In a Nutshell: Deficit spending and the debt ceiling are not just political issues — they also influence personal finance. And Outvote is a platform that enables voters to engage with candidates and encourage them to put those financial issues at the forefront of their campaigns. Outvote helps politically minded users keep up with developments outside of election season and discover new ways to contribute through donations and volunteerism. Outvote users can also make an impact at the local level by staying informed and active in area political events that also affect their financial and social well-being.
Budgeting is an essential component of financial health — whether it’s an individual, a business, or even the government. But in the United States, the national debt continues to balloon, creating a precarious situation for both the country and its citizens.
When the federal government spends more money in a year than it earns through tax revenue, it creates a deficit, and those deficits accumulate into the standing national debt. As of June 2019, Treasury Direct reported that the national debt was over $22 trillion. When divided by the most current U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, that is almost $67,000 for every person living in the U.S.
Most people couldn’t afford to pay off their share of that debt, and the government also faces significant problems if it can’t repay.
And since that debt burden affects everyone, the question naturally arises: What can people do about it? Collectively, they can vote for representatives who will devise and deploy responsible financial policies to mitigate the debt and lay the foundation for a positive future. That sounds like a tall order, but Outvote makes it easier to leverage that collective political power.
“We work primarily with causes and campaigns to connect directly with voters and enable them to stay active around the work they’re doing,” said Emily DaSilva, Chief Marketing Officer at Outvote. “We also allow voters to connect with each other, their friends, and other activists.”
Outvote is a politically oriented social network with campaign functionality that empowers users to follow, support, and engage with like-minded organizations and people. Together, they can coordinate collective action to address the issues that will impact their social and financial futures.
“One of the reasons we built this tool is because there was so much energy around doing something,” said Naseem Makiya, Founder of Outvote. “Everyone wanted to help but weren’t sure how they could help.”
With Outvote, people are empowered to rally behind causes that matter most to them, stay connected with issues outside of election time, and influence policy and representation at all levels of government.
Developing a Permanent Social Infrastructure for Campaigns
Every election cycle, the American political machine winds up to spread awareness of issues, inform voters, and rally supporters behind campaigns. But a fundamental inefficiency exists in that endlessly recurring loop.
“We saw presidential campaigns building Outvote internally every cycle, every four years,” Makiya said. “They have hundreds of millions of dollars and engineers from Google, and it works great. But at the end of the cycle, they shut down and don’t get reused. Sometimes, they get built from scratch in the next presidential cycle.”
Makiya decided to create a persistent, user-friendly platform so campaigns don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel every few years. Outvote is also available to smaller causes and candidates who lack the resources available on the presidential campaign level.
“We started with the idea of friend-to-friend texting as a high-impact way for volunteers or supporters to make a difference in a campaign,” Makiya said.
In that capacity, Outvote makes it easy to identify like-minded individuals and encourage more active civic participation among friends and colleagues. By leveraging pre-existing social connections in the interest of political change, individuals can help inspire and motivate others to have a meaningful impact on policy and representation.
“One of the best features of the platform is you can sync your contacts or network with the national voter file,” DaSilva said. “You can see who of your friends or colleagues is registered to vote, if they are affiliated with a party, and if they have a consistent voter turnout. During elections, we can even indicate if a user lives in a swing area.”
Maintaining Engagement During Political Lulls
Public interest in politics waxes and wanes around presidential and midterm elections. After the results are in, many voters return their attention to everyday concerns. But the government keeps grinding away, whether they’re paying attention or not. And when they’re not paying attention is when things can go off the rails.
Because Outvote is a persistent platform that doesn’t dissolve once an election season is over, it helps users maintain interest and awareness during the political off-season. That awareness can be leveraged to achieve a tangible effect on policy.
“We allow for users to have access to a feed of actionable content that allows them to stay engaged in making a social impact,” DaSilva said.
And Makiya pointed out the rise of voter engagement and participation in recent campaigns.
“You saw rallies spring up overnight that were record-breaking in terms of attendance, and that was amazing, but the question was, ‘What happens now?’ ‘What happens after these rallies?’ It’s easy to spin up these big rallies through digital activism. But part of the downside is that we don’t have the historical infrastructure in place to keep the ball rolling because it’s so easy.”
Outvote’s infrastructure is built to leverage that ease. In addition to spurring attendance at events and donations to causes, Outvote provides supporters with other actions they can take to help a campaign or cause.
Outvote’s direct messaging feature allows users to interact with each other and connect directly with staffers running a campaign or cause. That can establish a much more meaningful relationship between individuals and organizations.
“It’s nice for a user coming in organically to have a one-on-one thread with a staffer on a campaign or within an organization they’re associated with,” Makiya said. “Perhaps previously they only knew the brand and donated, but now they’re talking to someone at the organization.”
Users Can Discover New Ways to Lend Their Support
Making donations and attending rallies are common ways voters can express their support, but those avenues are not always open to everyone. People on a limited income may not have the money to donate. They could also have limited means or time to travel to a rally.
“We’re trying to give people opportunities that are a little bit less of an ask,” Makiya said. “Donating is always a big ask, and it’s also kind of a one-time thing.”
Outvote facilitates local canvassing by identifying individuals with whom users can engage, and the app — available on iOS and Android — links to a central database. Any information collected by canvassers can be input directly and immediately, easing the workload and lag of traditional boots-on-the-ground canvassing work.
“Previously, you would write information down in your notebook or take some notes on paper. Then, you’d have to go back to headquarters and do some data entry,” Makiya said. “Now, you can record that interaction with the person from your phone.”
Of course, events are still the lifeblood of political campaigns because they are an opportunity for large groups to meet, coordinate, and get excited about taking action. But these events need more than just attendees — they need people to run them, as well. Outvote’s scheduling feature allows supporters to sign up to work shifts and gives them the option to invite friends to pick up shifts as well.
And users are not limited to making donations and attending events. Outvote opens new avenues for political engagement, enabling more people to contribute to positive political and social change.
Harnessing Large-Scale Political Tools to Make a Local Impact
Due to the spectacle surrounding big elections, voters tend to pin their hopes and dreams on the successes of their favored candidates. While large-scale politics is an important component of governance, it’s only the most visible part.
The national debt needs to be handled at the federal level, but financial issues that affect the lives of voters occur on smaller scales, as well. Politics at the state and local levels are equally crucial — if not more so — to everyday well-being and community vitality. Outvote fosters engagement at those levels by allowing users to connect with local politicians, helping the latter gain the sort of support available to large-scale candidates in bigger arenas.
Users can promote campaigns and causes through the platform’s basic functionalities, and the candidates and organizations can accept donations through the app. That capability is especially useful for local social impact organizations, activist groups, and politicians seeking elected office.
And all of these users contribute to the greater good by encouraging political engagement and attention to important issues at all times, not just as elections approach or when major issues loom.
“People in the U.S. are now aware that politics affect everything, whether it is your financial health, your health, or how you progress within society,” DaSilva said. “It has never been more important to stay active beyond the voting booth.”