VoterCircle: A Grassroots Digital Tool for Friend-to-Friend Campaign Outreach
VoterCircle is a digital tool that elevates friend-to-friend outreach over traditional campaign-to-voter contact. VoterCircle has been featured in our 100 campaign tools lists can change the way any campaign does volunteer recruitment, grassroots fundraising, and GOTV. We talked with founder and CEO Sangeeth Peruri about leveraging personal networks and more.
1. How did the experience of running for office in 2014 inspire you to create VoterCircle?
I ran on a shoestring budget of $4K. And then an outside PAC came in for the opposition and put over a $100K into the race against me.
We didn’t have the money for direct mail or advertising, so we began with the tried-and-true phone banking and door-to-door approach. We soon learned that most people don’t answer their phones and few like talking to a stranger at their door. So we decided to try something different by connecting friend-to-friend. And amazingly enough, it worked. The PAC spent over $11/vote, while we spent $0.40/vote. And I won.
After the race, we started VoterCircle, a digital tool to enable others to do the same. We wanted to help level the playing field. Elections shouldn’t be just about money. They should be about people and ideas. Our goal is to help others do campaign outreach through expanded networks.
2. How exactly does this digital tool work?
VoterCircle is a friend-to-friend outreach platform. It figures out in real time which of your supporters’ contacts are registered voters in a given district, and it lets you send a warm message friend-to-friend, as opposed to using the traditional campaign-to-voter outreach process.
We take all of the data we generate and create a social graph that figures out who are the most highly connected super influencers in a given community. If you can locate enough super influencers, you will be hard to beat.
3. What are the benefits of friend-to-friend contact over more traditional campaign-to-voter contact?
Naturally, people trust their friends more than someone they have never met. Because of that, we have seen extremely high levels of engagement with our digital tool. For example, we have seen 50-60% open rates and 10-20% survey response rates. When it comes to results at the polls, RCTs of friend-to-friend outreach have seen as much as 12-15% turnout bumps.
4. Can any size campaign use VoterCircle?
Yes. VoterCircle works well for organizations, parties, and campaigns of all sizes. We have worked with tiny school board races with 1K voters, as well as statewide races with 20M voters.
5. What’s your favorite feature of the tool? What makes it stand out from other outreach platforms?
The entire campaign industry is focused on cold campaign-to-voter outreach. VoterCircle is uniquely positioned to enable warm friend-to-friend outreach. The most exciting aspect of the tool is our ability to predict and identify the most connected voters in every community in order to help the candidates and organizations we work with reach out to those people and connect with them.
6. Campaigns are constantly balancing persuasion and mobilization efforts. Do you see VoterCircle mostly a tool for mobilizing like-minded friends, or is there potential for people to use the tool to have a dialogue with the friends or neighbors who disagree?
VoterCircle works well for both persuasion and mobilization. If you want to change someone’s opinion, you need to first understand their point of view. It’s much easier to get to that point if you have a personal connection to them. VoterCircle is a great place to start that dialogue.
7. Looking to the future, what role do you hope to see VoterCircle playing in campaigns? What is your ultimate goal for this digital tool?
Our goal is to make outreach more personal, effective and efficient. If we are successful, in the long run, our democracy can be more about people and ideas and less about money. One can only imagine how different our country would be if more candidates could win their races even when they are outspent 30:1, like I was.
What advice would you give to someone with an idea for a startup?
Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and that you are passionate about the idea. Starting a company takes an immense amount of work, and it typically takes a long time to develop. If you don’t like what you are doing, you will burn out before you have spent enough time on the company to become successful.
Have questions about VoterCircle? drop us a note or check out our tools list here: