First time Greens’ candidate Ellen Sandell stormed home in the tight seat of Melbourne on the back of a grassroots campaign and a volunteer army that were managed on Deputy.
Trained as a scientist, and with a passion for social justice and taking action on climate change, Ellen Sandell has worked as a scientist for the CSIRO, and a Policy Adviser in the Office of Climate Change for the Brumby Labor Government. More recently, she was the CEO of a national climate change non-profit organisation.
No stranger to the public life, in 2009, she won the Melbourne Awards for Individual Contribution to the Environment and has been featured as one of the top 100 influential Melburnians in The Age’s (Melbourne) Magazine.
When the opportunity arose to challenge for the seat of Melbourne as a Greens candidate in the 2014 Victorian State Election, Sandell jumped at the chance. Tightly held by Labor since 1908, Sandell knew she would have a considerable fight on her hands to become The Greens’ first lower house MP in the Victorian Parliament.
Taking a leaf out of the campaign book of Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt, Ellen and her team decided to run a grassroots-driven by volunteers. Campaigning on issues such as investment in public transport and strong action on climate change, for Sandell, it was all about getting out and about and becoming omnipotent in her electorate at community gatherings and events.
She also tasked her polling organiser, Gideon Reisner, with mobilising a large number of volunteers to take her message to all areas of the electorate which covers the Melbourne CBD and the inner-city suburbs of Kensington, Docklands, West Melbourne, North Melbourne, Carlton, Carlton North, East Melbourne, and Parkville.
Having elected to use Nation Builder – the CRM platform widely used by American political campaigners – as its primary customer relationship management platform to optimise contact with supporters and volunteers, Reisner needed to find a way of managing volunteers that also interfaced with this CRM.
“While we needed to enlist volunteer support to door knock and run community events during the campaign, for pre-polling and of course Election Day, it was vital that I knew exactly how many supporters were rostered to work and who was working where and when. And I needed to manage this in a systematic way,” explains Reisner.
“A colleague suggested I take a look at Deputy, which I did, and I could see at a glance how beneficial it would be to the campaign to have this level of visibility of all our volunteers and give us really tight control of our volunteer army across all the polling stations. But as we had Nation Builder as our primary database, which included all our volunteer profiles, for Deputy’s rostering tool to provide us with everything we needed, it would have to interface with Nation Builder.
“We run so fast and have such a tight ship; we just didn’t have the bandwidth for duplicate data across two platforms.
“So my tech guys along with the Deputy team had a think about how we could make this work and developed a couple of nifty APIs that would allow us to push volunteer profile information from Nation Builder into Deputy, and then populate the scheduling data from Deputy back into Nation Builder.
“Hey presto! Within two weeks of first seeing Deputy, we had it fully integrated and running with Nation Builder.”
“On Election Day, we had 336 volunteers working across 13 polling stations in and around the area.
On a single page, I get a comprehensive view of all my volunteer shift selections and can easily see where we need to ramp up or down. It was such a piece of cake to switch volunteers from say Carlton to Carlton North, or Parkville to the CBD.
“Deputy also takes into account when the volunteers are unavailable so we don’t accidentally assign polling station shifts to volunteers who can’t be there.
“The automated communication tools inherent in Deputy also cut through much of the confusion that can get out of control, especially when you’re having to manage a lot of people over a very short time frame. Text messages are sent to everyone who is rostered on, confirming where they should be and when they should be there. And changes are automatically communicated to the appropriate people.
“Plus Deputy is so easy to use. Our volunteers are of all ages and come from all walks of life, so using a system that is so easy for them to use, and doesn’t need any amount of formal training or computer experience is a real boon.”
“For the team, creating and managing the shifts in Deputy was incredibly fast and efficient. Because we’ve got Deputy interfacing with Nation Builder, all the volunteer profile information automatically informs Deputy about what the particular volunteer is most suited for based on their experience.
“For me, the best thing about Deputy is being able to see everything on one page. Who’s where and when. This kind of reporting is priceless when you’re running at full speed.”
“With the rostering and scheduling of volunteers fully under control on Deputy, I’ve been able to spend more time on campaigning, rather than moving names on a spreadsheet.
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