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.


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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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The process behind the mural at NationBuilder HQ

Imagine being invited by a software company to create a mural distilling the concept of "leadership for a connected humanity." Now imagine having two days to develop your idea before presenting it directly to 125 employees. It's an invitation that would make many artists wilt, but an LA-based artist named Allison Kunath was up for the challenge. 

Allison created the mural -- titled "Cat's Cradle" -- for a sunny atrium in NationBuilder's downtown Los Angeles headquarters on the second floor of the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Check out her time lapse-video and blog post about the process

Named after the string game played around the world, "Cat's Cradle" depicts lifted hands connected by colorful, taut string. It evokes the idea that leadership fundamentally involves connecting people and lifting up new leaders from among them. As NationBuilder CEO Jim Gilliam recently described it, “Find what you are meant to create. Offer it to the world. Help others do the same.” 

Attend a live demo to learn more about NationBuilder


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The "How to create an email blast" documentation is refreshed!

The NationBuilder Education team brings you an update to our email documentation. Check out the revamped "How to create an email blast." 

Learn how to create a blast – add recipients, choose a theme, and enter content. Preview your blast before sending or schedule it for a later time.

Take a moment to look at some of our related documentation like "How to optimize email deliverability." Or, learn about how to pull in detailed information about your supporters by using "Liquid variables available in email." 

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Learn to love fundraising

 “Donors don’t give to institutions. They invest in ideas and people in whom they believe.” – G.T. Smith

Many people consider fundraising to be a necessary evil of charitable work. But it doesn’t need to be painful! In 2014 Americans gave $358 billion, 72% of which came from individuals. The opportunity for organizations to get a piece of the pie is bigger than it’s ever been.

So how do you build scalable fundraising models that yield big contributions, prevent distracting capacity issues, and don't make you hate your life?

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7 orgs that are advancing women's welfare

“Change is a funny thing. It’s often prompted by a small action that takes on a much larger cultural meaning, and can catch us by surprise with its utter simplicity.” - Susan Sarandon

Check out these 7 organizations that are leading communities around the world to advance women’s welfare. 


WOMEN'S VOICES NOW is amplifying the voices of all women living in Muslim-majority societies by promoting their free expression. 


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Dogfooding NationBuilder as a web design firm

Ever pondered how you can design on the NationBuilder framework AND run your business within the same platform? Many certified NationBuilder Architects have, which is why I wanted to relay a couple of ideas on how you can dogfood NationBuilder.

Take a cruise through how to steer your studio by dogfooding NationBuilder

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Create a newsletter style email blast

Have you thought about creating a newsletter-style email blast with multiple columns? Well, our Education team published a new HOWTO! 

Check out: How to create a multi-column email layout

While you are busy creating an email blast, don't forget to take a look at our How to optimize your email deliverability

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Curious what nonprofit leaders are reading this summer?

“One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” ― Jeannette WallsThe Glass Castle

Can’t decide what book to throw in your pool bag this summer? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.  Here are some recommendations from nonprofit leaders taking advantage of the extra time in the sun to gain a few insights about running their organizations, becoming better leaders, and harnessing the power of community.  

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What I learned from a six-paragraph presidential campaign

Some people are already tired of the presidential campaign season. The negative ads are already flowing like the sewage they sling. Horse race news coverage makes us long for American Pharoah's actual horse races. Presidential email blasts are gearing up, and we all know how fun those are to get multiple times a day.

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Re-energize your campaign staff with these easy ideas

I’m a big fan of two very different shows about politics: Veep and The West Wing. Yes I know, one is semi-mocking the other, but they’re both great commentaries on what it’s like to be a staff member at the White House. 

And whether it’s Gary and his shoulder-aching bag or Sam Seaborn and his crush-inducing opposition articles, the underlying theme from both shows is actually the same. The staffers work hard. They set up meetings, anticipate needs, follow-up with the press, plan events, take the heat. You name it, they do it.. and usually without praise or acknowledgement.

VeepAmyMicDrop.gifSo if you’re running for office or even running an office, are you doing all you can to avoid a staff "Amy-level" meltdown (for those of you who don’t watch Veep, by that I mean: an epic, demoralizing “I quit” speech right before the election)? 

How can you take care of your staffers?

No idea? Here are a few suggestions.


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