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"Help Earl Decide" wins Pollie Award for "Best Use of a Website for Volunteer/Field Organizing"; and Golden Dot for "Outstanding State Online Campaign"

The winner of a 2007 Pollie Award for "Best Use of a Website for Volunteer or Field Organizing", this is the story of Help Earl Decide, a site produced by Mandate Media for Blumenauer for Congress.

Update: This site also just won a Golden Dot award for "Outstanding State Online Campaign." See all the winners here.

A little background...

Congressman Earl Blumenauer is a safe Democratic incumbent from Portland, Oregon. In 2006, he sought to expand his statewide profile - improving his name recognition, creating relationships with activists, etc.

In 2006, control of the Oregon legislature was in play - after 16 years of GOP control. The House Democrats were in a 33-27 minority, and needed to swing four seats to pick up control.

Oregon has a fairly active blogosphere culture - with over 70 active blogs, and led by BlueOregon.com (with over 2000 readers daily). Like most blogospheres, however, the "netroots" mostly focus on reading online, occasionally donating, and only sometimes taking action.

Congressman Blumenauer sought to reverse that trend by pulling these online activists into offline volunteering for Oregon House Democrats' campaigns.

The project...

"Help Earl Decide" was launched in August 2006. The goal was to generate goodwill among activists and candidates, produce a big list of activists for Congressman Blumenauer, and provide dozens of volunteers to legislative candidates.

Congressman Blumenauer pledged to donate $1000 to each of four legislative candidates - and do it entirely based on the votes submitted by online activists on his website.

Our expectation was that we'd have 400-500 responses, with 200-300 volunteers generated. (Wow, were we wrong.)

Activists were asked to select 3-5 challengers and 3-5 incumbents -- from the entire list of House candidates statewide, including safe incumbents, can't-win challengers, and targeted races.

Once they voted, they checked a box if they wanted to support the candidates they chose. If so, Blumenauer would send their contact info to the campaign - including name, email, and zip code (plus many with phone and address.) Emails were all verified via clickthru.

Based on the initial votes, ten finalists were selected. Confounding our expectations, the finalists were all tough, targeted campaigns.

Activists were asked to choose four of the finalists - and again asked for their contact info and to volunteer.

Over 2250 people voted, from 29 of 36 counties in Oregon. Over 1750 people volunteered for Oregon legislative campaigns, for an average of 3.2 campaigns each. All 54 campaigns got at least a few volunteers, and the highest got over 700.

The positive response was so overwhelming that Congressman Blumenauer boosted the giveaway from four $1000 checks to five $1000 checks.

Four of the five ultimately won their campaigns - including three challengers that defeated incumbents.

The Oregon House Democrats picked up four seats, and a 31-29 majority. While Congressman Blumenauer surely can't take all the credit, the "Help Earl Decide" website in August '06 helped kick off the fall organizing campaign.

Final note: Blumenauer would have donated this $5000 to legislative candidates anyway, but even if it were new money, his list acquisition cost on this project was only $2.20 per activist. (Much better than the $5-10 rates that many activist acquisition firms charge.)