Democrats have relied on one company's tools to power its campaigns. They're now facing a possible collapse.

A company at the center of the Democratic Party’s digital strategy is on the verge of a meltdown — sparking alarm among a broad constellation of liberal groups that are relying on it ahead of 2024.

NGP VAN provides tools used by Democrats, from the White House to local school boards, to raise money and mobilize voters. But with new management in recent years, it has been stripping its operations to the bare bones.

The potential decline of these tools — which have given Democrats a significant technology edge over Republicans over the past few cycles — would be so threatening to operations that a handful of top Democratic digital firms recently called a roughly hourlong Zoom meeting with leadership of the company to seek answers. Among their demands: reassurance that NGP VAN wouldn’t dismantle one of its top products, an online organizing and fundraising tool called ActionKit. Without it, Democrats worried about their prospects during the 2024 cycle and beyond.

“I’m hoping that I'm wrong, that we're all wrong, that everyone's fine,” said a former NGP VAN employee, granted anonymity to speak candidly about their former employer. “But this could mean something really bad for 2024."

The alarm relayed on the call reflected a larger concern: that the Democratic Party has grown too dependent on a small handful of companies to carry the bulk of its campaign operations.

Democrats up and down the ballot have long relied on NGP VAN to run their campaigns. Now, consultants and former employees are concerned that repeated layoffs will lead to problems with the party’s most vaunted tech tools. Some consultants are on the precipice of turning their back on NGP VAN altogether, according to six NGP VAN clients who spoke with POLITICO.

But the company’s monopoly-like grip on Democratic campaigns means there’s no clear alternative that can immediately replace it.

NGP VAN said it is fully focused on the 2024 election. “As we get closer to Election Day, it’s critical that our political clients get the exclusive attention they need,” NGP VAN’s general manager Chelsea Peterson Thompson said in a statement to POLITICO.

If NGP VAN’s software fails — or even just stagnates during increasingly data-driven campaigns — there is real fear among Democrats that fundraising dollars could be diminished, voters could be ignored and elections could be lost.

"Every minute you spend dealing with [software] is time spent not talking to potential donors,” said Kalani Tissot, founder of Tissot Solutions, a fundraising firm. “It just adds all these laborious processes that slow down your ability to actually focus on fundraising.”

Last month, NGP VAN wrote in an open letter to its customers that the layoffs were part of a companywide restructuring “designed to break down organizational silos.” But some Democrats have worried ever since Apax Partners, a private equity firm, acquired the company two years ago. Earlier this year, more than 140 people were laid off from NGP VAN.

“We are up against a technology landscape that evolves rapidly, which means the needs of every election cycle are very different,” Peterson Thompson said. “As we head into 2024, every decision we make is to ensure that our products and offerings are responsive to that.”

NGP VAN did not respond to questions about the number of people laid off or future hiring for its political products.

Apax “has added nothing but chaos to everyone's lives,” said Tara Harwood, who was laid off from her job as an ActionKit quality assurance engineer. “Everything they did was poison as far as I'm concerned."

NGP VAN’s products are used in every phase of campaigning: field operations, digital outreach, fundraising and compliance needs. The ActionKit team lost nearly half its team of 10 engineers in the most recent round of layoffs this September, and is considered the most powerful digital organizing and fundraising software — even allowing clients to make custom data requests and add code that isn’t built into the system. Unlike other products offered by NGP VAN, ActionKit’s help desk was staffed by engineers, which translated to exceptional customer service. Its big-name clients include the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, as well as numerous progressive nonprofits.

Four former employees said the staff cuts could delay response time to client questions, reduce the ability to update the software and slow the ability to address glitches.

Some users have questioned the company’s commitment to improving the software amid recent changes.

“I felt like there were a lot of issues where we didn't have the resources we needed to do things,” one former employee who was laid off last month told POLITICO.

Campaign technology is quickly evolving — on both sides — and Democratic tools will need resources and investment to stay competitive in the long term.

“The bigger concern for me is not necessarily this cycle, but it’s four years, six years down the line,” said Kenneth Pennington, partner at Democratic firm Middle Seat. “There’s a pattern in Democratic software of creating a tool and then you stop updating it, you stop working on it, you stop developing and creating new releases for it.”

The changes cast “uncertainty over the entire Democratic and progressive tech ecosystem,” said Josh Nelson, CEO of Civic Shout, a company that helps Democrats and progressive groups grow opt-in email and SMS lists. “It's sparking a lot of conversations about whether it makes sense for Democratic campaigns and organizations to invest in and build their own tools.”

But while multiple Democratic firms have expressed the desire to leave, NGP VAN has dominated the market for years. Competitors are trying to capitalize on the dissatisfaction with NGP VAN, but smaller companies don’t yet provide a similar full-service product. And it’s a lot of work for firms to move to different software, much less create their own. Moving also wouldn’t be ideal near the middle of an election cycle.

“I really want to see everyone's energy completely focused on what they're doing in the world or on winning elections, especially with our critical election year coming up, and with nonprofit and political fundraising down across the board,” a partner at one consulting firm told POLITICO. “It's not a great time for this to happen.”