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CMDI: A Personal Democracy Plus "Quick Look"

BY Sam Roudman | Friday, September 21 2012

Pros:
  • Combines a variety of features and data into a single system.
  • “It’s very easy to use,” says fundraiser Tamara Hallisey.
  • Responsive customer service.
Cons:
  • Online donation form WidgetMkr can be difficult to reformat.
  • Old-school complex pricing: "there are way too many pricing variables that would be tough to explain in a short piece," executive Erik Nilsson told us. "If I give you our limited service/functionality low rates, our clients who are paying more could be confused and think they are paying too much." Meanwhile, competitors who focus on online fundraising charge per-transaction fees at a single flat rate.

The Inside Story

Erik Nilsson thinks of CMDI as the “9,000-pound gorilla” in the Republican fundraising market. He’s biased, since he left the fundraising platform he founded, Fundly, to join CMDI as an executive earlier this year. But he also has a point. Starting with research for the Reagan campaign in 1980, CMDI has been a part of every national election since, migrating their data from giant folders to mobile accessible servers. Today, Nilsson says, CMDI processes “about 65% of all Republican federal money.”

CMDI’s main product is their fundraising platform, Crimson. It allows campaigners to track and manage donations, donors, and outreach. Last year the company launched CrimsonRPM, which helps campaigns to manage volunteer fundraisers. CMDI’s customers are generally national candidates, PACs and campaign committees.

“Basically they’re our donation clearing house,” says Gerrit Lansing, Digital Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, “and they make sure it’s all FEC compliant.” The NRCC uses CMDI’s online donation form, WidgetMakr, to raise cash online. Although Lansing says, “there are better ones out there,” CMDI has been “great about being responsive to new ideas.”

Crimson’s strength is its ability to compile different kinds of data. “When I am working on a congressional campaign, I can scroll over every county and it can show me donors,” says Tamara Hallisey, a longtime Republican fundraiser. She has seen CMDI’s offerings grow from a “simple database” of potential donors to a “one-stop shop for fundraising.”

The challenge for CMDI is keeping up with the pace of change. For the upcoming election, “most of our candidates were already in place,” says Nilsson, so lately the company has been “spending time with innovation.” CMDI is prepping for the 2014 cycle by improving WidgetMakr, and getting Crimson into HTML 5. The company is also looking to provide its services to more state level races. “If you’re a smaller campaign,” says Nilsson, “you should be able to do all of it in the back of a car.”

Main Features:
  • FEC compliant donation processing for Republican campaigns.
  • Platform that centralizes and updates fundraising and campaign outreach data.
Competitors:
Aristotle, Piryx
Major Clients:
National Republican Senatorial Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, Romney for President
Price:
As low as $395 a month for a local race, prices vary according to the size of the district, and the volumes of donations.

This post has been updated for clarity. An earlier version noted that, according to Federal Election Commission reports, CMDI client the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised nearly $3.7 million in contributions in June, and paid $48,000 to CMDI in July. In May they raised $3,348,000, and paid nearly $45,000 to CMDI in June. However, those figures include payments on multiple invoices going back several months and cannot be taken as indicative of CMDI's monthly costs.

Icons: Thomas Amby, VoodooDot / Shutterstock.