Fireside21 To Discontinue Animal Testing of its Products

Fireside21 is joining dozens of other technology and software development companies in committing to end product testing using mice, kittens, puppies, chimpanzees, and other adorable non-humans.

 The growing trend — driven by improved technology and pressure from animal rights groups, as well as the National Institutes of Health and Congress — means that quality control for product development will from now on rest solely on human shoulders.


Early QA tests on the new landing page with Mr. Fluffles.

Early QA tests on the new landing page with Mr. Fluffles.


The Humane Society of the United States released a statement calling the move a “step in the right direction” as they step up their campaign urging companies to phase out all animal testing because it “totally stresses them out. And no one likes a sad panda.”

Carl is settling into his role in customer service.

Carl is settling into his role in customer service.


Fireside21 CEO Ken Ward noted he’s proud of this bold move, but wants to assure Congress that “as a small business, we at Fireside21 take our role as job creators seriously. That’s why we are also announcing our pilot project to re-train all of the newly unemployed animals and put them to work in other parts of Fireside21’s organization, including answering phones, managing finances, and providing customer service.”


Phyllis is now resting her paws thanks to Fireside’s new animal policy. She’s on Facebook. For reals.

Phyllis is now resting her paws thanks to Fireside’s new animal policy. She’s on Facebook. For reals.


Joshua Billigmeier, Fireside21’s Director of Product Development explained that, despite some client concerns, he does not expect to see any reduction in the quality of the CRM due to this change. “I think the animals will be a solid addition to the rest of our human team.” As for quality assurance and technical support, “we’re just going to have to go back to abusing interns,” Billigmeier added.


Photo taken earlier today as Ricardo writes this press release for us.

Photo taken earlier today as Ricardo writes this press release for us.


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The Fireside21 team would like to welcome @bridg_eeee to our ranks!

It appears we had some formatting issues- Thanks @NealKirby!

Welcome to Fireside21, @KennyAmes!

Just launched a completely redesigned website for @MacTXPress! Check it out:

Just launched a completely redesigned website for @TomLatham! Check it out:

Fireside21 on Twitter >>

Happy 10th Anniversary, Ken!


It is hard to believe it, but Ken started at our company 10 years ago this month. Ken was fresh off the Hill and looking for a job in the tech field, and wound up at what was then Adfero, where he started out in the account staff working on managing campaigns and online strategy.

 I worked with Ken over email and chat for 6 months before meeting him in person on my first day at the company. After years of solely offering website design and support on the Hill, Jeff Mascott gave Ken and me the goal of creating a new newsletter and CRM system to address the frustrations that Hill staff had with existing software.

That vision started Ken on his journey to CEO of Fireside21. Ken is a one-man army who can code HTML and Javascript, talk digital strategy, sketch user interfaces for software, close deals, manage finances, build out offices, design websites, solve problems, and have fun doing it all. Ken’s unique background in computers and his experience on the Hill gave him the tools to get Fireside21 off the ground and somehow convince our early clients to give our software a shot.

Ken started out by changing our web business to a true software as a service business. This gave us the stability we needed and the recurring revenue to grow our company to the next level, by standardizing our monthly fees and switching away from depending on big up front sales.

Next he started on growing our newest product, the eNewsletter service. We got the first version up and running in only 6 months, and after some technical tweaking, the service really took off.

In 2008, Ken closed an astonishing 40 website deals as the only full time sales representative for Fireside21. This was the springboard that enabled us to grow our development team and give us the staff to finish and launch our CRM.

Around that time we also realized it was time to create our own identity. When we simply did websites, it was easy to share developers, designers, and support staff with Adfero since that was what we were doing. After launching the Enewsletter and CRM tools, we became a more specialized software group, and by 2008 our team was operating almost independently from the rest of Adfero. We decided to start by creating our own brand and website. Ken led the effort to create a new name, logo, branding, and website that that we all loved. Personally, I love our logo and color scheme, and even try to get clothes and accessories in orange now. I don’t remember what Ken’s title was at that time, but he had established himself as the leader and champion for our work on the Hill, and shortly after our rebranding we changed Fireside21 to its own legal entity and Ken was formally given the title of CEO.

The next few years were a whirlwind of growth for our CRM tool. In 2008 we had 4 members of our team, and by 2013 we had 10. Ken worked to grow our account team and establish our reputation of excellent service and support for our products.

In 2012, we were quickly running out of room in our office. Adfero served as our “garage” to get started, and was a great place to work and hang out, but the space we were using no longer allowed us all to sit together and work effectively as a team. Ken started looking for a new space, and found a fantastic office that was just coming onto the market in the Penn Quarter. It had formerly been occupied by the FBI, that turned the beautiful historic building into a generic and boring office space. Ken worked with an architect to gut the space, and created a great environment to work, that had an open feel and modern design. A great example of Ken’s creativity and fun design is that one of our walls is painted in stripes which spell “Fireside21” in binary code.

Having worked with Ken for nine years, it has been exciting to watch him grow into his role here, and these are just a few of my favorite qualities about him.

While I’m more of a cut-corners and ship-it guy, Ken is always looking for ways to provide a wow factor for clients, and thinks about all the details that go into a feature or communication. I think having worked on the Hill gives Ken a lot of empathy for staffers, and it’s always great to have someone who keeps us focused on making life easier for them.

Ken also leads from the front. In fact, if you call our office when we are short staffed due to weather or sickness, there’s a good chance the CEO will pick up and help clients with formatting a newsletter or getting that targeted mailing just right. A common sight for us is Ken sprinting for the phone if the support team is already on a call. How often have you gotten help from the CEO at other companies?

Ken is also one of the most cooperative people I’ve worked with. Whenever we have a big project to do, Ken is great at rounding everyone up, writing up a plan, and encouraging everyone to get cracking and make stuff happen. Ken is also very resourceful; I don’t know how many times I’ve said something couldn’t happen due to technical difficulties, and then he fires out a simple solution to the problem that works like a charm.

I have enjoyed watching Ken grow into the leader of our company, and he is a great example of how hard work, dedication, and hustle can lead to success. Happy 10 years, Ken!


Team Fireside21 Thanksgiving Favorites

Thanksgiving is a popular holiday among the Fireside21 staff. (I think this is mostly because we all thoroughly enjoy a good meal, and an excuse to pig out at said meal!) In honor of this tasty holiday, here are some of the Thanksgiving goodies we enjoy!

Mark (senior programmer) enjoys turkey. Can’t go wrong with that on “Turkey Day!”

Kenny (director of outreach) is on a “runner’s diet,” and has fewer options than most for this hallowed holiday. However, he never gets tired of good ole mashed potatoes! His favorite recipe is below:

1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled (as desired) and quartered length-wise
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp milk
Salt and Pepper
(1) Put potatoes into a saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add water until potatoes are covered. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes, or until done – a fork can easily be poked through them.
(2) Warm cream and melt butter, together, in a pan on the stove. Drain water from potatoes. Put hot potatoes into a bowl. Add cream and melted butter. Use a potato masher to mash potatoes until well mashed. Use a strong spoon to beat further, adding milk to achieve the consistency you desire. (Do not over-beat or your potatoes will get gluey.) Salt and pepper to taste.

Michael (programmer) really likes stuffing. He won’t get into an argument over stuffing v. dressing. He likes it all and according to him, “the two are identical as far as I’m concerned.”

Rachel (account coordinator) makes some not-so-traditional cranberry meatballs that are said to be “ridiculously delicious.” She even shared the recipe, which is below:

Grandma Selma’s Cranberry Meatballs
2 lbs. Ground beef
l/2 cup Matzo meal
1 can (12 oz) Tomato paste
2 cans Whole berry cranberry sauce
3 Eggs
1 Medium onion, diced
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 1/2 Cups water
2 tbsp. Ketchup
Mix together: Ground beef, Matzo meal, Eggs, Onion, Salt and Pepper. Make small meatballs out of these ingredients.In a large pot, mix together: cranberry sauce, ketchup and water.
Bring liquid to a boil adding meatballs. Lower to a simmer, in a covered pot for 2 hours.
This is great served over noodles or brown rice!NOTE: The sugar in the cranberry sauce burns easily. Make sure there is enough liquid at the bottom of the pot. Add a bit of water if needed.

Adam (web developer) couldn’t decide on a favorite. This isn’t surprising to any of us, since he’s the office “foodie” and even regaled us for weeks on his cast iron skillet restoration project!


(Adam’s actual before/after skillet photos)

Josh (director of product development) is also handy in the kitchen; he makes sausage stuffing. If your mouth isn’t already watering from that linked recipe, check out a picture of it!

Bridget (account coordinator) is borderline obsessed with pumpkin pie. (Her birthday is near Thanksgiving, so she usually asks for it instead of cake.) She’s dedicated. She will definitely not be sharing her recipe, because it’s a family secret.

Here’s her first-ever attempt at baking a perfect “secret family recipe pumpkin pie,” circa 2007.

Ken (CEO) is a true resident of the mid-Atlantic region. He says his favorite (new) Thanksgiving tradition is oysters. You read that right: oysters. He says it’s awesome: “1) Meet waterman at dock, 2) Buy oysters, 3) Shuck oysters, 4) Eat oysters.”

Jeremy (director of business development) likes to keep things simple. His favorite part of Thanksgiving is bourbon. Alrighty, then!

Scott (programmer) also could not decide on a favorite, but it is because he piles everything on his plate in the style of:



Project Onboarding: Using Fireside Web

Fireside Web is a user-friendly interface that gives you complete access to your website. We provide our clients with full control over their website, so there is no wait time for updates to the website. Here are a few key advantages to Fireside Web:

Add Your Own Content

Pages in Fireside Web give you access to all the pages within your website. The shortcut for finding where to edit the page you need to is “hidden” in the URL of the page! For example, would be found in the Constituent Services folder under the Students page.

Press Release Web-to-Email Publishing

After publishing any News document (press releases, blogs, news articles, etc.) to your website, you can put the document into your press release email template with the click of a button! This saves you time since you don’t have to input the information in two different places.

Create Surveys

Create your own surveys within the Fireside Web platform. You have the ability to add default fields such as name, mailing address, or phone and create new custom fields that are specific to that survey. Once the survey is completed, share it on your website or link to it from your email.  All responses are stored in Fireside with the ability to easily pull a list of the constituents who responded and their responses.

If you would like more information on our website services, please contact Jeremy at

Project Onboarding: Website Project Overview

By selecting Fireside21 as your web vendor, you are not only getting a one-of-a-kind website, you are also getting the Fireside21 team. We pride ourselves on our customer service – from our online chat room to our free training offerings. We are here to help around the clock.

If designing websites is not your forté or you are looking for a quick turnaround – we can accommodate that. We have a variety of templates to choose from that can be ready to go in 2-6 weeks. The fastest turnaround recently was Rep. Lee Terry’s website project, which was done in a record-breaking 10 days!

As previously mentioned, some projects can stretch over months at a time. There are a variety of reasons this can happen:

  • There can be several rounds of edits before and/or after programming. Each round of edits take a few days for your office to communicate and the designer to update.
  • “Too many cooks in the kitchen,” i.e. involving more members of your staff than necessary in the design and decision-making processes.
  • Getting content up on your site. There is a lot of content, so we recommend having some other team members in your office assist with this.

If you would like more information on our website services, please contact Jeremy at

Project Onboarding: Website Process

Website project time frames come in a variety of lengths at Fireside21 – they can be completed within four to six weeks, and last up to a few months. This will vary office to office, depending on factors like how many people are involved, how passionate you are, and how confident your office is in your design choices.

Design Phase (3-4 weeks)

Many people have an idea of what they are looking for before the project even starts. If you don’t, that’s fine – we’re here to help. We have our Congressional Design Form with a wide range of questions to help you figure out what you are looking for in your new website with us.  Once the design form is complete, we will discuss it together with you and our website designer. We will work with you through three rounds of edits for both the Homepage and Internal page layouts.

Programming (1-2 weeks)

Once the Homepage and Internal pages have been approved, programming will begin. This happens in two phases: the initial hard-coding, followed by getting spruced up by our in-house programmer. Once this is complete, you will receive a test link for both the homepage and internal page.

Content Update

During the programming phase, we will train you and your staff on adding content to Fireside Web. Our development team will import all news documents (press releases, blogs, etc.) while your office will be responsible for all other content migration.

Launch (1 week)

We will do a final, internal, run through to make sure all pages have content, all links work, and all images are in place. Afterward, your website will need to go through a security audit conducted by the House CAO.  Finally, after the website passes audit and with assistance from the House, we can launch your new website!

If you would like more information on our website services, please contact Jeremy at

Project Onboarding: Websites

A website is a very important aspect of the Member’s persona. The website can be the first thing a constituent sees about the Member. It is key their website reflects the Member and their views. When designing (or redesigning) your website, there are a few things you want to keep in mind:

Google Analytics

Take a look at your current site’s analytics. Find out where constituents are going, what pages they are exiting from, where they are spending their time, how they are getting to your site. Use this information to make smart layout designs on your new site. Set up pages with more click through options so the constituent doesn’t have to leave!

Window Shopping

When surfing the web take a look at every site from a design angle – notice what you like and don’t like, the layout of pages, color schemes, etc. It’s okay to take a little something from a variety of sites to put yours together. And remember, you don’t have to just look at Congressional websites!

Making Decisions

The most import aspect is when you start deciding what will actually be done. Based off the information above, you want to decide the overall look of your website. This ranges from the layout design, the navigation set up, color schemes, images and more. Take time making these decisions because, as it was mentioned before, this is the first thing constituent may see when meeting their Representative!

If you would like more information on our website services, please contact Jeremy at

Project Onboarding: Using CRM

As with all of our other platforms, Fireside CRM is very user friendly. It will take some time to get used to because it does work differently than your previous vendor(s). This past year alone, we migrated over 25 offices from other vendors, so we know what we are doing. We’ve demonstrated from these migrations that there are advantages to Fireside CRM:

Clean Layout

During the summer of 2012, we gave our CRM a “facelift” which really cleaned out the system. There are only the necessary buttons on each page, without any extra hoopla. This makes it easier for you to navigate throughout the pages.

Easy Navigation

Moving from one platform to another platform within Fireside is very easy. All the platforms are always available in the top navigation bar so you can select to move into a different one at any time.


When viewing your constituent’s profile, you also have the ability to see email interactions, website interactions and social media interactions. Yes, you read that right – social media interactions – we can track what constituents are saying about the Member on Twitter and Facebook.

Project Onboarding: Overview of CRM Migration

CRM project migration timelines are pretty much set from the beginning of the project based on your office needs. During the transition of the 112th to 113th Congress, fastest CRM migration occurred in about 3 weeks, while another took roughly 8 weeks. Typically, CRM projects run smoothly, with the exception of a few hiccups that rarely occur:

  • The data we received from your previous vendor can be in an unusable format, meaning our system can’t read the data. The House has a set format they should be sending the data in, but that is not always the case.
  • Sometimes information is missing from the data dump: form letters, agency contacts, etc.
  • If we receive the setup questionnaires late, we would have to push back the contact form launch and therefore the export date.

 As you can see, some of the trouble here is caused by an outside source that we don’t have control over. We do everything in our power to stay on the timeline, and we appreciate if you do as well.

If you would like more information regarding a switch to our CRM services, please email Jeremy at

Project Onboarding: CRM Transition Process

Fireside CRM migration projects take an average of 4-6 weeks total. At no point during this migration will you be unable to be using a CMS/CRM platform – at all points you will have access to your old vendor and/or Fireside CRM.


At the beginning of your project we will sit down with you and your office to go through each step of the process during the Kick Off call. During the call we will go over all the items needed to get the project started, including the contact form set up, CRM configuration and so forth. These will take form in a questionnaire. Our development team will get everything configured on our end, including the set up of your new Fireside contact form for your website. Once the contact form is audited by the House, we are able to launch it on your website. Now all emails will be submitting to your Fireside CRM. Don’t worry, we will train you on how to log and respond to these emails from your new Fireside account.


After the contact form has been live for 2-3 days, your export from your old vendor will be initiated. This typically takes 3-4 days and is sent to us. We will import all of that data into your new Fireside account. The import takes place in three stages: People, Mail Room and Casework.


Once the first stage of the import is completed, we will train the entire office on the basics of Fireside CRM: how to search for and add people, navigating through, etc. The second set of training will be split up into DC and District staff for the Mail Room and Casework, respectively. This training will be very specific and go into the details of the system. We are available for as many follow up trainings or individual trainings after this migration is complete.

Project Onboarding: CRM Transition Best Practices

Moving from another CMS vendor to Fireside CRM is a very exciting time! There may be some stress involved, as there is with any form of change, but we are here 100% of the time to help you out with that. Here are a few key tips to make sure it is a successful and smooth transition:

  • Know the export date. Think of that date as frozen in time when it comes to Fireside. When you get up and running in Fireside, all your information will look as it did on this export date.
  • The time between the export and the import is crucial. Your office is still working in your old system, until everything is completed import into Fireside CRM. It is critical that your office is keeping track of everything done for these 1-2 weeks so they can be replicated in Fireside CRM after the import is complete.
  • Take this transition time to clean up your account. You may notice after moving over that you have a lot of old agencies and agency contacts, form letters and batches.

The key thing to remember in the transition is that Fireside will work differently than your past vendor. It is important to have an open mind when coming in to Fireside for the first time. You will be able to do almost everything that you were able to do in your past vendor, but it may just be set up differently. We are happy to walk through all processes with you, as many times as it takes to get it down!

Have more questions about Fireside CRM? Email for more information!

Top Dog Front Runners

As voting kicked off yesterday, we realized that Hill staff really love their dogs! At the time this blog was written, all the dogs have total combined points of 5,094! That’s a ton of puppy love!

Here are the points front runners so far:

  • Overall is Winston with 2,056.
  • Second place so far is Conan with 603.
  • Third place is Milton with 512.
  • First place among Fireside dogs (who are NOT eligible to win) is Ronnie with 157.

Additionally, the Top Dog contest has already started getting press! The infamous Heard on the Hill column for Roll Call wrote a nice piece featuring some of the dog-testants. You can see it here.

Don’t forget to vote early and often for your favorite dog-testant at!

Rep. Valadao Launches New Website!

Congressman David Valadao launched a very useful and constituent-focused new website a couple weeks ago! The site is separated into English and Spanish pages which allow his constituents to use all services no matter which language they read or speak!

Congressman David Valadao

Weekly Reading Wrap Up

Many of us love to read. We know many of you do as well. This is an effort to keep you informed on things relevant to the Hill, technology, and fun. We all like sharing our favorite blogs, and thought you’d like to read the fun as well as informative stuff.

What We’re Reading:

  • Account Manager Allie read Lean In and thinks every other woman should too!

  • CEO Ken wants to make sure everyone sees this from the New York Times.

  • Account Coordinator Bridget agrees with some points WaPo made on Twitter.


  • Capitol Hill goes to the dogs: blog by Fishbowl DC.

  • ABC News reported on what Members will do during Recess.

Rep. Chabot Designs New Website

Congressman Chabot launched his new website last month! It features multiple ways to connect with the congressman, as well as easy-to-navigate links to constituent services and recent news from his office. Click the image to explore his fresh new site!

U.S. Congressman Steve Chabot

Mobile-Friendly Email Newsetters

Email newsletters are notoriously hard to deal with.

Websites need to look consistent in Chrome, Firefox and a few different versions of Internet Explorer but when I test email newsletters, I end up using up to 40 different email clients each with their own eccentricities. The reason behind this issue is different rendering engines (don’t fall asleep. I’ll be quick). For example, Outlook uses the same rendering engine that other Microsoft products like Word and IE use. The idea was to keep formatting the same across their products. The problem is that they are not the only email client in the world. If you’ve dealt with HTML emails at all, you’ll be familiar with the pain and anguish felt when an email looks great in Outlook but looks like a Sharknado hit it in Gmail. Outlook 2013 was released recently and developers everywhere got very excited at the possibility of Microsoft bringing their product in line with most other email clients.

No dice. It still sucks.

But there is hope.

In June, a study released by Litmus showed that email opens on mobile devices hit 44%. Yes, nearly half of your constituents are reading your newsletter on a mobile device and that number could be even higher for Congressional offices if you factor in our internal data that shows a much higher percentage of mobile traffic on Congressional sites than worldwide averages. The best part about this news is that most mobile email applications use a rendering engine called Webkit which is what Safari uses and what Chrome has used for years. Instead of rendering emails based on code that was obsolete years ago, email clients are starting to use the same standards that websites use.

Now, that doesn’t change the fact that you use Gmail, your boss is looking at the email in Outlook and the constituent you’re sending it to is using his AOL account. Someday that will change but until then, this shift in email-viewing habits opens up a very interesting opportunity:

Responsive Email Design

Responsive designs (like Rep. Jim Jordan’s site) scale and rearrange the content on the site to fit the screen size of the device you’re using. It’s a normal site on a desktop monitor but view it on a phone or change the dimensions of your browser window and it changes the layout to accommodate you. The same method can apply to mobile emails. If you’ve ever opened marketing emails on your phone, you know how awkward it is scrolling left to right while only being able to see a tiny part of the email. You can eliminate that frustration for 44% of your constituents by getting a responsive email template. While it isn’t a silver bullet to fix all your email woes, you would be anticipating the future of email newsletters and more effectively reaching people who want to hear from you.

Top Dog Week 1 In Review

Week one of registration went quite well for Top Dog! Nearly twenty-five dog-testants have registered, and the pictures and video links to YouTube are adorable. It’s going to be a tough competition as there are so many worthy dog-testants with enthusiastic owners.

Registration continues this week and ends on August 12th. Remember, voting begins onAugust 19th. You should think about preparing your social media campaign for when the voting starts!

This week, we will begin distributing Fireside21 Top Dog leashes. Make sure you register early, as the first 100 entrants get a leash. (Plus, the top ten finalists will get a dog bowl!)

Bridget holds the leash, our friend Harley models!

When you get your leash, don’t forget to tweet a pic @fireside21 or post a picture to our Facebook wall of your dog wearing it with #fs21topdog.

Your dog loves you unconditionally, so let the Hill know who’s Top Dog! To learn more about Top Dog, click here

Rep. Lowenthal Website Redesigned!

Congressman Alan Lowenthal updated his website with us to be easily accessible for all his constituents, including those whose primary language is not English. His site is quickly translatable into four different languages: Korean, Spanish, Khmer, and Vietnamese! Click the image below to learn more!U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal



Top Dog Contest

What I love about D.C. is that it is a city for dogs, and this is especially true in the halls of Congress.  In my role as Director of Outreach at Fireside21, I have walked into many offices to meet with a staffer only to be greeted with excitement and curiosity by the canine Congressional worker.  Dedicated staffers and Members frequently bring their four-legged companions to work with them for company during the long hours and constantly shower them with praise, attention, and love.  Dog-friendly workplaces are not unique to Congress, yet it is amusing that in such a fast-paced power environment, man’s best friend has access that many lobbyists in town envy.

Ronnie greets visitors to his Longworth office

With the dog days of summer approaching and the Hill ready for recess, now is a great time to ask the question: which pooch is the most popular?  How much does each office love their panting and drooling coworker?  Which is the cutest?  Who can perform the best trick?  Who has the best name?

Fireside21 wants to know the answers to these burning questions!  That’s why we are debuting Top Dog, a contest that is for the dogs.  Starting July 29, visit to register your dog in the online popularity competition.  When voting opens on August 12, remember to vote early and often for your beloved pooch and recruit friends.  The first 100 entrants will receive a Fireside21 leash, the Top Ten will win a Fireside21 dog bowl, and all contestants will be invited to a reception where we will crown the winner.

Kenny's Springer Spaniel, Sammy, puts in a hard day's work in Rayburn.

Plus, join us August 1 at 201 Bar for Cloture Club’s happy hour.  Take a picture in the photo booth, show us pictures of your dog, and grab some swag while it lasts.  Your dog loves you unconditionally, so let the Hill know who’s Top Dog!

Questions?  Email me at

Rep. Alcee Hastings Gets a New Look

The constantly rotating photos on Rep. Alcee Hasting’s new responsive website allow constituents to see the Congressman in action. The new site helps constituents easily read about key issues, email the Congressman or get assistance!

US Congressman Alcee Hastings


Viewing the site on a mobile or tablet device? Not a problem! Rep. Alcee Hastings opted for a responsive website, which is specially designed for those devices.