CEO Update: 35 days and 2 presidential debates left to go.

NB: Once a week or so I send an email to my personal contacts. People have asked me to cross-post on this blog so they can share. The emails are slightly edited (I remove my personal info), but otherwise unchanged.

Source: CNN.

Hey friend,

Well that debate was certainly energizing. I’m going to try to keep this email short so I can get back to work, since work is my outlet for stress, anxiety, etc.

Highlights of this email: the program is scaling rapidly, the team is at 29 people as of tomorrow, we are training volunteers twice a week, and we are still actively raising because our program scales with capital, not labor. And the team is filled with the sort of righteous rage (and optimism) that enables folks to work 7 days a week. Also if you don’t want to hear from me anymore, there’s an unsubscribe link in the footer.

Weekly Salon with Assembly Member Buffy Wicks and Mary Steenburgen.

  • Date: Thursday, October 1, 2020
  • Time: 4pm PT (7pm ET)
  • VoteAmerica is excited to welcome Buffy Wicks, political badass who has been at the forefront of the discussion of maternity rights and COVID, and Academy Award-winning actress and songwriter Mary Steenburgen. We’ll chat about the upcoming election, women voters, and what it’s like serving in the CA assembly while raising two very young children.
  • Buffy and Mary’s bios are on the RSVP page. It’s free to attend, although we won’t say no to a donation!
  • RSVP here:
  • You can share this event publicly! Buffy and Mary are so much fun!

Program highlights:

  • Our P2P texting team will have sent over 30 million messages to voters in competitive districts by the time I hit send on this email. The team is now sending over 2 million messages a day. This is an astonishing number of messages. To date we’ve been heavily focused on voter registration and VBM recruitment. As of yesterday, we’re focused on early voting reminders and VBM chase. Earlier this year we had assumed we’d be leaning more into VBM recruitment than early voting, but that was before a partisan attack on the USPS crippled mail delivery. With mail delivery uncertain, it seems best to encourage voters to start casting ballots now. There’s also a chance that — if enough people vote early — we might actually know who the winner is on election night. Regardless, we’ll be leaning into early voting for a bit, and then we’ll move on to Election Day Registration (EDR), Election Day Voting, and post-election ballot curing.
  • Speaking of the P2P program: our volunteer program has taken off. We’re running at least two trainings a week now, and volunteers have sent over half a million messages. If you need an outlet for your rage and/or anxiety, I encourage you to sign up. We can train your entire school or company at once, and put you all to work. Texting is fast, easy, and effective, and volunteer labor reduces our costs, which lets us run bigger programs. You can sign up here:
  • Campus program: our campus program is running at 150 schools, which allows us to reach almost 2 million young voters who attend schools in the most competitive districts in America. By mid-October we expect to be live on at least 120 more, including all 94 HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Here’s a fun fact about the schools: 94% are providing a residential experience, even if the classes have gone online. So while learning may be virtual, the students are still physically on campus. Which is great for those of us in the voter turnout space.
  • Tech highlights: our tools have now been used over 2 million times, including 500,000 times last week alone. On National Voter Registration Day, the tools were being used over 300 times a minute, without issue or downtime. Our tools are embedded in over 300 websites, including on The tools are powering phenomenal email and SMS list growth: as of this morning, our opted-in email list was just north of 2 million people, and our opted in SMS list was 1.2 million. SMS reminders are a powerful way to increase turnout, and we are looking forward to hammering our list with reminders to get out there and vote. If you want to embed the tools on your sites, please sign up here:
  • Election Information API: our research team maintains our election information API. This means that these long-suffering souls need to keep abreast of election law changes. So far they’ve tracked 108 changes this year. If you need reliable election data, that is free for you to consume and use, learn more here:
  • Media highlights: I’m putting this under program because media drives money, money drives program, and program drives impact. (This took me years to learn because I am a slow learner). Despite being a very young organization, VoteAmerica has reached over 250 MILLION media impressions through a strategic and cost effective earned media campaign. It feels dorky to link to the clips, but we’ve been featured in a number of high profile outlets, including the New York Times, Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, and a few dozen others.

We are still scaling programs and raising funds

  • If you’re worried that it’s too late to invest, let me assure you that it’s not. We are still very much raising and deploying capital. And we’re doing it in a cost-conscious way, because we’re not interested in setting money on fire over here. Here are some things we’re raising for:
  • The campus program. We book the media 2 or so weeks before we run it, and right now the program is funded through mid-October. We have a $300k gap that we’re trying to close. As I’ve noted in prior emails, we’ve been running campus engagement programs for a few years now, and the program consistently produces between a 2 and 6 percentage point increase in turnout. There are no guarantees in the voter turnout game, but I can tell you this: if someone had invested $1.5 million dollars in this sort of campus outreach program in 2016, a different person would be sitting in the White House today.
  • Election Day Registration: 21 states offer in-person registration after the mail-in deadlines, including key states such as North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin. You can read all about this here: Most folks have no idea that EDR exists, which is where we come in. At a minimum, we will be sending millions of text messages about EDR, but we want to go bigger. We specifically want to invest in billboards, radio, postcards, and online advertising to spread awareness. EDR is the antidote to suppressive voter ID laws: studies show that EDR increases turnout even more than voter ID laws decrease turnout, and it’s in our collective interest to use EDR to drive even more voters to the polls. If you only fund one thing this year, fund our EDR work. Ignoring EDR is leaving votes on the table for no clear reason: these are our votes to pick up, we just need to do the work. The best way to advertise this is with billboards, and we are rapidly approaching a hard deadline with billboards. The drop dead date on almost all billboards is October 9, 2020. Don’t worry: I’ll send a separate email about this.
  • Print and mail: We are now printing and mailing forms and pre-addressed, pre-stamped envelopes to voters who use our registration or VBM tools and who don’t have access to a printer. There is a limited window here, since we will turn this option off as we get closer to deadlines, but this option is very popular since home printer ownership is the low single digits.
  • Recent movers: we are getting real-time mover data from a company that handles change of address information at least 28 days before it appears in the NCOA (National Change of Address) list. Rather than wait for these folks to realize they need to register to vote, we are proactively sending them registration forms that will arrive shortly after their move. We’re focusing specifically on renters who are moving into competitive states. Renters are a more progressive voting block than homeowners for reasons that are beyond the scope of this update. As the registration deadlines pass, we will switch to postcards to these folks if they live in EDR states, advising them that they can register at the polls. Given recent shenanigans with the NCOA data, this program is more important than ever. In case you missed it: the USPS failed to update addressees for at least 1.8 million people, which is a great way to undermine mail-based registration programs targeting movers. But since VoteAmerica is in the unique position of not relying on NCOA for our mover program, we can still run a program that we are highly confident in.

Folks keep asking me what the funding gap is. It’s less a funding gap and more of an opportunity gap: our programs scale with capital, and we can continue to invest and scale as right up until (and after) Election Day. Our GOTV program doesn’t stop until a full week after November 3, since we’ll use the post-election time to focus on ballot curing. We could stop raising today and still have run one of the country’s largest voter turnout efforts, but we honestly don’t think that’s enough. Whatever happens on Election Day, we want the margin of victory to be wider enough that the outcome is decisive. And that will only happen if VoteAmerica and other C3 orgs have the funding needed to run truly large scale programs.

Here’s how to give:

Let’s end this on a high note:

  • 100% of donations that come in at this point go directly to our programs. Salaries, benefits, and what little overhead we have were covered via a 2019 grant. Every last dollar that you invest will go directly to voter registration, voter turnout, and voter protection. Donating will make you feel better about life, promise.

In solidarity.


P.S. If you’ve had trouble trying to reach Justin, it’s because his son arrived 9 weeks early. Baby and mom are doing well, and our fundraising operation is being run out of a NICU in Virginia. The rest of us appreciate the baby’s punctuality, and are happy that he will be able to vote in the 2038 midterm election. But this does mean that we are obligated to give him a functioning democracy as a birthday present. So if you need another reason to give, I hope that Cortland Parcell Jones is that reason.

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