Native Detroiter’s ‘Tech For Campaigns’ is helping to elect Democrats in eight states.
Karleigh Stone Special to the Jewish News
Bloomfield Hills native, now San Francisco resident, Jessica Alter, 39, is a tech entrepreneur who has put her skills to use to help change America’s political climate.
A feeling of discontent with the country’s leadership led Alter to start the nonprofit organization, Tech For Campaigns — a network of more than 8,700 volunteers providing technological talent to progressive and centrist political campaigns to help candidates implement digital strategies.
Above: Jessica Alter
Jason Henry for the New York Times, used with permission
Alter, Entrepreneur in Residence at Social Capital, a company whose mission is to harness technology to address core human needs, says creating Tech for Campaigns was a way to put her skills to good use. Her motivation hit its peak just days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“I returned from traveling and it was a week before the inauguration,” Alter says. “There was a succession of awful events, including the Muslim ban, and that pushed me over the edge.
“I felt like I needed to do something that made a bigger impact. That was my motivation.”
A strong Jewish upbringing taught Alter that in adverse situations it’s important to take action.
“This is why I start companies, because I want to be involved in solving the problem,” she says.
In addition to Tech For Campaigns, in 2012, Alter started FounderDating, a network for entrepreneurs and advisers.
Alter earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Michigan and then received her MBA from Harvard Business School. Growing up in Michigan, she attended Hillel Day School and then Andover High School, while attending Temple Israel in West Bloomfield for services. She is the daughter of Peter Alter and the late Ellen Alter.
Making An Impact At Home
Tech For Campaigns is focusing on the Michigan Senate as part of its endeavors, and Alter is happy to help.
“It’s a good feeling to be able to support campaigns across the state I grew up in,” she says.
While the organization works with both federal and state races, 70 percent of volunteer efforts are geared toward state legislatures. Why? According to a blog by Greg Dale, director of campaign relations at Tech For Campaigns, many state legislatures are within a few seats of flipping control of a chamber or breaking a Republican supermajority.
Alter’s organization is focusing on eight states in 2018. Michigan was chosen after predictive modeling showed Democrats have a solid chance to retake at least one state chamber this year.
“Democrats spend 10 cents per dollar on digital, while Republicans spend 40 cents,” Alter says. “[Democrats] understand it’s important, but they don’t know how to do it. They’re looking for help, and we have a small army of people waiting to donate their skills.”
Volunteers with a knack for web development, social media, data analysis, digital marketing and more are lining up to help.
“Most people right now want to be able to do more; they’re frustrated,” Alter says. “They’re involved by giving money or voting; but they need another way, and we needed to give them a way to do it. They donate their skills.”
Alter is hopeful that the Nov. 6 election will have a longer term of engagement from voters, and she knows Tech For Campaigns can facilitate that.
“2018 is an exciting time because there are so many candidates who people are rallying around,” she says. “Hopefully, a long-lasting effect of this election is a true shift about how people engage in elections and their candidates.”