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Salsa Labs: A Personal Democracy Plus "Quick Look"

BY Sam Roudman | Friday, August 3 2012

Pros:
  • Massively scalable
  • Can connect hundreds of local chapters, each with their own accounts but integrated
  • Cost effective
Cons:
  • Social media could be better integrated
  • Some functionality only comes through third-party add-ons.
  • Customizing data reports can be a challenge

The Inside Story

There's less elbow room for vendors of online organizing tools with each passing day, so Salsa Labs CEO Chris Lundberg is looking beyond creating the next rapid response widget. “We can make game changing progressive change as a network that we could never do before,” he says.

With over 1,500 organizations touching some 70 million people, the Salsa platform can coordinate outreach, fundraising and campaigns on a massive scale. The platform’s adoption affirmed in early 2012 when 12 to 15 of its client organizations led the charge against the SOPA/PIPA legislation.

Beginning in 2004 as the nonprofit Democracy in Action, Lundberg and cofounder April Pedersen pioneered a suite of relatively customizable tools, so that even smaller organizations could access the basics of online advocacy without plunking down a couple thousand dollars up front. These tools are still the company’s “bread and butter,” according to Lundberg. A number of features not included in Salsa, like social media integration, can be bought as add-ons from affiliated developers.

Salsa spun out of Democracy in Action as a business in 2009, and it has grown considerably since, signing the mega client AFL-CIO, raising $5 million in investment, and more than doubling its staff to 70.

But where there’s growth there’s pain, and Salsa knows it’s a challenge to send out a billion emails every four months without chapping someone’s inbox.

Although Lundberg insists Salsa works vigilantly against spam, reports of it persist. Similarly, if a smaller campaign using Salsa grows too quickly, there is the chance of server crash, although Salsa is investing in autoscaling server capacity from Amazon.

Salsa has a stake in growing their smaller clients, since they’re banking on the coordination of larger orgs to grow the company. According to Lundberg, that’s “where the cool stuff is really starting to happen.”

Main Features:
  • The Salsa platform has a suite of plug-and-play tools that won’t require you to pay developers to create a custom system. Will let you manage email messaging, a website, online fundraising, advocacy, events, and more.
  • If you’re a larger organization Salsa can sync and organize your email lists at scale, and eliminate redundant emails.
  • Allows one-click sign-up and donations, and easy campaign coordination between organizations using Salsa.
Competitors:

Blue State Digital, Convio, NationBuilder

Major Clients:

AFL-CIO, National Council of La Raza, CODEPINK

Price:

The platform starts at $40 a month for state political campaigns, and goes up to $40 thousand a month for large organizations with many tiers and chapters. Ends up costing about a penny a person per month. Add-ons can cost a one-time fee of around $900.

Sam Roudman is a techPresident contributing writer. Icons: Thomas Amby, VoodooDot / Shutterstock.