We often get questions from our political customers who are just launching on NationBuilder about how to most effectively leverage the platform's features. Here is a case study of an unlikely municipal candidate who used NationBuilder's digital field features to organize his way to a decisive 62 percent win.
Michael Tubbs grew up in Stockton, California with a single teenage mother and an incarcerated father. In high school he earned a full scholarship to Stanford where he graduated with honors in June of 2012. During his last year there, Michael decided to run for office in his hometown.
In November he beat an incumbent candidate with strong local recognition to become the youngest council member in the history of the city. Here's how NationBuilder helped him do it:
Michael was 21 years old when he announced his campaign and he wasn't recognized as a legitimate candidate at first. "No one took him seriously and we realized that we needed to go directly to voters," said campaign manager Nicholas Hatten. They mapped precinct lists with NationBuilder's turf cutter and used them to walk the district every weekend. "We were walking from the primary up until election day and sometimes twice a week. Compared to other platforms, NationBuilder's turf cutting feature was far faster and easier to use. That means the world when you're walking every weekend and rushing to get things done. That's valuable time you can use to coordinate volunteers instead."
During the primary, the campaign organized a group of about 15 of Michael's Stanford classmates to make calls to voters. "I admit, I was a bit frightened about the logistics but it was easy to do using the NationBuilder tools," said Hatten. "As the volunteers were calling people they were able to enter the level of support and that made it a really smooth process."
As a young candidate, Michael had many well established relationships on Facebook and Twitter, an asset that the campaign wanted to take full advantage of. "Being able to track Michael's social media interactions on NationBuilder and see who was promoting his posts in the control panel was huge. I could monitor what was happening without having to log into his personal account."
For every email sent to Michael's supporters, they made a corresponding post to Facebook. "We had a higher rate of readership for the Facebook posts than for email. I've worked on other campaigns that made bigger social media fundraising pushes but had nowhere near the success Michael had, " said Hatten.
Event organizing & promotion
For their town halls, house parties and other events, Michael and his campaign used the NationBuilder voter file and canvassing turf cutter to identify voters within a certain radius of the location. They then targeted them with emails, mailings, and calls to invite them to the event. "We did all our event RSVPs through NationBuilder," said Hattan. "Having everything in one place made it that much easier for us to track who responded and who attended."
Direct mail costs money but is still one of the most effective ways to reach voters who you're not able to connect with online. Tubbs' campaign sent mailings to voters using NationBuilder's free voter file. "We're talking about trying to reach 30,000 voters. We were able to use the money we saved by using NationBuilder to send out more mail pieces. Without NationBuilder we wouldn't have been able to run the campaign we did. The affordability let us run a full yearlong campaign and an aggresive mail campaign as well."
The Tubbs campaign was able to recruit more than 300 volunteers for the campaign. At town hall meetings and events they had people sign up to volunteer and entered their information into NationBuilder. The volunteers were then assigned to key lead volunteers for get-out-the-vote and other volunteer efforts. "We were able to delegate volunteer responsibilities really effectively using NationBuilder," said Hatten.
To learn more about using NationBuilder for your municipal campaign, check out our political edition.