While working as a campaign staffer in 2016, Grassroots Analytics CEO Daniel Hogenkamp was surprised to find that tech hadn’t yet fully reached the political donation scene.
“Believe it or not, 2016 political campaigns were just ripping through phone books, calling lawyers and asking them for money,” Hogenkamp told Technical.ly.
To help out, Hogenkamp decided to develop a Python-based ranking algorithm that could match political campaigns with those most likely to make a donation (women running for office, for example, have a much better chance at getting donations from fellow women). Since he was already a campaign staffer, he could even test it out and develop a proof of concept during the campaign cycle. Later, it became a full-blown tech startup.
Eventually, Hogenkamp lost his job when the person he was campaigning for lost the election. But the need for his campaign donor tech was still there, and he decided to pursue Grassroots Analytics, the subsequent political tech firm he founded, full-time. The 40-person downtown DC company operates a network of consumer databases of left-leaning and progressive donors in the US for campaigns and organizations in need of support.
For the first few years, up until about 2019, Hogenkamp said, the company largely consisted of receiving and cleaning up donor data from campaigners and providing analysis.
“At that point, we were really just an analytics company. People would give us databases, we’d analyze them,” Hogenkamp said. By 2018, it had amassed its own collection of databases.
But with the rise of the following pandemic year, Hogenkamp shifted the startup into a consumer database from which customers can buy data, contact donors digitally and learn the best approaches for donation requests based on their data. The idea, according to the company, is that it can be used by both larger, known candidates and offer a full-service suite of tools for those that aren’t yet at the top of the ticket.
That shift in 2020 also meant expanding its tech offerings to nonprofits and other organizations alongside campaigns. Currently, Hogenkamp said that just under 500 campaigns and organizations use its technology, but he’s expecting to boost that to 3,000 by November of 2022.
“We pivoted away from just campaigns and realized, ‘Oh, this progressive consumer database can be used by any sort of socially responsible organization or company,” Hogenkamp said.
In the new year, Hogenkamp said the company will be looking to invest heavily in its data offerings for nonprofits. He hopes the company can scale up the division, adding more programs and data services to help expand a customer base in that sector.
That growth, he noted, also means adding to the team. Hogenkamp already expects it to grow to 50 people by January, especially as the 2022 election cycle ramps up. He hopes to add about five people to the company’s tech team to help rebuild the database. Specifically, he said, he’ll be looking for those with experience in the field.
“Tech teams can go on forever and get lost in building all sorts of cool bells and whistles that these organizations will just never be able to use,” Hogenkamp said. “Having tech people that have tech talent, but also understand how a political campaign works or how a nonprofit works, is pretty important to us.”
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