Power Up Your Political Campaign: A Guide to Effective Campaign Websites

Website design for Political Candidate

When running a campaign, your website is more than just a digital space. It’s a vital tool for gathering donations, rallying volunteers, and building a support base.

The Credibility Factor

In politics, perception is key, and the quality of your website is a crucial element in signaling the viability of your campaign. No one wants to waste money or time on a losing effort, and your website helps reinforce the credibility that you’re earning out in the community.

As your campaign progresses, the significance of your website shifts to becoming a platform for persuading voters or decision makers to back your cause or candidacy. Both the quality of your site and the clarity of your message will be important for your persuasion efforts here.

Website vs. CRM

Although the line is sometimes blurry, it’s important to understand the difference between your website and your CRM. CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management” and in the case of a political campaign it means the place where you store and manage contacts and supporters of your campaign.

Political CRMs also generally have campaign tools like the ability to text or email supporters, create petitions, process donations, and more. Each CRM has different tools it excels at. Your website on the other hand is the “face” of your campaign – it’s a publicly accessible tool through which people can learn more about your campaign and sign up to get involved via forms on the site.

Those form submissions in turn, are generally added to your CRM manually or through integrations between your website and CRM.

Essential Website Content

Campaign websites all tend to have a similar set of pages and content types they need, so let’s walk through them here:

  • Fundraising: Sites need to have a variety of engaging donation buttons and modules, along with clear and clean design that brings those buttons to the forefront. Generally donations are not processed directly on campaign websites, but via CRMs like Numero.ai that complete the checkout process.
  • Volunteer: Easy-to-navigate sign-up forms are crucial for mobilizing volunteers. A simple form on the homepage for capturing emails and phone numbers, supplemented by a more detailed form on a separate page, is a common approach.
  • Endorsements: Campaign sites generally need components that can show who else is supporting it. Rows of headshots, grids of logos, simple lists of supporters, and testimonial quotes are all useful components for this purpose.
  • Biography / About: You’ll need a compelling biography page for a candidate campaign. A nice touch is to add old family and personal photos to this page.
  • Issues: Candidates will need a section that draws attention to their position on the issues, while advocacy and legislative efforts will need a section for content that makes their case to visitors.
  • News: You’ll likely want a section to post updates from the campaign and links to outside news articles.
  • Events: You may want to create a list of campaign events somewhere on your site, and you’ll definitely want a way for people to RSVP. Some campaigns use services like Mobilize to handle this side of things and link directly to the external service in place of having their own events management pages.
  • Voting information: It can be useful to have information that lets your supporters know about critical information and dates for registration and voting. A link out to an official page where they can look up their registration status and polling place is also a good idea.

Big Picture Considerations

  • Images and video: Especially for candidate campaigns, images and video are critical for generating an emotional connection with the audience candidates. Hiring a professional is generally a good idea here if you can afford it.
  • Ease of updates: You’re going to need to update your campaign website throughout your campaign. Make sure you have a plan for this that doesn’t become a time or money sink. For example, make sure it’s easy to add new endorsers and news items, which tend to need to be updated more than other sections.
  • Mobile: Make sure your site works well and looks good on a variety of screen sizes, including phones. With about 50% of site visitors on mobile devices, you can’t afford for your site to be unusable on phones.
  • Branding: Colors, choice of fonts, and logo are also all really important and in some cases may come previous to the process of building out your website. In addition to the credibility issue, building a look and feel that communicate unconsciously the message of your candidate is critical. For example, if your campaign has a hopeful message, useful hopeful colors. If you’re traditional, use red, white and blue. I recommend finding a graphic designer, paid if you can afford it, who can help you with this part of the process.

Building Your Website: Options and Strategies

Everything we said above was all well and good, but how do we actually make this website happen?

There are a few different approaches campaigns generally take, that each have their pros and cons.

  • High end custom websites: Some campaigns with larger budgets pay $7500 and up for politically-focused web design agencies to build sites for them (usually using a WordPress back-end). At the $7500 level, these sites usually use templates that agencies have developed, with mild customizations. As you get up into the higher range ($20k to $30k is not unheard of) the websites are more customized.
  • RUN, the political campaign website builder: Run is a website builder that comes with most of the components and integrations that campaigns need and has a very low learning curve. Because of that ease, Run sites can be set up by anyone on your team with a good design eye. Run charges $50 per month plus a start-up fee that varies between $250 and $2000 depending on the size of the campaign. Run sites are really quick to build and look very professional out of the box. They also have a bunch of cool integrations that allow you to send supporter form data directly into different political and non-political CRMs like Google Sheets, Action Network, or NGP.
  • Low end custom websites: For about $1000 to $3000 you can hire a freelance web designer to build you a campaign site. At this level, designers usually use Squarespace or Wix. Sites done this way usually don’t look great (though there are exceptions), and are likely to have some mobile and usability issues, but if you can afford it, it’s better than trying to build a site on Squarespace or Wix on your own, which can be frustrating and difficult. Make sure you have a plan to be able to update your site as the campaign progresses – people who go this route often have trouble with expensive and time consuming processes to continue updating their sites.
  • Build it yourself with an inexpensive builder: Some small campaigns decide to save money and go the do-it-yourself route. Generally this involves attempting to build a site on Squarespace or Wix, which have low monthly fees. While cost-saving, the process of building is likely to be difficult as all the different types of content we listed above need to be built out from scratch. And getting things to work on mobile is an especially challenging experience. In this scenario, the ongoing process of updating the site throughout the campaign may also prove difficult. However, if you’re in a very small race where almost no money is being raised, this may be your best bet.
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