A few weeks ago we released staged donation pages, and now we've made a few more changes and enhancements to how donation pages work. The biggest change is that monthly donations are no longer tied to paid memberships (I can hear a few of you weeping for joy...) So, instead of creating a paid membership page, just create a donation page and turn on monthly donations.
We also added a few more features:
1. Monthly installments. We made it easier for people to contribute to things they care about without having to drop a lump sum of money all at once. If you’re running for office in November, people can commit to a $500 donation and pay for it through installments every month between now and the election. Or, let’s say your congregation needs to build a new church—people can commit to donate $2400 and pay a hundred dollars every month for two years.
2. Infinite donation pages. This isn’t actually a new feature, but it’s worth noting because it’s so unique. Create a special donation page for each of your board members, or give your top fundraisers their own page—because there’s no limit to the number of donation pages you can create (or any page type in NationBuilder).
3. Fixed donation amounts. Imagine what you can do with a donation page when you can specify exactly how much someone can donate. For instance, you can set up basic store functionality by offering a t-shirt for a $20 donation. And since you can create as many donation pages as you want, you can run a crowdfunding style campaign with multiple levels of rewards. Each donation page tags people differently, so you can keep track of which reward to send them.
Things to note about monthly payments:
You must be using a payment provider that supports recurring payments such as Authorize.net and PayPal Express. If you have any existing donation pages with custom templates, you need to make a few template updates that are documented here. Or, you can create a new one—donation templates that have not been customized on a theme will automatically inherit these new features.
NationBuilder has 29 pre-built page types to choose from, so you can create a website that's as functional as it is beautiful. A lot of organizations need a Donation page, a Volunteer page, and a Blog page, but I'd like to spotlight another page type that can add a crucial layer of engagement to your website—the Recruiter page.
Creating an action-oriented website that allows supporters to participate is important, and enabling people to share those activities across social media takes online engagement one step further. However, organizations and supporters alike also want to know when they’ve been successful. This is where the Recruiting page can help.
The first thing to remember is that any supporter who joins your nation is automatically assigned a recruiter id that can be used in many places from Leaderboards to Personal Fundraising pages. I'm frequently asked, "How can I include share buttons in my email blast?" The short answer? We have a page type for that.
I work with a lot of political customers, and I often hear, “NationBuilder is a great system for engaging with people online, but can you really use it to run a field campaign for a major election?” The answer, of course, is yes! A resounding yes, in fact, because NationBuilder allows you to do things campaigns couldn’t even have attempted just a few short years ago.
Every political operative knows that a field campaign has two main tasks:
- Identify voters as supporters, undecideds, or non-supporters.
- Engage supporters, both to ensure that they vote and to turn them into volunteers and leaders.
Excelling at one task will positively affect the other, creating a virtuous cycle that builds momentum for your campaign. Traditionally, field campaign success was attributed to a high volume of phone calls and door knocking (and those are still important), but NationBuilder opens up a slew of new possibilities for effective engagement. So, where do you start?
The response to the new advanced search + targeting has been great, and based on your feedback, we realized there was one important thing missing: relative date searches.
Instead of having to search for a specific date, you can now search by activity in the last six months, not in the last three weeks, or anytime within the last year. This makes it possible to:
Find active voters who are on the fence and haven’t been contacted recently.
Search for supportive donors who haven’t contributed recently.
Reach out to people with memberships that are expiring soon to ask them to renew.
Learn more in our HOWTO, and let us know what you think.
P.S. We also added the ability to search people based on the number of Facebook posts liked, and the number of times they've retweeted or mentioned you on Twitter, amongst a few other social things.
Last night, several municipal candidates earned victories in their local races. In Malibu, Laura Rosenthal was re-elected after sweeping the vote for Malibu City Council, while Robert Garcia, the city's first openly gay candidate for Mayor, moves on to the general election in Long Beach. Both Charles Parkin and James Johnson are moving to the runoff in the race for Long Beach City Attorney.
There were also three Long Beach City Council victories: In the first district, Misi Tagaloa is headed to the general. Carl Kemp will be in the runoff for the 5th district, and Rex Richardson was elected outright in the 9th council district. Megan Kerr also won her race for the Long Beach Unified School Board.
During the ‘08 presidential primary, precinct captains in Massachusetts were given access to voter data from a previous race - the ‘06 gubernatorial - for the first time. No one knew it then but this move had a huge impact on the race. The tactic sounds simple...but it’s not. Giving a precinct captain access to data means you have to set up specific permission sets, so he or she only sees a subset of the data (as opposed to everything). On top of that, the data needs to be editable but secure enough that any major issues can be undone. All of this requires extensive training and changes the fundamental job description of a field operative. Ironically, while George W. Bush was talking about the “ownership society,” Democrats were building this exact concept into their field operations, out of the necessity that comes with being underfunded.
The problem with the data ownership model is that it only applies to the voter ID, not anything that happens after the ID takes place. But basic contact info, vote history, and support level is only a small fraction of what defines the relationship between the campaign and the voter. We also need to know if a voter has ever donated money, is willing to volunteer, sign petitions, and the voter’s social influence. There’s a big difference between an identified supporter who has 2,000 Twitter followers and one who has no presence in the community—the former should be targeted to become a campaign leader.
The way campaigns run is also changing. Outside groups are engaging voters and raising dollars well in advance of the race, and opportunities to engage years before election day are proliferating rapidly. We know the candidate with the strongest base almost always wins. We also know that a full-fledged field ID program can’t occur until the public is largely engaged.
So, how can you build a “Digital Precinct Captain System” and use it to develop a super-engaged base?
As you may have heard, a major security flaw in internet security known as Heartbleed was uncovered on Monday.
The internet community sprung into action and a fix was made available immediately, which we implemented in all of our systems within hours. We reissued all of our SSL certificates, and we have also made sure that the vendors we use for email delivery, telephony, payments, etc, have similarly upgraded their systems and appear to be protected.
We do not believe our systems have been compromised, but you should change the passwords for all online services you use, including NationBuilder.
While the scope of the Heartbleed bug has led to a lot of publicity, small security problems crop up all the time online and there is an incredible community of researchers and developers who help keep the internet protected. It's community organizing at its finest. Please know that our operations team is always on top of the latest patches and security fixes.
In his first run for office, Dan Futrell earned a spot on the School Board of Somerville, Massachusetts, representing Ward 2—a district where 68% of the students are from low-income households. Prior to the election, Futrell was already a strong presence in his community, known for asking the tough questions and engaging with parents to maximize the impact of Somerville Public Schools. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a more devoted advocate—one look at Futrell’s Google calendar reveals, in addition to his normal work schedule, he’s clocked over 80 hours meeting with teachers, parents, and administrators since taking office. Long after his campaign, Futrell's ability to connect with people who care about what he's doing remains at the forefront of his mission—and he's using NationBuilder features to foster an authentic relationship with his supporters. But, before we deconstruct Futrell's digital strategy, let's go back to the beginning. His personal story is a testament to the importance of community and the transformative power of education that informs his work in Somerville today.
In 2008 I wasn’t a very good alum. I’d graduated three years prior, and yet, I had never given money to my alumni association, never attended an alumni event and - after moving several times - never offered my new address to my alma mater. Sound familiar? Like countless other millennial alumni, I was disconnected from my university—and it had no way of finding me.
Meanwhile, I was building a career for myself in Washington D.C., and in the fall I began volunteering for Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign as a field organizer. Along with other campaign staffers across the country, I knew the work we were doing was monumental. We weren’t just knocking on doors—we were using technology to identify and empower local neighborhood leaders. Each day we logged every person-to-person touch point and converted those interactions into data, so we knew exactly where to allocate our time and resources. Good people data led to more meaningful engagement with our supporters and more donations. In fact, the entire operation was self-fueling—a beautiful marriage of technology and grassroots organizing.
After the campaign, I had an epiphany. I was successfully moving full speed ahead in my life and my university had no idea what I was doing. I thought, “If a campaign strategy can change the political organizing landscape, why couldn’t it do the same for my alumni association?”
For years, donation pages on the internet looked the same. You know what I’m talking about. And because people knew what to do when they saw one, standard donation pages became the norm.
Then the Obama campaign went crazy and redesigned theirs…and it worked! By breaking the content into steps, they increased conversion rates more than 5%. We like to call this a staged donation page, and we built it into our newest responsive theme - Presence - which we released last week.
And now, if you're using our other responsive theme - Aware - we made it easy to turn your existing donation page into a staged donation page, too. Download the conversion kit and follow the instructions—just don’t spend all that extra cash in one place!
Previously a nonprofit executive, I too suffered from the pandemic that is “list building”—the constant drive to accumulate as many email addresses, social media “likes” and followers as possible, and the ongoing crusade to “maintain” those lists once they’ve accrued. We constantly talked strategy for sending email without losing more people than we gained, and discussed ways to prevent people who didn’t really want to be on our list from unsubscribing. And, perhaps most disturbing, we tied our success to metrics like the number of “likes” we could garner on a given post. At the end of the day, the lists we generated weren’t at all valuable because building a list for the sake of having one that’s “big” isn’t a worthwhile effort.
Nonprofits have limited resources, limited staff time at their disposal, and missions that are crucial to the protection, advancement, and progress of our society. There should never be a day when we dedicate time to building a list, or earning a “friend” that doesn’t advance our mission. If the online engagement you’re doing feels shallow, it probably is. If it isn’t obvious how "likes" translate into social change, then they probably don’t. And if you’re just “maintaining” your database or “managing” your churn, you’re probably making the same mistakes that I was.
The art of community organizing is a hit in the entertainment industry. Artists looking for resources beyond a manager or agent have discovered new ways to directly connect with their audiences.
Comedians Jamie Kennedy and Jon Lajoie, as well as creative nonprofits, have engaged their fanbase through dynamic websites that host video media and content updates about past and present performances.
We have a new website theme for you—Presence—our second responsive theme in addition to Aware. From desktop to tablet to mobile phone, Presence elegantly adapts to different screen sizes AND it features a completely redesigned donation page.
There are four style variations to choose from, with four more on the way.
You can switch to Presence from your control panel under Websites > Theme > Switch to a public theme > Presence (v2). If you are upgrading from a v1 theme and your site has pages with custom templates, you’ll get a warning and have the ability to restore the default v2 templates. Unless you've made drastic changes to your templates, it is recommended that you restore the v2 defaults.
You can learn more about Presence here or check out the demo site here.
NationBuilder’s people database is dynamic and customizable. We released custom fields last year and one of the biggest requests was to have a multiple choice option. So, we’ve added multiple choice in addition to the existing text, yes/no, and number fields.
Tags and custom fields work well together—and it’s important to know when to use one or the other. For example, let’s say you have a bed and breakfast in Big Bear and want to keep track of your guests. You would use tags to know whether a guest is a skier or snowboarder and a custom field to find out what they want to eat for breakfast.
Learn more about creating custom fields here. You can always ask your organizer for more examples of how custom fields can help streamline your data...or for tips on where to shred some pow pow at Big Bear.
Stories are the key to organizing. I’m talking about authentic, personal stories in particular—in civic life, it’s public narrative; in spiritual life, it’s a testimonial. They give meaning to our experiences and help us connect with other people. You can't build a community if you don't know each other.
At NationBuilder, we try to practice what we preach, so storytelling has become deeply ingrained in our company culture. I radically underestimated the kind of impact this would have—in sharing our stories with each other we've become more than a company.
This week, Forbes published an article about our storytelling culture. You can read the full article here.