Using a mix of licensed proprietary software, open-source software and solutions built in-house, Emotive LLC — created by veterans of the old-guard direct response industry — offers full-service web presence and consulting to conservative candidates and campaigns.
"What they wanted to do is create a shop that essentially took the direct response model and apply it online," says Matt Briney, vice president at Emotive. "So everything we do rolls up into a centralized database, we're able to track every action that someone takes online, every [response to every] appeal that's sent out."
The people behind Emotive are Chip Gately, founder of Republican direct-mail firm Response America, and Walter Lukens, founder of direct-mail and list brokerage firm The Lukens Company. They incorporated Emotive in 2004, and advertise 35 years of experience in direct marketing; after Gately and Peter Pasi, who came over from Lukens, Briney — a former network engineer whose last job was as director of strategic marketing for the American International Auto Dealers Association — was their first hire.
Originally, Emotive was reselling the Sphere line of online organizing and advocacy products from Kintera, which is now a part of Blackbaud. It still does, but Briney says Emotive had trouble reaching customers beyond Blackbaud's (rather high) price point.
"That's great for enterprise-level clients," he says, "but if you're running a House campaign or a local race, our clients needed something different."
Wanting to reach a new generation of Republican candidates and help them grow, Emotive set about developing its new platform.
The bare bones of Emotive's platform are Drupal, the widely popular and flexible content management system, and CiviCRM, an open-source constituent relationship management system which, ironically enough, was developed in its early stages to work well with a Drupal distribution that was built for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign.
Between Drupal and CiviCRM, the platform can manage website user accounts and profiles, handle website content, receive online donations and pass them off to a third-party donation processing system, handle events and organizational membership, manage e-mail blasts and newsletters, track user interactions with reports, and do any of the thousands of things that an international horde of developers allow Drupal to do thanks to freely available extensions to the CMS.
But Emotive's platform builds proprietary extensions onto that open-source core, Briney explains. Emotive developed a separate reporting package that takes data from CiviCRM, from Google Analytics — which far outperforms the analytics capability built into Drupal — and other third-party statistics, and displays the data from those applications in a single portal, he says, adding that the reports this portal generates were built in-house. The platform also allows Emotive to track and manage its online ad buys.
To ramp up bulk e-mail capability, Emotive enhanced CiviCRM's built-in newsletter functions with a partnership with StrongMail and another third-party mail provider. These other parties handle whitelisting and some of the other compliance duties of a bulk e-mail messenger.
Emotive's platform also offers connectivity with social networks like Facebook through tell-a-friend tools. For example, if a supporter makes a donation to your campaign, Emotive's use of a tool that Facebook offers to developers called Facebook Connect means it's a matter of about two more clicks for that supporter to then announce to all of his or her Facebook friends that your campaign is worth contributing to.
Supporters can also create their own fundraising page that they can then publicize to their friends using Facebook and Twitter. Emotive's platform also allows for the creation of online petitions, which supporters can advertise via Facebook and Twitter.
"What's nice about our offering which I think sets it apart from others," Briney says, "we've set it as a policy that we're not going to make money off the contributions. The rate that they secure with our provider is the rate that they get from us. And that means that ... it's a really low rate, it's about 2.2 percent."
Based on our conversations with several other vendors of online fundraising technology, some of whom set their prices based on how far they need to go in order to beat PayPal, that is, indeed, really low. Vendors who focus on providing online fundraising generally seem to charge between four and five percent.
While Emotive has a set number of tools in its toolbox — the open-source platforms it uses for some clients, pulled together with mashups and other software built in-house, reselling Blackbaud products, and web design work — which tools come out, and how they're used, depends on the client and the problem that needs solving.
Emotive built the website for Physicians United for Patients, an association of physicians' industry groups against the recently passed health care bills, using Drupal and CiviCRM, the core technologies of its platform. The website provides a tool to help people find their legislators' contact information; pages of talking points about the health care legislation; links to the group's ads; and a feedback form. The platform is still relatively new. Matt Briney, Emotive's assistant vice president, said in March that a demo site showing off Emotive's Drupal/CiviCRM/proprietary hybrid should be finished sometime in April.
A House race, $5,000-$10,000 set-up, ongoing consulting $1,000-$3,500/mo.; Larger races, websites $10,000-$60,000, ongoing $2,500-$8,000/mo.
Republican State Leadership Committee; National Republican Congressional Committee; Gastrointestinal PAC; RID US PAC