- gathered evidence of our expenditures over the past 11 months
- met with real estate agent
- talked to business plan expert
- registered for class at CNM
- dealt with Seattle property management
- M worked on REAP grant details
- talked to architect & contractor on weekly conf call
- drafted annual meeting minutes
- harvested broccoli
- Signed by-laws and sent them to TTB
- Corresponded with various equipment manufacturers (fermenters, pumps and valves, valve locks)
- Met with general contractor to review salvaged materials, et al
- Met with neighboring artist about construction noise, dust
- Review the classes available at CNM — which start this week.
- Bought tshirt shipping supplies
- Did some remote consulting
On election night, I flew the entire team to Las Vegas so we could watch Hillary’s reelection victory speech in the same room. My operations manager somehow pulled off the logistics of getting fifteen people from fifteen cities into town at pretty much the same time, and we convened that night in an enormous suite in one of the new super-towers to sip champagne and watch the speech on a really big screen.
With Marianne at my side, I took the opportunity just before the President began to express my gratitude to the team and reflect a bit on what we’d accomplished.
In a little more than five years, we’d built an important and strategic component for progressive campaigns to help identify new supporters, contributors, fans, and volunteers. We used data – tons and tons of data, mashed up and blended and matched and analyzed to help hundreds of campaigns “expand their universe”.
We’d even, I claimed, made a demonstrable difference in the moral foundation of the nation.
Of dozens of campaigns we’ve helped, let’s review the Ohio gubernatorial race in 2018, as just one example. The Republican was polling at 50% support and promising to slash programs that were proven to help kids in poverty, and roll back the state’s LGBT non-discrimination laws. And that was just the tip of the iceberg with this guy.
The Democrats used Skyly throughout the summer. Their small team was able to 1) pass hundreds of potential high-dollar donors on to the finance team — some of whom wrote big checks and will continue to do so, 2) feed thousands more contacts into the digital fundraising program, resulting in thousands of dollars raised and emails captured, and 3) identify hundreds of new volunteers for the field operation to help with events and GOTV efforts.
We can’t claim that Skyly was the only reason that the Democrat won with 51% of the vote, but we know we made a difference in a race that everyone said was a statistical dead heat.
If we’d lost, well, there’d have been more kids going to bed hungry in Ohio. People could once again be fired if their boss even suspected they were gay. Policies that cause harm to real people. And that’s what I mean about the moral foundation.Getting here hasn’t been easy. Those first couple years were pretty lean. But once we got traction in 2016, we were able to build a successful business that implemented our values: Progressive political action. Location independence. Making a living while making plenty of time along the way for family, friends, travel, and art.We’re helping the good guys win, having fun doing it, and I’m proud of our work.
I recently attended an event put on by the Democratic Party. I found it difficult to participate in the enthusiasm of the speakers and the crowd. Over the next few days I thought about the experience.
Why did their exuberance fail to inspire? I was vaguely concerned; do I care about their topics, their mission?
Yes, I favor progressive ideas and policies over conservative ones, generally. But why?
The answer largely resides in my values.
Peace – Deciding to take the nation to war requires a willingness to kill people who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Violence against innocents is repugnant to me, and Democratic leaders generally are more reluctant to go to war than Republicans.
Environment – This is our one planet and we should take care of it. Yes, we’ll use the resources available to thrive, but we should do so in the smartest, most efficient, least-polluting, far-sighted way feasible.
Justice – for all.
Compassion – There’s a proper role for government in providing assistance to people who need it. Not doing so isn’t just immoral, it’s divisive and destabilizing. Many Republicans seem to believe that there is no such proper role.
Complexity – very little is black and white. From military action to small business loans to environmental regulations, our actions and policies have countless ripple effects. Nothing is one simple thing, and everything is part of an ecosystem of forces and effects. Republicans seem more likely to adopt a rigid black-and-white view on many topics.
Cooperation – “we’re all better off when we’re all better off”. Cultivating peace and prosperity for all requires those with the most to give the most.
Modernity – an openness to change, scientific advances, and cultural pioneers. Government should fund basic scientific research in order to discover fundamental truths that may used for the betterment and benefit of humanity.
Government is the shared infrastructure of cooperative action at scale. It’s the legal system and roads and bridges and food safety and basic research. It’s the existence of the internet and weather data and the exploration of space. It’s cops and firemen and schools and disaster relief.
Democrats seem to understand all this, while Republicans commonly deride government in general and commonly express their enthusiasm for its dismantling at every level (except the military).
My personal ideology is left-leaning, but without strong ties to an established party. The Democratic Party clearly has the greatest potential for impact and compatibility with my values, so I’ll help them when I can.
In the eight months since incorporating Vasker, I’ve done and learned a lot. It’s been an intermittently exhilarating, discouraging, focused, wandering process. Here are some things I’ve learned, done, and thought about.
- While ability and affinity are important measures of a prospect, past giving is considered the biggest indicator of future giving. Beta clients in two states brought this up, leading me to import gigs of historical political donation data from the public sources.
- There’s no perfect way to associate donor data with voter data. You can match on names, but there are problems, including the Bill/Billy/Will/William issue and the fact that there are many people named Bill Williams in any city. But you can make a best effort and display the information as “possible donations” to be reviewed by human researchers.
- Speaking of names, people’s names come in all sorts of forms, and sometimes they don’t use their real names, so you need to be able to recognize “Dr. Bill E. Williams, PhD” as particular voter #12344567 “WILLAM EDWARD WILLIAMS”, while discarding “Mr. Bill is Awesome, Yo”. External databases of common words, nicknames, surnames, and suffixes can help. But watch out — there really are people whose names consist of dictionary words, like “Will Hurt”, “Bill Gates”, “Dick Smith”, “Bob Black”, “Melody Winters”, “Grace Masters”, etc.
- Earth is not a perfect sphere, but it’s close enough at most latitudes that simple geometric calculations suffice for distance calculations between points, rather than GIS science, of which I know almost nothing.
- Professionals who work in politics (fundraising, managing data, coordinating volunteers, handling communications) are like mercenaries: They go where the fight is. So your contact within a political organization may not be around long. My hunch is that this enhances the importance of professional networks and reputation in the industry. People move around, crisscrossing the country and each other’s paths, over multiple years and election cycles.
- Some statewide political organizations tell me “we don’t do prospecting”. They already have a deep list and don’t have or require staff to conduct prospect research. Others tell me they have a great donor list, but a high percentage of them are people over eighty years old, and so they are actively prospecting for younger professionals to activate, and have dedicated staff to support that effort.
- My system for measuring affinity or interest scores individuals based on their specific expressions of personal interest. The sophisticated scoring used by the Democrats to rate a voter’s likelihood of voting Democratic takes into account is a predictive model, rather than an individual score. I ran a Pearson Correlation to see how well the two scores line up, and got a moderate positive correlation. I am not sure whether that’s a valid comparison or if these two scores are different enough in kind that it’s meaningless to compare them statistically.
- I aspired to use git for source control at the beginning of this project, but soon began ignoring it as a time-wasting step. This hasn’t burned me – yet.
- I am convinced that my software is identifying real people who lean politically progressive. For fundraisers (my clients), the question remains, what’s the best way to activate them as contributors? How do you create a first-time political contributor? (It’s a difficult topic to Google, since there’s so much news about campaign finance and political contributions. One essay posits outrage as the best tool to activate new contributors, but does so in a pretty disparaging way.)
- I’m awaiting results from a test — 5000 prospect phone numbers sent to a call center to be read a four-sentence fundraising script. Is this the best way to activate them?
- This is the biggest software/data project I’ve ever taken on single-handed. I valued and miss collaboration with founders/employees. And, as I’ve been forced to learn new technologies and make software design decisions, I’ve levelled up, which feels good.