Earlier this week, the United Kingdom’s Conservative and Unionist Party expelled twenty-one members from their party for voting with the opposition to defeat the Prime Minister (Source).
Now party-less, these former Tories will lose any number of the “perks” that came with their party membership: seniority, roles in government, and — crucially — access to the Conservative Party’s data and digital infrastructure.
Now, they are facing the daunting prospect of having to build their campaign infrastructure from scratch ahead of a likely snap election next month. These members’ plight underscores why it’s never been more critical for leaders to own their data and digital infrastructure.
All Campaigns Are Digital Campaigns
The day-to-day work of leadership and organizing has never been more dependent on data, big and small.
Leaders are expected to host websites, communicate with their supporters on social media, maintain lists of donors and volunteers, and — crucially — comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules for securing and keeping records of data processing consent.
As tempting as it can be to outsource this responsibility to a party, association, or another umbrella group, it’s just downright irresponsible to do so.
In the UK example above, these former Tories are now facing the genuine prospect of running for re-election against opponents that have access to all the data and infrastructure they helped build. That’s an unenviable position and avoidable one.
Parties Want Control; Leaders Need Independence
For political parties, individual candidates are interchangeable cogs in a much larger machine. Leaders who are favored by the establishment today will find themselves out of favor tomorrow. It is the way of things.
For that reason, the political establishment sees control of data & infrastructure as an essential part of its mission and purpose. By controlling the “brand,” the tools of organizing, and the direct relationship with grassroots activists the party believes it can exercise control over its individual candidates. And that belief is largely correct.
Owning your data and digital infrastructure (database, website, email platform, and social media accounts) empowers you to stand independent of your party’s establishment. It allows you to maintain a direct relationship with your supporters and gives you the tools you need to survive an inevitable shift in your party’s power structure.
Build Your Independent Digital Infrastructure Now
Whether you’re a veteran leader or a first-time candidate, you should think seriously about how your reliance on party-owned data and infrastructure undermines your footing and erodes your independence. The party giveth, and the party can taketh away.
Non-partisan tools like NationBuilder, which respect data privacy and empower individual leaders, can empower you to take ownership of your future. And while you will have to bear the nominal costs yourself, you can rest assured knowing that you’ve made a sound investment in your movement’s long-term security.
What tools are most important to own? Start with these:
- Your website
- Your bulk email tools
- Your supporter data
- Your GDPR consents
- Your fundraising dollars
- Your social media accounts
If you’re not sure where to start, reach out at [email protected] and we’ll happily give you our best advice — free of charge. If we can help, outstanding; if not, we’ll point you in the direction of someone who can.