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Democrats adopt unified 'marketplace' for volunteers

Every campaign or cause used to have to recruit and manage volunteers on their own. A new tool seeks to streamline the process by creating a one-stop shop.
Dan Ward and Abigail Spanberger face off in Virginia's 7th district in the Democratic Congressional primary.
Abigail Spanberger talks with volunteers at her campaign headquarters in Richmond last month ahead of the Democratic primary in Virginia's 7th Congressional District.Julia Rendleman / The Washington Post/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — For the first time, the Democratic Party is adopting a one-stop shop for volunteers interested in working for Democratic campaigns and progressive caucuses.

As the party looks to this year's midterms and hopes to harness the grass-roots energy tipped off by President Donald Trump's election, the Democratic National Committee is joining a quickly growing digital platform that advocates say will revolutionize political organizing.

The new tool, called MobilizeAmerica, aims to provide a single "marketplace" for volunteers, where a wide range of left-leaning campaigns and causes can connect with activists looking to get involved.

Previously, individual campaigns and groups would have to find, recruit and manage volunteers on their own, and those volunteers in turn would have to establish separate relationships with anybody for whom they worked.

"We saw a pretty incredible gap in their ability to connect with one another," said Alfred Johnson, an Obama campaign alumni who co-founded MobilizeAmerica with Allen Kramer, a former Hillary Clinton campaign aide, in January 2017. "This is a nationwide progressive volunteering marketplace across a large number of states."

The technology was first deployed in Virginia House of Delegate races last year, and then used by Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Penn., in his successful campaign in a special election this February. Since then, its use has spread quickly.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, nine state Democratic parties, more than 100 campaigns and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee have all signed on. So have progressive groups representing a combined 20 million members, such as MoveOn, Swing Left and Organizing for Action.

Now, the addition of the DNC will give the tool the official imprimatur of the national party.

"We are so proud to partner with MobilizeAmerica and progressive groups across the country to enable volunteers to support Democrats in their campaigns and to organize around the issues are important to their lives and to our country’s future," DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

The project got a boost from a new progressive tech incubator that has been trying to help Democrats catch up to Republicans, who several years ago leapfrogged Democrats when it comes to political tech.

"We're going to see a lot more volunteering happening for Democrats this year than in any other year," Johnson said. "The technology makes it possible and the level of grassroots activism makes it possible."