Ravi Singh treats his clients with the confidentiality of a Swiss banker.
The founder and chief executive officer of ElectionMall Technologies signs non-disclosure agreements with each customer and refuses to discuss who may have used ElectionMall in the past — although he does point out, with subtle pride, that some of his products may look familiar because they've appeared on the websites of prominent campaigns.
In an industry dominated by names like Blue State Digital, NGP, Aristotle, and Campaign Solutions, ElectionMall is a rarity: while many firms that cater only to campaigns limit their clientele to only Democrats or only Republicans, Singh maintains careful neutrality.
As a onetime candidate for public office, Singh says the firm has learned from his own personal pain that the smallest campaigns are often ignored by technology providers.
For a long time, that was the case, and Singh competed with a relatively small number of firms for the chance to purvey technology to America's mayors and state representatives. Now, though, other companies are catching up, and say what Singh has been saying for years: The future of political technology is in making big-race tools easy to use and affordable for local candidates.
Which isn't to say ElectionMall is no longer unique. Singh's company sells its products in extraordinarily modular form, while many other vendors to small campaigns sell software in an all-in-one bundle. And while originally political companies are looking beyond their industry to the nonprofit and advocacy worlds, Singh remains focused on campaigns.
ElectionMall sells software ranging from website templates to robocall technology, all of it a-la-carte, and all of it hosted on the company's own computing cloud.
Singh says ElectionMall is a one-stop shop for political campaigns, but the unique thing about ElectionMall is that customers buy each tool individually rather than in bundles. A campaign with a website could buy access to fundraising and e-mail blasts but not online shopping, or robocalling and e-mail blasts but not staff and volunteer management.
(There is some bundling — for a little more money, the robocall service comes with the ability to send SMS text messages, for example.)
Robocalls are not the only product ElectionMall has that a campaign manager might not necessarily expect to find online. The company handles e-commerce from top to bottom, for example — a campaign could buy the buttons it needs from ElectionMall, then sell the buttons using ElectionMall's e-commerce software.
Some of the more standard political features include pages to collect volunteer information; staff and voter management pages, allowing for the printing of walk lists and tracking interactions with individual voters; email blasts with analytics; user-customizable personal fundraising pages; website badges that supporters can post around the Web; voter data, a database of editors and reporters to use for media relations, and other data for sale; and pages allowing supporters to create and manage their own events.
ElectionMall's technology is capable of the same end-to-end handling of fundraising that ActBlue offers, Singh says. Campaigns don't need to look elsewhere to get any of the credit card processing steps completed.
Some vendors focus their offerings around a central, strong constituent relationship management technology, and market their other products as add-ons to their database software.
"That's not us," says Singh.
ElectionMall could provide a campaign with everything, in theory — it has what Singh called a "mini-CRM" on offer, for example — but that's not the model the company plans to provide. Each piece of ElectionMall software is designed to stand alone or plug into whatever the campaign is already using.
"We plug into SalesForce, we plug into some of the other software," Singh said. "We have an import/export feature, you can plug into NGP, Aristotle, Complete Campaigns, any sort of open source CRM applications."
All-in-one products focused around a central CRM application give campaigns the tools to segment out targets for fundraising requests and action alerts. For example, Blackbaud and Democracy in Action both tout how their offerings — Sphere and Salsa, respectively — make it easy for a campaign to generate a list of supporters who, say, volunteered three times in the last three months, and then send them an e-mail asking for money.
ElectionMall is, in part, designed for campaigns that wouldn't know to do that even if they had the tools.
"A lot of these other campaigns, they can't afford expensive consultants or people to tell them how to do these things," Singh said. "One of the nice things about all our products is that there are built-in analytics, that think on their own."
ElectionMall's software will prompt a campaign to send a fundraising request to anyone who volunteers, for example, or a request to volunteer to anyone who sends money.
- Republican Majority for Choice — a Republican organization that supports abortion rights for women — uses ElectionMall to power its website.
- ElectionMall partnered with Google and the Iowa GOP to stream real-time election results in the 2008 Iowa presidential caucus.
Ravi Singh, ElectionMall's founder, stresses that the company only works with campaigns. But he also emphasizes that he'll work with any campaign, regardless of party affiliation, in part because of a belief that the democratic process, and technology making it easier to participate in that process, should be available to everyone.
"We're getting a lot of campaigns that are saying, 'we're so happy this is all we do,'" Singh said. His company policy against disclosing client relationships prevented him from giving examples. "We don't focus on any other sectors."
Like other sectors, though, members of the political technology sector are starting to get wise to the importance of social networking and design that is functional as well as good-looking.
"People are looking for, also, best practices," Singh said. "People are also starting to realize that a pretty website is no good if it doesn't have interactive features in it."
To cater to those clients, ElectionMall Technologies has figured out integration with 21 social networks, including Facebook and MySpace. At a Personal Democracy Forum conference last year, Singh rolled out a Facebook moneybomb app.
Pricing is by module, i.e.: Basic website, $99 plus $10/month hosting; Enterprise-level website, $5,000 setup, $495/month; constituent relationship manager, $100/month per user; event management, $295/month
According to FEC data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics: Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress; Lyndon LaRouche PAC; Sandhills PAC