Architect Spotlight: Herman-Scheer

How do you create a website that's not just beautiful but built for action? That's the focus of our Architect Spotlight Series, featuring insights from certified NationBuilder Architects. This week we hear from Herman-Scheer of Santa Monica, CA. 


1) What are the most important elements of an awesome digital campaign?

At Herman­Scheer, we pride ourselves on being an agency of storytellers with a focus on narration, personality and connection. In an age of overused platform integration and data crunchilization, the brands and organizations that are #winning are the ones that have developed a storyline that explains who they are, what they’ve set out to do and why they’re doing it. Oh, and you gotta’ look good while you do it.

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How “For Stratford” is encouraging local political involvement

organizer-faramarz-sokhansanj_(1).jpg"I’ve been a NationBuilder Organizer for the past 2 years, and over that time I’ve been able to work with amazing groups that are fighting for change in their communities. For this week’s Customer Spotlight, I talked to Terry Masters from the Joe Paul for Stratford campaign. During the primary for this campaign, Joe was an unendorsed banker running for mayor to empower his community.  Without the endorsement of the local democratic party, he had to rely on his team of volunteers to identify and grow his list of supporters.

They were able to use voter data to see who had interacted with his campaign site to identify their probability score of (1) voting in this election and (2) voting for Joe this election.  Working with Joe’s campaign was one of my favorite moments at NationBuilder. Here you had an underdog fight the establishment using grassroots organizing. The headline in the local paper said it best: ‘Paul wins in shocker.’ For Stratford emerged after the campaign to continue working on local issues."

Describe the mission behind your organization’s work.

We are special here in Stratford. Our mayor spent 14 years as a state legislator and as the state chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He’s now national chair of American City & County Exchange (ACCE or baby-ALEC). Our town has historically low voter turn-out that worsened with the abrupt closing of polling locations in minority districts.

So, we organized “For Stratford” as an independent expenditure group. Our mission statement is simple: We seek to improve the quality of life in Stratford by encouraging public awareness and political involvement.

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Update on Democracy Engine donation failures

Earlier today, a Democracy Engine server configuration issue caused some contributions made on NationBuilder websites through Democracy Engine to fail. We have been in contact with Democracy Engine and were notified that the issue has been resolved.

If you're not sure whether you've experienced issues with donations, you can quickly identify any problems by going to your NationBuilder control panel. Here's a link that includes screenshots on how to find failed donations in your nation.
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Architect Spotlight: Strategic Media 21

How do you create a website that's not just beautiful but built for action? That's the focus of our Architect Spotlight Series, featuring insights from certified NationBuilder Architects. This week we hear from Strategic Media 21 of San Jose, CA. 

jamei-and-irene.jpg1) What are the most important elements of an awesome digital campaign?

We believe in data-driven campaigns. The approach informs our design and leads the campaign to a defined, measurable goal. We want to be able to identify success and track our effectiveness as we reach it. We love to build sites that feel natural to their target audience, with elements that are surprising and contagious. 

Finally, an awesome digital campaign needs to be flexible enough to survive first contact with reality. Novelty isn’t enough to keep something afloat. It needs to have a few proven mechanisms working to keep it moving through the ebb and flow of its lifecycle.

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A new header for the control panel

what's the header dropdown look like? We made a small (but I think delightful) change to the interface of the control panel today. We've eliminated the footer and moved all the relevant links and functionality into a dropdown in the header. If you're looking to access your account, sign out, add a control panel user you can now do all of those things from this new dropdown.

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Architect Spotlight: Mosaic Strategies

How do you create a website that's not just beautiful but built for action? That's the focus of our Architect Spotlight Series, featuring insights from certified NationBuilder Architects. This week we hear from Mosaic Strategies of New Jersey. 


1) What are the most important elements of an awesome digital campaign?

This is a hard one! It boils down to three things for me: direct messaging, vibrant visuals and authenticity. These are definitely not special to digital campaigns, they are the same for on-the-ground work too. What's special about digital is that you can improve your success by using analytics to know when to switch out creative and build better, targeted referral networks. Take advantage of how flexible digital is!

2) What is one question you ask your clients when starting a new project that everyone should think about? 

Our favorite last question to ask is: What are your main goals and what are you willing to give up to achieve them?

This helps frame the project, the client's involvement, and priorities. If you want to collect emails from more people through your nation, are you willing to leave off a few of the demographic fields or have a staged sign-up? Is having more photography more important than staying on budget? It's especially helpful when our client's decision making team includes multiple people. 

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Enhance your campaign with social targeting

We see it a lot.

Campaigns devote significant resources towards managing social media, but valuable data from Twitter and Facebook interactions stays in a silo. As a result, leaders responsible for all the other parts of a campaign are missing countless opportunities to connect with new supporters, donors, volunteers, and influencers. 

Our new Social Targeting Guide describes the concrete steps every organization can take to effectively harness social media data. At the end of the day, it's all about listening and meeting people where they're at. If you can do that well, John Q. Public might actually adopt a brighter disposition!  


Download the Social Targeting Guide to learn more.  


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Renewing democracy in British Columbia


"Here at NationBuilder, I get to work with some pretty amazing groups who are truly engaging people and making change in their communities, provinces and country. For this week’s Customer Spotlight, I talked to the BC Green Party about how they're doing politics differently. My background is in Canadian politics and community development so I get especially excited to see political parties moving away from old school political marketing and closer to real organizing - That means putting people at the centre, providing multiple paths for engagement, and elevating leaders. I'm thrilled to see the BC Green Party renew engagement in democracy in these ways"

Describe the mission behind your organization’s work.

The BC Green Party exists to represent and serve the citizens and interests of the province of British Columbia through the formation of government. We seek to proactively meet BC's challenges and solve genuine problems for British Columbians through evidence-based, ethical decision-making. We are a member of the Global Greens network, an international movement of local political parties who are committed to six fundamental principles: sustainability, respect for diversity, participatory democracy, ecological wisdom, non-violence and social justice.

We believe that a political exists to serve voters in being active participants in their democracy. The modern world of politics are crass and overly-partisan. Political parties serve themselves in the interest of obtaining power. We believe that politics must be returned to the people through true representative democracy, which means that MLAs are elected to actively work with their constituents to find solutions to society's problems, and then represent their constituents in the Legislature. We do not believe that policy should be dictated by any one political party or its leader, but through dialogue, outreach, a clear set of values and evidence. With the digital age, we have tools that allow us to do this in unprecedented ways. In fact, these digital tools evolve so quickly, we are constantly amazed at the innovative approaches we develop to serve the voters of British Columbia as active contributors to our democracy. NationBuilder has been fundamental to expanding our understanding of what is possible and making it happen.

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Architect Spotlight: Tectonica

How do you create a website that's not just beautiful but built for action? That's the focus of our Architect Spotlight Series, featuring insights from certified NationBuilder Architects. This week we hear from Tectonica of Buenos Aires.

1) What are the most important elements of an awesome digital campaign?


Too often studios build a screwdriver when they need a hammer and leave their clients unable to succeed in their campaigns. The key to creating a website and utilizing digital engagement tools successfully is found in strategy. When we started Tectonica several years ago we knew from our experience that digital campaigns are more akin to designing a building or planning a large construction project than painting a work of art: above the aesthetics websites and online campaigns are spaces that serve a purpose and function. It requires a combination of understanding the project’s objectives and the best methods and tools to achieve them.

It is for this reason that with some projects - like the themes we created for candidates, MPs and organizations of Great Britain’s Labour Party - we can spend as much as a couple of weeks just planning. To succeed at each project we must first fully understand the overall direction and mission of the organization or campaign. Next we identify what role the digital campaign efforts have in that larger context.  And finally we examine closely the make-up, motivators, and tastes of the audience that is being targeted to engage.

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How to organize your way out of hosting the Olympics


"As a NationBuilder Organizer, I get to work with amazing groups leading people to action and fighting for change in their communities. For this week’s Customer Spotlight, I talked to No Boston Olympics about the work they are doing to organize against the proposal for Boston 2024. As a BC alum and someone who grew up on the South Shore of Massachusetts, I’ve been impressed with the highly effective digital program No Boston Olympics created to amplify citizens voices from local meetings in Boston across the globe to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Headquarters. Working with their team from initial brainstorming to implementation has been really gratifying."


Describe the mission behind No Boston Olympics. 

No Boston Olympics is devoted to protecting the future of our city and commonwealth by opposing the costly, disruptive Olympic proposal pushed by Boston 2024. We believe that Boston 2024 would be a massive waste of taxpayer dollars. The people of Massachusetts would be required to financially guarantee a multibillion-dollar three-week event, at great risk to our economy and with little benefit to residents. 

What’s more, Boston 2024 would dominate the civic agenda for the next 9 years, a huge opportunity cost when our civic leaders should be working to solve serious issues facing citizens now and in the future—like providing reliable public transit, affordable housing, and social services for our most vulnerable people.

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When you publish a petition and no one shows up

Back in 2011, the White House launched an e-petition tool called We the People. Inspired by the First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” the new tool was designed to give Americans a direct way to do just that -- petition their government. The idea was beautiful in its simplicity.  


By 2014, however, it was abundantly clear that We the People had become a “ghost-town.” According to Dave Karpf, a professor of political communications at George Washington University, the vast majority of petitions had fewer than 2,000 signatures. Over half had fewer than 500. Petitions that cleared the 100,000 signature threshold might or might not get a response from the White House. The problem with We the People? People weren’t exactly showing up, and the government wasn’t exactly addressing any grievances.   

That whole experience begs the conundrum: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Or, to the point: If someone publishes a petition on the internet and no one is organizing around it, does it make a difference? [Crickets]    

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Architect Spotlight: cStreet Campaigns

 How do you create a website that's not just beautiful but built for action? That's the focus of our Architect Spotlight Series, featuring insights from certified NationBuilder Architects. This week we hear from cStreet Campaigns of Toronto.



1) What are the most important elements of an awesome digital campaign?

People! As the old organizing idiom goes, “the question isn’t ‘What are our issues?’ it’s ‘Who are our people?’”. Compelling digital campaigns inspire, excite, and compel people to take action by honestly and transparently making the connection between the actions that people take and the change the campaign wants to see in the world.

This is as true when you’re trying to get someone elected as it is when you’re trying to end bullying.  I’ll give you two examples; when we worked on Olivia Chow’s Campaign for Mayor of Toronto we created an experience where our online presence brought in thousands of supporters from across the city who were then encouraged to join neighborhood-based teams (using a snowflake-model), but for folks who preferred to take action online, they were presented with an evolving dashboard of activities they could undertake that would help Olivia win. As they took each action they were reminded (through NationBuilder flash notifications) about the role they were playing in helping to elect a Mayor they believed in. 

With The Bully Project we opened up the ladder of engagement in a way that supporters could take a look and see where on the ladder they currently stood - and what they could do to move up.  If a campaign is going to have a ladder they might as well tell their supporters what they need to do to be successful in the campaign.


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Build a movement with 5 different kinds of data

Is your email list spread out over a bunch of Excel files? Do you only guess about the number of donors who follow you on Twitter? Are you volunteers cold calling groups of people with no background information?

If so, it might be time to get all your data in one place!

By merging all of your data together, you get a 360 degree view of your community members. You can see your donors, volunteers,  followers and members. You'll be able to learn about your supporters to personalize your organization’s interactions.

To learn about how to create rich and detailed profiles of each person in your database, read on.


Five types of data (5).png

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The Internet is My Religion is out today

JimMy book, The Internet is My Religion, is out today!

This was a five year effort with my co-author, Lea Endres. We started with a vague concept of “The Internet Way,” and then we kept digging and digging and unearthed something much deeper and far more personal. It’s a memoir – nothing like a normal business book from a tech CEO. You won’t find my Top 10 Leadership Principles, or a Framework for Movement Building, or even the Ten Commandments of the Internet.

Instead, you’ll experience my life as I figured out who I am, why I’m here, and what I believe in. Nothing is too personal or too embarrassing. You will laugh, you may cry, and you will definitely cringe.

I owe a special thanks to Ben Horowitz–my mentor, investor, and the best-selling author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things–who wrote the foreword, which you can read in Fortune magazine.

This book is meant to be shared. People say that all the time on the internet, so it’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s the reason I turned down the old-world publishers. I wanted people to be able to share the book for free. So if you buy the book, you can then get your own link to share with your tribe so they can get the ebook for free. We’ll even put your name on the homepage so folks know it’s from you.

And if you’re really ambitious, you can buy boxes of 42 books for $149 and become your own book distributor. Why 42? Because that’s the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. :)

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The leadership model that turns a Day of Giving into a culture of giving

Aspire. Forward. Tomorrow. Hope is Growing. Stand Up. Making History. They’re the names of major fundraising campaigns that have become the lifeblood of many nonprofits and universities. They hint at the extraordinary burden that development professionals -- as well as countless leaders who’ve “fallen” into fundraising -- bear on behalf of their institutions.    

Let’s begin where we need to, then, with empathy. Fundraising is grueling work.

Just how grueling? Nonprofit philanthropy consultant Katharine DeShaw, who runs Philanthropology, calls it a crisis. All you need to do is look at the short tenures and stubborn vacancies across the development profession. 52% of Chief Development Officers serve 1-2 years on the job, according to a recent study; the average vacancy for a development director position is 21 months for organizations with a budget of $1 million or less and 10 months for organizations with a budget of $1-5 million.   


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