and staff and with the right types of campaign software you can accomplish those tasks in a cost-effective, or even free, manner.
If Barack Obama was able to win his election in 2008 against John McCain while using free and open source software with his campaign, so can you.
So here are the top ten open source and free political campaign software options to propel you to victory come election day!
As you run for office, you will need software to manage your volunteers and potential voters. These free and open source options are perfect for a small budget.
Tendenci 7+ is the latest version of Tendenci and is available on Github. Tendenci is a verfeature and customization rich software option, however since it is an open source option, it may require a little more technical experience to run and implement.
Tendenci features include membership lists, donation tracking, payment automation, and email integration, which is perfect to match up your lists with the voter communications that you make over the course of a campaign.
Have you used Tendinci? Be sure to leave a review!
Admidio is a bare bones management software option that is available for download on SourceForge. Admidio covers the basic membership management features such as list management, integration with Excel, .pdf format exporting, and integration for posting online and email advertising to your member lists (which can include volunteers/potential voters).
Admidio, however, does not come with any forms of payment/donation features or accounting.
Have you used Admidio? Be sure to leave a review!
Big Tent is a web-based membership management platform that is very simple to use and is perfect for campaigns that don’t have tons of technical experience on board. Along with the basic tenets of membership management, Big Tent offers features such as payment processing and unlimited file sharing.
Although the software is free, the company does charge a per transaction fee of 4.9% if payments are done through the tool. This however can be easily avoided with a separate donation collection software (see below).
Have you used Big Tent? Be sure to leave a review!
Just like Big Tent, Wild Apricot is web-based membership management platform that covers features such as list management, a website, events, and many others. The catch with Wild Apricot, however, is their membership limits with the free option of their software.
Their free option only allows up to 50 members stored in their platform at a time and to receive more member space, a paid plan is required. The 50 member free option, however, works well if you only need to track volunteers, especially in a smaller state or district-wide race.
Have you used Wild Apricot? Be sure to leave a review!
Silkstart, similar to Wild Apricot, is a great software tool that is good for managing members but limits the free plan to only 50 contacts. However this should not completely dissuade you from choosing Silkstart.
This software option has a heavy focus on event features such as early-bird ticket creation, which is perfect for a political campaign. Other features include basic membership management functionality like member lists, but also unique features such as custom dashboards to measure the success of your membership roles and campaign progress.
Have you used Silkstart? Be sure to leave a review!
Fundraising and Donation Management
When political campaigns aren’t doing events or going door-to-door to petition for their candidate, they’re spending every waking moment raising money to keep the campaign train rolling. Usually it’s true that “you need to spend money to make money,” but why does this also have to apply to the software you use to fundraise? It doesn’t. And, in fact, here are some free and open source fundraising/donation management software options to prove it.
The Obama 2008 presidential campaign, as mentioned before, used open source software in their efforts to elect Barack Obama, including the most widely known open source office software, Apache OpenOffice. If they could make it work for them, so can you, and Apache has offered a template that will help you with your fundraising efforts.
The OpenOffice fundraising template is a feature for their spreadsheet program which allows you to collect and store donation records, keep track of fundraising progress, and keep track of donation goals. However, it is a frills-free option which doesn’t allow for any kind of database integration and all data must be entered manually. These issues can slow down data management especially if the campaign in question is a very large operation with lots of donation data, which makes it better for smaller, more local races.
Have you used Apache OpenOffice? Be sure to leave a review!
CiviCRM is a multi-faceted fundraising software that not only helps collect donations, track donations, and integrates with your website on WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, but also deals with event management and membership management. CiviCRM, in a sense, is an all-in-one campaign software solution handling volunteers, donors, donations, and potential voters.
So instead of having to search out different software solutions for every aspect of your campaign, CiviCRM acts as a jack-of-all-trades to manage everything in a centralized location.
Have you used CiviCRM? Be sure to leave a review!
It may not be as pretty as CiviCRM or Apache OpenOffice, but ebase is a solid open source option for campaign fundraising management. ebase offers membership and donor databases which are compatible with Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as phone banking lists, email campaigns, and web service integration.
If your campaign is more tech savvy, ebase also has the ability to work with FileMaker Pro for both Mac OS and Windows so that the source code can be changed to fit your needs.
Have you used ebase? Be sure to leave a review!
Metrix is another fundraising software that has its hands in many other functions besides donation management including membership management, scheduling, and event management capabilities. Its design may not be as polished as CiviCRM, however its functionality is still all there.
Unfortunately in terms of convenience, Metrix has only been made available to machines running Windows XP or lower, which leaves out newer Windows operating systems and Macs. There are certain ways to get around such a barrier, such as dual booting Windows XP on your current computer, but not everyone is looking to have two operating systems running on their machine.
Have you used Metrix? Be sure to leave a review!
Even though Donor Manager was originally developed for church-specific donations, with a little imagination, this software can be easily used for donation management for any cause, including political campaigns. The features offered by Donation Manager are the same as any fundraising management system, including donation databases, pledge tracking, mail-merge, and Excel exporting capabilities.
This program, unlike Metrix, is available on all versions of Microsoft Windows up to Windows 8, and if you wish to run the program on a Mac or Linux system all you need is a Windows system emulator. This could be a fun little project for your tech team to accomplish.
Have you used Donor Manager? Be sure to leave a review!
Sure, it almost seems like a trophy for trying, but some of these deserve notoriety for being out there or for paving the way for updated and current software solutions.
This campaign software option was put into “Honorable Mentions” because of the lack of any information regarding the software. The Sourceforge site is pretty barebones with a basic description of its purpose and function:
“CampaignOS is a web based system for managing political campaigns’ records, events, financials, gov’t compliance and reporting, built with the popular Ruby On Rails (RoR) platform. CampaignOS is released under the MIT license so is freely available to be used, modified, and /or redistributed for the greater good of you political hacks out there.”
As additional information and reviews come out, we may end up bumping this solution to a higher place on the list.
Grab the DeLorean, Doc! We are about to go back in time to visit this old number. Campaign Organizer, in all of its old 1993 MS-DOS formatted glory is a back-to-the-basics solution for political campaign management that was used for Bob Barr’s (remember him?) first campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Simply put, it’s REALLY old in tech years, but might be a fun project if you want to go back to the old days of command prompts and DOS screens.
Are there any open source or free political campaign software products you feel should’ve been included in the list or any you feel should’ve been left off? Let us know in the comments below!