The CMDI Blog

CMDI’s Founder & President on the 2016 Election Results

Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 in News & Announcements, The Blog | 0 comments

John Simms, the Founder & President of CMDI, recently shared his thoughts about the election results and predictions about what’s to come on Medium. An excerpt is below.

When elected officials stop paying attention to voters, they are punished at the polls. They are rewarded with reelection when they do. That is the backbone of our Republic. That system protects both of us equally even though we may have very different ideas of the role of government. We avoid revolutions and coups by letting the voters decide.

Big upheavals (like Tuesday) happen when politicians lose track of who they represent. In this case, the “Basket of Deplorables” doesn’t like being called racists, bigots, sexists, and homophobes. Do those people exist? Sure. But for the vast majority of people, Democrats and Republicans alike, these labels are unfair and untrue. Most non-college educated rural white men are none of those things. This is another bogeyman created to generate fear and division in order to activate certain voter segments who don’t mix with “that social class” and don’t know otherwise.

John Simms Quote | CMDI.com

My prediction is that the next session of Congress will be more smooth than one might expect. Most of what is passed Democrats in the Senate and House will like. If fact, much of the legislation proposed by Democrats during the Obama administration was designed to gain favor with certain voter interests and make Republicans look like obstructionists, knowing that Republicans would never allow it to pass. If Democrats had believed it would pass, they never would have proposed it. (Republicans do it, too; it’s just an unseemly political game.) Most of the Democrat leadership actually knows what needs to be done and now will find no political advantage to putting up much of a fight.

If the Democrats try to routinely filibuster legislation, they will pay a big price at the polls in 2018. Democrats have 25 Senate seats up in 2018. If they try to obstruct, many of them will lose in 2018. Many of them will lose in 2018 anyway because that’s just what happens when one Party has so many seats at risk. They really increase their chances of losing if they obstruct. At least one Democrat already gets it and is rumored to be considering changing Party allegiance to Republicans before the next session of Congress.

Read the entire post here. 

Feature of the Month: Suppress Channel Flags

Posted by on Oct 26, 2016 in Feature of the Month, The Blog | 0 comments

Crimson Feature of the Month

Does your campaign or PAC have a long list of flags to suppress when you run a People search in Crimson? If you struggle to always remember to suppress flags like “do not mail” or “deceased,” Crimson has a new feature that will make your searches easier.

A new button under the Suppression section of the People Search will automatically exclude flags that you have identified as a Channel Suppression Flag. This makes running list selects much faster and ensures that you remember to suppress everything that is needed.

Here’s how to use this new feature.

Set up the Channel Suppression Flags.

1. From the Crimson dashboard, select the People menu and then click on Settings.

Feature of the Month: Channel Suppression Flags Button | CMDI.com

2. Select the Flag tab at the top of the page.

Feature of the Month: Channel Suppression Flags Button | CMDI.com
3. Either add a new flag or click on the green Feature of the Month: Channel Suppression Flags Button | CMDI.com  button to edit an existing flag.

4. Check the box next to Check the box next to “This is a Channel Suppression Flag” and check at least one of the Target Channels to be suppressed. The channels include email, SMS, phone and direct mail.

channelsuppressionbox2

5. Save your changes.

Now that your Channel Suppression Flags are set up, you can add them to your People Search query.

6. Go to People Search and enter your criteria.

7. Under the Suppression section, toggle the switch on next to “Apply Channel Suppression Flags.”

Feature of the Month: Channel Suppression Flags Button | CMDI.com

Note: You can also add the Channel Suppression Flags to Best Efforts and Thank You Searches.

8. Select Search and finishing running your query.

New Improvements Made to Crimson Search Functions

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Crimson v2, Product News, The Blog | 0 comments

New Improvements Made to Crimson Search Functions

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Recently, several new Crimson improvements launched for customer support and search functions. Scroll down to learn more about these changes and how to use them. If you have questions, please contact the Crimson Support Team at CrimsonSupport@CMDI.com or 1-800-878-6837.

Get Help Inside of Crimson
You no longer have to open the Crimson Helpdesk in order to launch a chat with customer support. Now, when you log into your dashboard, you will see a red tab on the bottom.

All you need to do is expand the tab, and enter your name, email and phone number to connect with the Crimson Support Team during business hours.

Chat inside Crimson

If you submit a chat outside of business hours, your chat will be submitted as a ticket, and the Crimson Support Team will follow up with you. The Crimson Support Team is available for chats from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Eastern on business days.

Find Organizations Faster in People Quick Search
If you are hunting for an organization, the People Quick Search will now query your search to match the last name field. Since the names of many organizations are saved in the last name field, this should make your search must easier and faster.

People Search in Crimson

FEC Lookup Expanded
When looking for an FEC committee, the FEC Lookup function will now search in both the Name and ID fields. The committee name, FEC ID, and Last Report Coverage Date will populate in the results.

FEC Lookup Expanded in Crimson

Suppress Flags Easier
You no longer have to enter in frequently used suppression tags when running a search! Under the Suppression section of People Search, make sure the “Apply Channel Suppression Flags” button is toggled on.

If your channel suppression flags are already set up, this new button will include those flags with every search. If you have questions please see the Crimson FAQ on using mass flag suppression.

Supress Flags Easier in Crimson

FEC Standardizes Listings of Names in Reports

Posted by on Oct 6, 2016 in FEC, The Blog | 0 comments

FEC Standardizes Listings of Names in Reports

Have you noticed a difference in the way that names are appearing on FEC forms?

If names appear differently, don’t be alarmed. This is a change that the Federal Election Commission recently made.

On Monday, the FEC announced that they changed the naming convention to standardize how names appear on forms. On the website, the agency explained:

What’s in a name? Variations in the way committees list an individual’s name on their FEC reports can create inconsistencies in the public record. To address this concern, the Commission has standardized listings for individuals’ names in the latest version of FECPrint, the electronic filing tool that generates images of FEC reporting forms. The new format lists an individual’s last name, first name, middle name, prefix, and suffix. For instance, Dr. John Q. Public, Sr. would appear on the FECPrint form as Public, John, Q., Dr., Sr.. Commas appear between each data field regardless of the content, so John Public, Jr. would be listed as Public, John, , , Jr.. The new format should improve the consistency of FEC data.

We have updated Crimson and CrimsonFiler to populate forms correctly. This is how names now appear on forms:

New FEC Forms | CMDI.com

Example of a Schedule A- Receipts Form

 

New FEC forms | CMDI.com

Example of a Schedule B – Expenditures Form

If you have any questions about the new naming convention, please contact the Crimson Helpdesk at 1-800-878-6837 or email us at CrimsonSupport@cmdi.com

Crimson & CrimsonFiler Questions Answered on October 12

Posted by on Oct 5, 2016 in The Blog | 0 comments

Do you have questions about Crimson or need a refresher on CrimsonFiler before the next FEC deadline? Next week, the Senior Support Staff at CMDI will host two webinars on Wednesday, October 12.

crimson_webinar_oct2016_500x419

Crimson General Overview: Wednesday at 11 a.m.  EDT

  • A general overview: People Search, Data Entry, Reports and more
  • Newest features: Recalculate Dashboard button, Crimson ID Tokens, and Merchant e-Solutions Reconciliation Reports.

Crimson Filer Overview: Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT

  • A general overview: How to create a new report or file an amendment
  • Newest features: Miscellaneous Text options, Schedule C – Candidate Loans import from Crimson option, and exporting reported 24/48 hour records via Crimson’s FEC Export

Please RSVP to receive your calendar invite and webinar information.

Caging: What Happens to Political Donations Once You Mail Them?

Posted by on Sep 22, 2016 in The Blog | 0 comments

Caging: What Happens to Political Donations Once You Mail Them?

Caging: What Happens to Political Donations Once You Mail Them

In the months leading up to a presidential election, you’ve probably noticed an increase in the political mail arriving at your home. While some of these pieces are educational, persuasion or Get Out The Vote mailers, the bulk of it is likely a request for a donation from a candidate or a PAC. Once you’ve made the decision to contribute, sign a personal check and then mail it, what happens to this contribution? What does it take for this donation to get deposited for the candidate’s use?

The campaign to which you are donating will likely have hired a vendor – like CMDI – to handle what is known as “caging” or “secure response management”.  This is a direct mail term which refers to the process of picking up mailed-in donations from the Post Office, processing the payments, updating the mailing list and providing any needed FEC compliance services. By contracting these services to a third-party vendor, the campaign saves time and money by hiring experts familiar with the intricacies of FEC compliance and accounting.

What is involved in the caging process?

1. Donations are picked up from the campaign’s P.O. Box at the Post Office.
If you look at the business reply envelope (BRE) accompanying the donation request, you’ll notice that it’s addressed to a postal box. The vendor will check the P.O. Box each day for new donations that need to be processed and deposited.

2. Donations are sorted and opened in a secure facility.
When looking at the BRE accompanying the letter, you might see a code above the name and address. Mailed donations will sorted according to the envelope’s code, or by another method designated by the campaign such as color or size.

3. Donations are organized into prospect and house categories.
There are two main types of donors in political fundraising – prospect and house donors. A house donor is anyone who has previously donated to the campaign or organization. A prospective donor is one who fits an identified donor profile but has not previously contributed to the campaign.

4. Donations are checked for FEC compliance.
This is the most critical step for federal-level campaigns. Experienced vendors train their staff to verify that every check is made out to the correct committee name, signed, and follows FEC regulations.

  • Checks and Credit Cards
    Caging staff check to make sure the checks are made out to the correct committee name and signed. They also verify that the contribution is not over the designated limit and flag checks written from business accounts. Donations can’t be made from an incorporated business — even from small business owners who share a bank account with their business — but rather from a personal account. These donations are flagged and followed up by compliance staff with FEC “best efforts” procedures.
  • Cash
    The FEC limits cash donations to $100 per political committee, and anonymous cash donations are capped at $50. Any cash donations exceeding this amount must be followed up with “best efforts” compliance procedures.

5. Donations are deposited.
During this step, all checks are scanned and digitally archived. Checks and cash are then deposited at the bank, and credit cards are processed following secure PCI standards.

6. Donation records are added to the candidate database.
Using the reply form accompanying the payment information, the data entry team updates the donor’s record in Crimson. They check for changes in the name and address, enter the amount of the donation, potential duplicates in the database, the type of donation, and the appeal from which it came. If a donation comes from a household, it is attributed to one individual in order to comply with FEC rules.

These records are then accessed in Crimson in order to file FEC reports, check for donors who might be over limits, and provide invaluable information for the campaign.

7. Donations are archived.
All physical documents that are mailed by the donor, such as the reply card and check, are archived in a secure off-site location for a certain period of time. All data entered into Crimson is also archived to a secure cloud.

Learn More About Crimson on September 14

Posted by on Sep 13, 2016 in The Blog, Webinars | 0 comments

Learn More About Crimson on September 14

Are you a new Crimson user? Join CMDI on Wednesday, September 14 for an introductory webinar.

The Crimson Support Team will provide a general overview of Crimson features in this 60 minute session that includes time for Q&A.

If you would like to join the webinar, please RSVP by completing this short form

Crimson Webinar on September 14, 2016 | CMDI.com

How First-time Candidates Can Build a Mailing List

Posted by on Sep 1, 2016 in The Blog | 0 comments

How First-time Candidates Can Build a Mailing List

How First-time Candidates Can Build a Mailing List | CMDI.com

The first time a candidate runs for public office, it can be hard to know where to start! Fundraising may seem especially daunting. Often, candidates raise money through direct mail, but where do you get the mailing list of names to contact? Incumbents can rely on lists of previous donors, but first-time candidates don’t have this luxury. They need to identify potential supporters before they can even ask for contributions.

Here are some ideas on how first-time candidates can build up their mailing lists: 

• Friends and Family: For many first-time candidates, the first step of a campaign is to send a “friends and family letter.” As the name implies, candidates send these letters to let their friends and family know that they are running, ask for support and even fundraise. Friends and family will often make up a candidate’s most dedicated volunteers. While they might be able to provide some initial funds, you will probably need to reach out to other donors.

• Events: Early in the campaign, most first-time candidates begin hosting events, like lunches and coffee chats. For your supporters, these events provide a chance to introduce their own friends and family to your campaign. You also meet potential supporters when you attend or speak at local political events. Every time you host or attend an event, be sure to bring a sign-up sheet to collect the names, emails and mailing addresses of new supporters who want to get involved in your campaign. You can later use these lists for fundraising mailings!

• Your Predecessor: Consider asking for a list of donors from the last candidate from your party to run for the office. He or she might be willing to help. Keep in mind, though, that a current officeholder may choose not to get involved in a contested primary. For a statewide race, however, you could try reaching out to former candidates for various offices.

• Party Committees: State and local party committees can also be a great resource. They might be able to provide a list of potential donors. Of course, during a contested primary, party committees are likely to be unable to help.

Prospecting Lists: If you’re not able to find a free list of potential donors, consider renting a prospecting list from a list broker. For example, if you were running for senate, you could consider renting a fundraising list used by a gubernatorial candidate from your party last election cycle. By working with a list broker, you can access a donor list even if you don’t personally know the candidate who created it.

• Voter Files: Any candidate can get access to voter files, usually through the local county board of elections or a third-party vendor. While these files often come with a fee, they can be very useful. In voter files, you can see voters’ names, addresses and voting histories. The more frequently a person votes, the more likely he or she is to donate to a campaign. In states with party registration, you can even see voters’ party affiliations. That way, you can identify members of your party who are consistent voters – a great potential donor list!

• Be careful: Keep in mind that federal regulations prevent you from collecting names and addresses from other candidates’ campaign finance reports for you own fundraising efforts.

• Build for the future: Fundraising may be a challenge the first time you run for office. Remember that, in the future, you will be able to draw on this hard work and use the great fundraising list you will have created!

Feature of the Month: Reconcile Accounts with MeS Reports

Posted by on Aug 31, 2016 in Feature of the Month, The Blog | 0 comments

Feature of the Month: Reconcile Accounts with MeS Reports

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Reconciling credit card totals can be a challenge for compliance and treasury staff on political campaigns. Crimson now offers four different credit card reconciliation reports to make the process easier.

All four reports reconcile transaction information from Merchant e-Solutions (MeS) reports with data from Crimson. These MeS reports were previously only available online through the MeS website but can now be directly accessed through Crimson. Crimson developers also customized the reports to make it easier to find transactions and donor details.

Here’s how to access and run the new MeS reports in Crimson:

1. From your Crimson account, click on the Compliance menu on the left and select CC Reconciliation.

Crimson MeS Reports | CMDI.com

Note: If you are processing credit cards through Crimson and do not see this option, please contact the Crimson Support Team.

A new screen will open with a filter to help you run the right report.

Crimson MeS reports | CMDI.com

3. Enter the following information to be able to run an MeS Credit Card Reconciliation Report:

  • Select the Fund Code you want to filter with (ie. P2016, G2016, etc.).
  • Select the Account Code you want to filter with.
    • If you’re not using different account codes in Crimson, select the default of “N/A – N/A”.
  • Enter a Batch Date range for the credit card transactions (ie. 5/1/2016 – 5/31/2016).
  • Enter the MeS ID, which is identical to the MeS Merchant #, and then the MeS Password.*

4. Once all of the search criteria has been entered, select which report you would like to generate.

Crimson MeS Reports | CMDI.com

Note, if you don’t know your MeS ID/MeS Merchant # and/or your MeS Password, please contact support at CrimsonSupport@cmdi.com to obtain that information.

MeS Reports Available in Crimson:

• Reconciliation Report
This report compares the totals for credit card transactions for each day that falls within the selected range. The report will display the total processed for each card type according to the Crimson database compared to what is reported by MeS daily.

This report is helpful when you are having trouble reconciling deposits in transit — transactions that were processed near the end of one reporting period and/or at the beginning of another.

• MeS Batch Summary
This report displays batch totals according to MeS for each credit card type. It shows total counts and amounts for each card type as well as totals for any merchant credits or refunds that were processed via MeS’ online portal.

This report does not show daily totals. Instead it displays the totals for the entire date range entered into the criteria.

• MeS Batch Detail
This report displays the MeS details for all individual transactions that match the criteria you have entered in the filters. In addition to displaying the transaction details from Crimson (e.g. batch number, batch date, card type, authorization code, amount, etc.), you can also click the links under Crimson Tran# to view the corresponding Crimson money record.

• MeS Chargeback
This report pulls MeS chargebacks that were submitted by donors in your Crimson database. In addition to the chargeback details normally shown through the reports on MeS’ online portal, you can:

  • Click on the Crimson Tran# to see the original transaction for which the chargeback was submitted.
  • Click on Crimson CB Tran# to view the chargeback adjustment record in Crimson and confirm that it was handled properly.

Making a Mailing List

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in The Blog | 0 comments

Making a Mailing List

Helping clients create fundraising mailings is one of CMDI’s most important services. Here’s a look at how we actually produce them!

First steps:

1. A dataset: Before we can create a mailing list, the client must have a donor dataset. If the candidate has run for office before, the campaign should have a list of the donors who have given in the past. The dataset should include the donor names, addresses and giving histories. The number and dollar amounts of donors’ gifts are important information!

First-time candidates might not have their own data, but they usually start building their own lists with the help of their county or state party and by collecting emails and addresses at campaign events. They can also rent a “prospecting list,” as explained below.

2. Clean your data: CMDI provides data hygiene services, which help clients make sure that their donor databases are as clean as possible. We run a “dupe check” to identify any duplicate donor records. Donors who appear more than once in the database will receive more than one copy of every mailing. Mailing duplicates is not only frustrating for donors, but also adds unnecessary expenses for campaigns. We also check our clients’ datasets against the National Change of Address (NCOA) database. If a campaign last used its fundraising list in an election 2-6 years ago, some donors have probably moved since the list was last updated.

3. Rent lists to grow: Some first-time candidates, and other clients who want to expand their fundraising efforts, rent “prospecting lists” from a list broker. Their goal is to reach out to supporters who haven’t donated yet. These lists are essentially other candidates’ donor databases developed during previous campaigns. For example, a senate campaign could rent a donor list that belonged to a candidate for governor in the same state. If a client decides to build a mailing list from more than one dataset, we run a “merge purge.” Most likely, there will be overlap between the lists, since donors often give to more than one campaign. Merge-purges find and delete duplicate records.

Making a mailing list:

1. Segment Data: To create a mailing list from a donor dataset, we first “segment,” or divide, the dataset into different categories of donors. We assign a “mail code” to each category. We code donors who made one contribution in the last election cycle separately from donors who made more than one contribution. We also segment the dataset by contribution amounts – such as 0-$50, $50-$200, and more than $200.

2. Flag records: We flag the records of donors who the campaign might not want to receive mail. Donors marked as deceased or donors who have asked to be removed from the mailing list are usually flagged. Sometimes, we flag other types of records. Maybe a candidate doesn’t want to mail anyone who lives in his or her opponent’s zip code. Clients can choose to “suppress” flagged donor records so that they aren’t included in a mailing list.

3. Target donors & voters: Next, we discuss with the client exactly which donors the campaign wants to reach. Clients usually don’t want to mail every donor in the database at once. When the client chooses which types of donors to include in a mailing, we put together a list of mail codes that represent those “segments” of the dataset. Our clients also choose which “suppressions” they want to exclude from the mailing list.

4. Experience counts: To build a mailing list, we “pull” the donor records from the mail codes our client chose include and “suppress” the records with the flags that the client chose exclude. It is very important that this step of the process be carried out by an experienced programmer. Otherwise, it would be easy to accidentally create duplicate records. For example, a donor might be included in one mail code for contributing twice during the last election and a different mail code for contributing once during this election cycle. We prioritize the mail codes to make sure that each donor record is only pulled once.

The cycle continues:

CMDI’s services don’t end once a fundraising mailing has been sent. We offer caging and data entry services to process the contributions that campaigns receive in response. We update the client’s dataset so that it includes the latest donations. If a client is renting a prospecting list, we label the return forms so that we can easily tell which donors are already included in the client’s database and which need to be added. It’s important to keep the client’s fundraising dataset up-to-date and ready for the next mailing!

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