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Catalist-DemocracyInAction's Deal and the Progressive World

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, October 16 2008

DemocracyInAction and Catalist have just made a remarkable new deal.

Let me back up. DIA is one of the core components of the progressive political infrastructure, providing online advocacy tools to a wide range of left-leaning non-profits. And Catalist is the political data giant that grew out of the Clinton camp's upset over how the DNC was keeping up with the GOP on the tech and data front. More on that here. The deal? DIA's clients get free access to Catalist's world-class data. In exchange, they must turn over to Catalist the details on their own donors:

In return for participating, organizations must provide Catalist information such as what types of actions they have taken, whether they have made a donation online or offline in the past year to that organization, how responsive they are to email blasts, etc... This information will not be made available at the individual level to Catalist, but it will be available for Catalist staff to develop and refine their models.

Catalist's buffed and polished demographic data isn't cheap. It's being used to power well-funded campaign operations this cycle, like Obama's and Mark Warner's Senate run, and it helps drive well-established big name progressive groups like SEIU and EMILY's List. But with this deal its power is now available to every struggling 501c3 that's a DIA client, and that's made it a hot topic of conversation on progressive mailing lists.

The appeal of the deal for non-profits is obvious. First off, they get top-of-the-line data for free. Secondly, they get to contribute something to the progressive movement -- or at least the for-profit arm of it represented by Catalist -- all at no cost to them. And Catalist wins by getting access to new data that it can use to keep refining its files. I don't know of anything on the conservative side that compares.