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ActBlue Opens Real-Time Stream of Donor Data for Dem Campaigns

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, March 26 2010

Democratic fundraising powerhouse ActBlue has just finished engineering a way for the many Democratic campaign who use the Salsa platform to get a steady stream of updates on who's raising what online on their behalf in near real-time. We say near real time because there is a delay. It's about two seconds. Maybe five, on the outside. In other words, by the time a progressive donor is reading the "Tell a Friend" screen after they dropped some cash on a campaign through ActBlue, the particulars on that transaction are already safely nestled in the campaign's Salsa database. "It's something people have wanted for a long time," says ActBlue char Matt DeBergalis.

Why might that potentially be exciting?

For campaigns, it streamlines the management of fundraising data. But forget that. There could be some really, really cool visualizations here. It raises the possibility of real-time fundraising transparency; imagine, for example, a so-called "moneybomb" that has a continuing flow of donor information moving across the screen. ActBlue's donor data includes information on referrals, so a campaign could host, says, a blog battle where blogs could compete to fundraise on the campaigns behalf, with more or less instantaneously updated results feeding the relative excitement. "Fun" is part of fundraising for a reason. Or at least, online political fundraising experts will tell you, a feeling of collaboration and/or competition seems to encourage people to contribute more and more to campaigns. You can also imagine that a campaign could use the this data internally -- creating statewide maps, for example, showing not only fundraising staff but, say, field organizers and even volunteers which areas of the state are performing well in terms of online fundraising.

DeBergalis says that much thought has gone into figuring out the best way to solve the exchange of data between ActBlue and campaigns. "A year or two ago, the big ting was APIs. I think the new variant of that is going to be synchronization," he says. APIs can flake out, drop data -- which is more problematic when you're dealing with donor data than, say, tweets. For now, campaigns who use both Salsa and ActBlue need to contact the latter to turn on donor data streaming. Salsa Labs co-founder April Pedersen says that her company is happy about the new option, saying that it will "bring closer the goal of an integrated experience for donors who believe in progressive change."

(With Nick Judd)