Instead of going to the well over and over again with larger donors throughout the campaign (a truly ineffective strategy in this age of campaign finance reform) or relying on outside groups to raise and spend huge sums that would have been outside the official campaign's control, the Obama campaign continued to target new donors all the way to the last few weeks of the campaign. People could easily feel part of the campaign just by giving up a lunch out, and didn't feel any financial exhaustion. This created financial buy-in from a huge universe of supporters instead of the normal cocktail circuit. Each of these supporters then had not only an interest or ideological stake, but a financial one in the outcome. Web tools allowed this.The campaign also had social networks attached to its web site, allowing supporters to make friends, communicate, plan and set up their own events that could then be attended by other supporters. While the central message of the campaign was tightly controlled and focused (in Nevada, organizers told supporters not to say one bad word about the rival candidates and to act as if Obama were present every step of the way), which dazzled the media, it was also extremely loose at the ground level. Fundraising, phone banking and other events were open to all - even a single person at home with a long-distance connection. Each volunteer had buy in, access to key information, and could work as much or as little as they wanted. And it worked, big time. Web 2.0 enthusiasts now have a masterwork to follow as we think about how we can use these tools to organize, fundraise and change our own communities, and, as broadband access increases, the world.
What Can We Learn from the Obama Campaign?
Many have already commented on how the Obama campaign took the leap into the Web 2.0 world in the same way that Kennedy beat Nixon by harnessing the power of the TV. While many of the Obama strategies had been tried before, they really came of age this year. The questions for engaged citizens across the political and social spectrum is how the successes of the Obama campaign can be replicated. I would hazard that the campaign contains lessons for fundraisers, non-profits, political campaigns of all sizes, and private and public management teams (add your own in the comments!) for starters.
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