10 Essential WordPress Plugins for a Political Website
More politicians than ever are turning to WordPress for websites they hope will help them grow a support base, and, hopefully, win an election. From local city council positions to the biggest congressional races, the extensibility of WordPress is making it all possible.
Essential Elements of a Political Website
You’ll notice several elements which pop up on every successful political website. These are the things which the public has come to expect a candidate to provide – the snippets of information we all look for when making decisions on who to vote for.
A successful candidate separates himself from the crowd by adding things like:
- event information
- volunteer opportunities
- information about election day
Media is becoming increasingly popular on the web, and this holds doubly true for political candidates. President Obama and the White House website use a combination of private videos and YouTube, and other candidates have followed suit.
To rally the troops it helps to publish upcoming campaign events on your website. It lets the public know where you will be and gives them a chance to meet the candidate in person – the best way to generate support and to get vote commitments.
There are thousands of event plugins for WordPress which give you the ability to do everything from creating custom events to displaying them in sidebars and on pages. The three event plugins listed below go a step further.
The Time.ly All in One Event Calender is a premium calendar plugin which allows single and recurring events with color-coded categories (perfect for different campaign event types) and the ability to filter events on the front-end, a feature most other calendars don’t offer.
CalPress offers a clean calendar solution, and also integrates social sharing right into campaign event windows – perfect for letting your supporters share information about your events in their social networks.
Events Plus Plugin allows you to create and publish events and take RSVP’s directly on your website, with links to social media networks to display those public RSVP avatars. A nice feature of this plugin is its ability to take donations or charge fees for events, which is a common practice in the political industry, especially for in-home fundraising events held on behalf of the candidate by supporters and volunteers.
It also helps to combine your events calendar with a mapping plugin to show the places where you have been, or, more importantly, where you plan to be in the near future. Mapping can help a candidate generate steam, and press opportunities, on the campaign trail.
Comprehensive Google Map Plugin is a full-featured mapping plugin which taps into the Google Maps API and allows custom mapping, custom placeholders, and access to saved map features.
Every candidate for office needs volunteers, and the web is one of the most powerful ways to reach that potential support base.
Entering info to and accessing info from the WordPress database can be a chore for those new to WordPress, but the Participants Database plugin allows easy front-end and back-end database publishing.
The plugin can be setup to collect any type of information about the viewer, including voting and contact preferences, volunteer availability, even donation history.
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What makes it even more powerful than using custom post types or meta data is the plugin’s built-in form builder which ties submitted information directly into the database for future retrieval and editing, which is one area where most other form plugins fall short.
Donations are the lifeblood of any successful political campaign, and a quick search of the WordPress plugin repository yields 983 donation related plugins. In an effort to streamline your search, here are a few that work well and integrate with various political resources:
The Democratic party uses NGP Van voter data and donation processing, and this plugin puts NGP Van forms directly on your WordPress website rather than linking your viewers away.
The Fundraising Plugin from WPMUDEV allows for both general fundraising and event based donations. It can handle crowdsourced funding situations and goal based campaigns. A tutorial on how to use this plugin can be found in the article: Fundraising with WordPress.
A Harvard Institute of Politics study found that a majority of young-adults get the majority of their political information from friends. It may seem like a staggering piece of information, but it’s not really news.
Politicians have known for years that people are more inclined to trust you if you are endorsed by someone who is respected. And the best way to show that trust is with public endorsements.
With WordPress, endorsements can be added to your website and displayed with testimonial widgets, and two plugins handle this perfectly.
The Testimonial Widget Plugin allows you to add testimonials from the front-end or the back of your WordPress website. It allows for the management of endorsements and a custom display in your sidebar or in posts or pages with the use of a shortcode.
GC Testimonials offers similar functionality, but with a more graphical display – allowing the endorser to upload a photo or logo to be used with their quote.
Information About Election Day
What would a politician’s website be if it didn’t include information about the election itself, and, in particular, a countdown telling people exactly how much time they have until election day.
The Uji Countdown plugin displays a visual countdown timer clock on your website, which can be configured to show days, hours, minutes, and seconds to your big day. It can be placed in a post or page, in the sidebar as a widget, or anywhere on the front-end via a shortcode.
All-in-one Political Website
There are few stock themes which bring together all of the custom plugins and functions mentioned above, but a recent addition to the world of WordPress gets you pretty close.
The Politic Theme combines the power of WordPress with the social networking aspects of BuddyPress to provide a website which displays the most vital campaign information and a way to gather supporters and let them extend your reach online.
If you’d like to see a few other major politicians running WordPress campaign websites, checkout our article: WordPress, Drupal and Open Source Dominate 2012 Presidential Campaign Websites, which was published earlier this year. If nothing else, you’ll get a laugh at how quickly things change in the world of politics in just a few months.