As part of an upcoming project, I’ve been spending some time lately looking at political campaign websites. One of the more interesting examples I’ve come across so far is the Perry Alliance Network, part of Texas governor Rick Perry’s 2006 reelection campaign. Any good campaign website will allow supporters to volunteer, donate money or invite their friends to do the same. Perry’s site is unique in that it incorporates a loyalty/rewards program–members can win free Perry gear and other goodies by signing up their friends, hosting volunteer events or otherwise helping the campaign.

On its face that doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s the type of application that a) provides a huge bang for the buck and b) could never be done in a pre-internet environment. After all, everyone loves earning free stuff–for the cost of writing a few lines of code and setting up a database, the Perry campaign was likely able to uncover a non-trivial number of people who not only donated their own time and money, but actively went out evangelizing for the campaign among their online and offline friends.

I haven’t made my way through all the major campaign websites yet, but I would expect these sorts of loyalty programs to become a bigger trend in the 2008 elections. Barack Obama does something slightly similar with his Dinner with Barack feature, but as a random drawing it doesn’t necessarily encourage Obama fans to become Obama “evangelists”. I’d love to see someone try a promotion where the individual who brings in the most small-money donations over a 24 hour period gets an all expenses paid trip to DC to meet their favorite candidate.