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My Obsession with Stories

pugs_n_things.jpgSix months ago someone asked me to share my story. I’ve made story maps and timelines before, but had never shared my story to a near stranger. I started thinking about my personal narrative and realized the way my life intersects with and influences other people is a huge part of who I am.

I’ve seen stories drive people to take action, connect emotionally and strengthen the bonds between people. Stories are a connective tissue between humans, and when you share your story – the authentic, gritty version – with another person, you connect on a much deeper level.

So, how can you use stories to connect with your own community?

Be the first to share.
Become a leader. Break the ice by sharing your story first. Storytelling is what made me realize it was possible for me to be a leader, because people cared about my story. Leaders are inherently striving to make change happen, and stories do that; they’re compelling, motivating, and inspire people to take action.

Be authentic & keep it real.
Sounds easy enough. But sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your story, that’s often the hardest part. To be blunt, if you’re not being honest – if you’re not “getting real” – people will probably find it challenging to feel connected to you. To motivate people to take action, they need to care. When you connect on an emotional level, you inspire people. 

Create a safe space for others to share their stories.
Everyone in your community has a story to tell, so give them a space to be heard. Technology makes it easy to do this on a much larger scale, so anyone can share their story at any time, in any place.

The Bully Project provides a space for their community to share their stories and connect with each other about their experience digitally. All you need is a computer, or a phone, and you can connect in a way that feels personal, but lives online. 

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Make sure you’re telling a story.
Everyone has a friend, family member, or someone they met out in the world who thinks Facebook is the only space for storytelling, but is actually the worst oversharer of all time. Don’t be that guy.

So, I’ll ask you all the same question that inspired this blog, what is your story? Share it with me, with your community, or with the world and let us know what happens!

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How to use tech for constituent engagement

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Whether it's on the congressional level or the municipal level, NationBuilder puts people at the center of your website and communications tools, so you can keep track of projects and constituents without letting anything fall through the cracks. Using technology to engage your constituents means you can be more proactive about solutions, and your community with thank you for it. 

If you're just getting started, use this guide to make sure you're getting the most out of NationBuilder's features. 

  1. Generate feedback using surveys. Surveys are an easy way to determine constituent priorities and collect data. Ask questions, collect feedback, and interact with the people who respond. Answers are appended to individual profiles and can trigger workflows for your team. 
  2. Crowdsource suggestions. Use a Suggestion Box page to collect inbound service requests for things like potholes, graffiti, etc. People in your community have the ability to add photos via desktop or mobile.
  3. Send SMS Text Updates. Whether it’s a road closure or a street sweeping reminder, using text messages to keep your constituents in the loop works – because they’ll actually read it. And you can use this feature in a variety of ways, like a school in Philly that reminds parents about upcoming exams via text to improve student performance.
  4. Use Contact Types to log casework. Imagine knowing an individual has an open complaint or service request before she comes into a meeting with the Mayor. When cities use "Open, Referred, or Closed" contact types to log casework, it’s easy to track and resolve issues quickly, creating happy constituents.
  5. Collect RSVPs. Keep track of the people who attend council meetings, public forums, community events, etc. and personally thank them for their support.
  6. Launch a petition. Quickly build consensus and support for council projects by asking people to sign a petition. Tag everyone who signs and you know who you can count on to help see the initiative to completion.
  7. Find your social influencers. Sort people based on Klout score or highest number of Twitter followers to identify your most influential supporters – reach out to these people personally and ask them to lead in the area where their voice is strongest: online.
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Find the Export Button: Why it's important to own your own data

In June of 2013, a blogger by the name of Bohemea lost 2 blogs, 100,000 pieces of content, and 150,000 followers in an instant, without warning. No, it wasn't a cyber attack or vengeful hacker or because she accidentally hit the "ruin my life" button on the internet – Tumblr removed her content. The popular blogging platform where she hosted her content and managed her brand deleted the data because, out of her 100,000+ posts, five were accused of potentially using copyrighted material. The worst part? Bohemea had to start over from scratch.

You might think this cautionary tale is a rare occurrence but, as digital technology becomes a bigger part of every interaction, it’s alarmingly common – which begs the question: Do you really own your data? And if you don't, what should you do about it?

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Talib Kweli makes the case for why every creator should take control of their own financial destiny

Brooklyn born hip-hop artist Talib Kweli recently wrote an article titled, “Why I Left The Major Label System,” and I’ve read it several times. Not because Kweli is brave enough to call out a number of instances in which major labels dropped the ball, but because he unabashedly details his own struggle to both create art he is proud of and earn a living. He narrates personal trial and errors with such sincerity, it sort of feels like he’s patting you on the shoulder while saying, “Listen, from one creator to another, here’s what I’ve learned…”

If you’re an artist, entertainer, or creator of any kind, really (looking at you, *person at a desk in a corporate office daydreaming about that thing he really wishes he could do*), I highly encourage you to pour over his post in its entirety. For those of you particularly short on time, below is my attempt to summarize a few of his most compelling points.

The future is ours yours.
Thanks to Okayplayer.com, a progressive urban music site, Kweli developed a large online fan base in the early 2000s – but the music market was changing. “By 2008, it was no longer enough to let someone else control my online presence,” he says.As the music industry began to drastically decline, partially due to an ignorance about how the internet worked, it became clear to me that I’d better gain control over how I was being marketed and promoted digitally.”

So, Kweli joined Myspace because “their focus on music as a connector of ‘friends’ made perfect sense for artists with an independent mentality.” Connecting with and engaging fans on the platform created more awareness around his work, which quickly translated to more sold-out shows. “Myspace allowed me to reach my niche fans directly for free, rather than have some label invest hundreds of thousands trying to canvas the entire market.”

Even with a slew of fans and 14 years of music making under his belt, Kweli was still relying on other people – lawyers, label reps, accountants, and managers – to make important decisions about his career. But it wasn’t working, and Kweli realized he had to take control of his own financial destiny. So, how can other artists in the same boat expect to have a fighting chance without major marketing dollars?

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How to build a proactive donor community

As 2014 came to a close, we talked about how to create momentum for successful year-end giving. In the new year, I’d like to shift our focus from one-off donations and annual campaigns to more year-round giving. And it starts with encouraging your donors to be proactive, not reactive.

A few ways to provide space for proactive giving:

  • Give people the opportunity to donate anytime and through multiple entries. Doing this removes barriers or limitations for donating. People can simply hop onto their computers, or even on their phones, and donate via your website at anytime. You can also include information on where to send checks, in-kind gifts, etc on the page.

  • Empower people to get involved in your campaigns by giving them personal fundraising challenges. Direct involvement in a campaign can be an exciting option for supporters - they’ll challenge themselves and get their own communities involved!

  • Give your members a space to tell their stories and interact. Connecting your members to each other and giving them their own space can help strengthen their micro-community.

So, there are a number of options to encourage proactive giving, but where to start? See a few of my tips for building a donor community below.

Build meaningful relationships with your supporters.
Relationship-building is at the core of effective engagement strategy. Dynamic data (start thinking beyond spreadsheets) is your first and best friend. Knowing how often a person donates, how they typically donate (online, mail-in check etc) and their preferred communication will help you start building authentic, meaningful relationships with your supporters. The key here is to go deeper than just the giving details and get personal. Did you grow up in the same city, what’s their pet’s name, share a favorite sports team? Talk about it - make a connection!

Tailor communication based on how your supporters prefer to give.
Some supporters may prefer to donate online, while others historically donate via check at your fundraising events. Others may donate strictly via monthly membership. It’s important to know the difference between each supporter group in your community because you’ll be communicating with each differently. More tailored messaging means more authentic interactions!

Meet your supporters where they’re at.
If a supporter’s history indicates that they have never interacted with you on social media, it’s safe to say that your social media campaign won’t reach them. Instead, you’ll want to get in touch via email, phone, or the ultimate meaningful interaction: in person. Wherever a supporter feels most comfortable is where she is most likely to show up – and that’s where you should make your ask.

Thank your supporters and tell them about the impact they made.
Let your supporters know how their contributions last year made a difference. Give them a run-down of the programs they helped make happen and what those programs accomplished. People love to know that they’ve made a difference, so give them a pat on the back. And finally, let them know what your goals are for this year. Tell them about the programs, events, etc that you’re putting on so they know where their donations will have impact all year long.

Don’t wait until the end of the year to make another ask. How will you engage your donor community in 2015?

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Top 5 reasons humans > robots

Year in review

  1. 894,309 new volunteers recruited
  2. 116,841 events coordinated
  3. 13,766,807 one on one interactions
  4. 47,286,268 new supporters
  5. and $241,549,176 raised (more or less - some of that is euros, pounds and other currencies)

Congrats everyone! Humans did that, YOU did that...the robots just counted it all up.

You can download a pretty annual report with all your own data by signing into your control panel and clicking on "Annual report."

Here's to 2015 and another great year for #teamhuman. :)

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Close out 2014 with new advanced donor targeting

If you’re a nonprofit fundraiser, this has been a busy month. Whether you’ve devoted your time to painstakingly crafting the perfect year-end fundraising email or discovering new saliva reserves to seal hundreds of envelopes for your holiday snail mailer, you’re close to wit’s end when it comes to building donor lists and checking them twice. But as we close the chapter on another year, we’re hopeful you can use the new advanced donor targeting tools we’re releasing today to make sure you’re making the right ask of donors at the right time.

You can now filter your people database by one-time donations and contribution behavior over time. In addition to looking at total and frequency of giving, target donors by average, largest, first, and most recent amount donated. You can even narrow the scope of your search to consider only pledges or donations from a specific date range or source (tracking code, page, or email blast). A full review of all of the new criteria is available, but here are some ideas to get you started.

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Your annual report, created with NationBuilder

It's the time of year that many of you are jamming on year-end fundraising efforts while trying to find the time to put together an annual report so your board can see all the progress you’ve made this year.

Annual reportAt NationBuilder, we want to make sure you spend the holidays consuming fruit cake and not crunching numbers, so we decided to take action... and make your annual report for you!

To download your custom report, just sign in to your control panel, and click on "Annual report" in your dashboard. There is a downloadable PDF you can send around, along with several spreadsheets of data on all your donors for the year. It will update every day, so you can download it again in January for a complete 2014.

Here’s an example of what the PDF looks like with some fake data for President Lincoln.

Happy Christmas!

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How to write a year-end fundraising email that actually works

I’ve written tons of emails in the last few years, and my favourite email appeals always go out at the end of the year. It’s the perfect time to connect with your supporters, reflect on the past, and ask them to invest in the year that will come.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve helped different organizations with their year-end fundraising appeals. I wanted to share a few best practices you can use to build better relationships and increase donations.

The Ask
The most important part of your holiday appeal is the donation ask. There should only be one ask, and it should be clear what you want people to do. Clarity provides donors with confidence and, in my experience, results in more donations.

As the ask is the primary reason for the email, it should be featured prominently throughout the email. When I was writing holiday appeals, I always made sure that the ask was a bold link after a first short paragraph. I would also circle back to the ask in the last paragraph and even throw another mention into the P.S.

People like people
Your holiday appeal emails should always come from a human. People like receiving emails from people – not from organizations. When writing your year-end emails, think about the person in your organization your supporters would prefer to hear from - it’s likely your ED, a program lead, or the board chair. People love to give money to humans when humans ask for money.

Subject lines
Your subject line is the most important sentence in your entire email. It is the one that will determine (in combination with the name of the sender) whether your email will be opened or relegated to the virtual dust bin of history. You can spend hours and hours of organizational time crafting the perfect email, but if you just quickly scribble the first subject line that springs to mind, all of this effort will be for naught...so, get creative – your supporters are waiting.

Here’s a sample template for a successful year-end email:

Para 1 - A compelling intro (3 lines/sentences max)
ASK - Include direct link to donate page
Para 2 - Expand on compelling message in first paragraph  (3-5 sentences max)
Para 3 - Case study/example/social proof that gives people the feels (3-5 sentences)
Para 4 - Why support is important + ask link again (3 sentences)
PS - Yep, ask again :)

Wishing you the best of luck in your final push of 2014! 

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Faith Driven Consumer's fast growing community

FDC.jpgHow Faith Driven Consumer grew from a small group of supporters to a national movement.

When Chris Stone set out to create a new kind of digital community in the summer of 2013, he had big goals. “There are more than 41 million consumers in the U.S. whose faith informs their daily decisions in the marketplace. We wanted to leverage the latest technology to provide real-time, relevant information and empower our community to make their voices heard,” said Stone. And while Chris and his team at Faith Driven Consumer were focused and ready, they needed to figure out an integrated way to make it all happen.  

After comparing a variety of software solutions, it seemed nothing could handle the scale and engagement they needed for this project. “But, then we found NationBuilder and it was the obvious choice," said Stone. 

Using NationBuilder for everything from their website to their database and communications, Faith Driven Consumer began rallying their supporters. They created campaigns to give voice to people of faith and used surveys to better understand their community. And with communication tools like texting, email and phone lists, it was easy for supporters to start engaging with the fast-growing community.

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In less than a year, the Faith Driven Consumer team has turned a small group of supporters into a national movement of empowered consumer activists. “Tens of thousands have even volunteered to help out,” said Stone. “Now, it’s a vibrant, rapidly growing digital movement that’s demonstrating real influence in the retail and entertainment marketplaces.”

Faith Driven Consumer and its community have weighed in on a wide range of nationally prominent topics from Duck Dynasty to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby, to major Hollywood blockbusters like NOAH and EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS. They have been featured in thousands of news outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Fox News ChannelCNN, Variety, The Drudge Report, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, US News and World Report, The Blaze, AdWeek, The Christian Post, The Daily Caller, ABC News, The Chicago Tribune and many more.

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Improvements to page preview tools

Creating a website is hard. Getting it right is even harder. Is the font right? Is the alignment off? We understand how difficult it can be and want to make it easy for you to preview and see recent site changes. In that spirit, here are two changes rolling out today that will help you get your NationBuilder pages and sites looking clean and polished.

New page preview

We want to give you an idea of exactly how your page will look on your website, so we're rolling out a new, full-page, preview feature. You can use the toolbar at the top to select the theme, page, and login status you'd like to preview.

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If something doesn't look quite right, click the "Edit page template" link to make changes. It will redirect you right back to your template in the control panel.  You'll also see a similar tool in the theme preview section, with a link to edit your theme selection or custom theme files.

New page statuses

Sometimes when you create a page you don't want it to be available on your public site right away. Now we have a new page status—'hidden'—for just that purpose. Hidden pages will not be visible on your site at alleven from a direct link. They'll only be available in the preview tool for control panel users with specific edit permissions for those pages. To eliminate confusion, we've renamed the 'draft' status to 'unlisted'those pages will still be available through direct links, but will not be listed on your website.

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Galvanize your political party

When Barack Obama's campaign set out to build the best digital and data operations in the history of politics, they changed the game forever. Despite the heralded success of their effort, their work was incomplete. Data created by online interactions and social networks couldn't be distributed to the field level of the campaign. And the "plumbing" of their system couldn't be used by anyone else.

NationBuilder solved those problems. When we released NationBuilder Match in Feb 2013, the game changed again for political infrastructure builders at all levels. It became possible to have a completely integrated data and communications system: voter data, social media interactions, donation info, volunteer records, full CRM, and full website tools all in one place. Organizers at all levels could know everything about their supporters, turnout, and persuasion universes in one place.

Since then NationBuilder has expanded into 98 countries and become the dominant political party top-to-bottom organizing tool. Entire political parties in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia have adopted the platform. Test cases for state caucuses in US battlegrounds have shown simply having NationBuilder to result in a 5 point bounce for candidates. And local parties finally have a product they can afford and use easily.

We believe that online and data tools should bring political leaders closer to the electorate. The beauty of advanced technology lies, ironically, in technology's ability to build more and deeper in-person relationships for a political organizer. Here's our roadmap for building a political infrastructure that is rich in leadership and community bonds. That's how democracy works best.

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Building political infrastructure for 2016

will_conway.jpgCombine ever-changing targets with overstressed and under-appreciated volunteers, and I think we can all agree the last six weeks of a campaign are mayhem.

This rings true especially for coordinated campaigns. Political action committees, caucuses and state and local parties manage the expectations of local leaders, allocate resources and ensure each candidate is getting exactly what they need to succeed.

The rest right after election is a crucial window to think about more than what could have been. It’s a time to use the data that came in during the whirlwind of the last election cycle to build the infrastructure for the future of your organization. What follows is an outline for state and county parties, PACs, and caucuses looking to use NationBuilder to build a long-term, lasting infrastructure – both in the field and online – to endure through 2016 and beyond.

1.     Figure out square one

Your campaigns left you with all sorts of valuable information that can be incredibly helpful for building the foundation of a strong political infrastructure. Now is the time to start compiling what you have.

A lot of really interesting things happen during the campaign that, until recently, would have been lost in 2014 – but not anymore. NationBuilder’s Twitter bio keyword searches and tagging Facebook posts changes everything. Now, you can keep track of the posts your supporters like and share on Facebook, and the things your followers are telling you on Twitter. Did a person like a candidate’s posts about education? Did he mention in his Twitter bio that he’s a teacher? If so, we are just one direct message away from a new issue-driven leader. 

You collect a ton of information outside of social media, too. Those lists of emails, donors, and volunteers should be imported into your nation immediately. And I hope you were using our new scannable walksheets during GOTV, because your volunteers collected great information that wasn’t utilized during the mad scramble of October. Survey responses and petition signatures are a valuable starting place in rebuilding, especially in districts where candidates lost close races. New integrations with data vendors can allow you to instantly layer in outside data and analytics, providing for even more precise messaging.

2.     Ask local leaders to lead

Done right, a well-run coordinated campaign gives local leaders the resources of a massive statewide campaign, and offers the central establishment real-time insight and individual relationships that can only be fostered locally. But coordinated efforts – frequently headed by state parties and leadership PACs – tend to struggle with the balance between local leadership and centralized power.

NationBuilder’s new tag sharing can help strike the right balance. Local leadership – whether in the form of state representatives and senators or town parties – can build their own nations, grow their own relationships, and create their own communities. Then, they can choose to share specific information with central leadership. The opposite is also true: state party or PAC leadership can maintain an engaged group of active donors, volunteers and supporters, and share only information they want with local leaders when necessary. The technology is now capable of supporting the political reality, as opposed to forcing an all-or-none proposition. 

Most importantly, the political off-season is a time to get everyone on the same page. The leaders and supporters you identified in the first section of this article are perfect prospects for trainings on best practices in using NationBuilder, establishing strategy, and crafting messaging. Create regional events and blast email invitations for training sessions to potential leaders in each community. This way, everyone knows their role and knows exactly what to do in the heat of campaign season next cycle. 

3.     Meet people where they are

You have compiled your resources and identified and trained your leaders. Now, it’s time to start rebuilding the movement. Not only does NationBuilder allow you to keep track of your data and identify the issues people care about, but it also helps you learn how people want to interact. 

Until recently, there were just three ways to talk to people: in person, by phone and by mail. Technology has given us plenty more, and NationBuilder has allowed us to organize all of our engagement and feedback in one system. We can now craft content for websites, email, text, and direct message on social media, in addition to traditional communication. More importantly, we can keep track of how everyone responded in all those different manners.

The crucial next step is thinking creatively about how your people responded to your interactions and meeting them where they are. Do you have a universe of people who live in apartments and don’t have landlines? Append their email addresses or directly Tweet or Facebook message them. Do you know people who weren’t home when you knocked on their door during GOTV? Send them a “sorry I missed you” email and ask them to fill out a survey. The beauty of NationBuilder is that the entire infrastructure becomes fluid, intuitive and interactive. The time no longer spent merging lists and querying spreadsheets can now be focused on strategy, creativity and messaging.

It’s all golden, but make sure you are identifying what worked in 2014, what didn’t, and what you can do to fix it. The political infrastructure of 2016 starts with the seeds of 2014 – leadership starts now.

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How to live tweet an event

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As the NationBuilder Evangelist, I attend a conference almost every weekend. In addition to having the world's largest lanyard collection, I've learned a few things about the best ways to use social media to build community. While there's no substitute for face-to-face interactions, live tweeting an event is perhaps the next best thing.  

Why you should live tweet events:

  • You'll begin to build your reputation as a thought leader.
  • You'll get noticed by the people you want to meet AND the people you didn’t even know you wanted to meet.
  • It's a chance to improve your ability to both listen and write tweetable speeches. 
  • You'll have the eternal thanks of the event organizers. This can lead to speaker introductions and invites to speak next year.
  • It gives you something to do with your hands.
  • You'll gain twitter followers, increase your Klout score, and look fancy to your friends.
  • Your tweets lend legitimacy to the event, which then lends legitimacy to you because you are at this super legit event (yes this is a bit circular and also the way social proof works).
  • It's a chance for you to demonstrate your ability to use and be a leader in social media to your supporters and potential supporters.
  • Live tweeting is a shibboleth to other social media savvy people. This will often get you in the door as “one of them” faster than a snazzy business card, or cold email.

Before the event:

  1. Find the event hashtag and tweet about the event before it starts (event social media people will LOVE you and retweet you tons).
  2. Find as many speaker Twitter handles as possible and follow them (you can unfollow them later if you don’t enjoy them, but it’s much easier to find them when searching during their speech if you already follow them). This is worth doing ahead of time because many folks have Twitter handles that are hard to find. 
  3. Make sure your phone, iPad, or computer is charged. Bring an external battery or scope out a seat near an outlet. The external battery I have has room for two phones to charge simultaneously. There's basically no faster way to endear yourself to people at conferences than to make it easy for them to charge their phones. If you don't have an external battery, a small power strip to share means no one will ever be bummed you're hogging the outlet. Lunch and coffee breaks are great times to charge your phone as well because those are the times you'll want to focus on talking to the people around you, not staring at your phone. 
  4. Add speakers and attendees to your database before you go to the event. This will make it easier for you to log contacts, follow up with folks, and build lasting relationships with people you tweet with at the conference.

At the event:

  1. Don’t write negative tweets. Asking critical questions is one thing – being snarky and mean is another. While you might get retweets for snark, it’s generally not good practice to troll. In my opinion, if you don’t have anything nice and constructive to say, maybe it's time to take a break from tweeting.
  2. Give as good as you get. Alternate between posting and boosting the posts of others. Favorite, follow, and retweet liberally (but don't be disingenuous). Engage in dialog with people when you can. Ask questions of other folks, especially if they are also heavy tweeters.
  3. Follow the hashtag so it's easy to find everyone using it. 
  4. Pictures and video tend to be retweeted more. If you can grab a shot of the speaker, or the conference brochure, or your name badge, people will be more likely to see it and star or retweet it. 


  5. While a speaker is talking, be ready to quote them before they say something salient. Open a new tweet. Put in the event hashtag and the speaker’s Twitter handle. Then put your cursor at the beginning and get ready to type. As you practice live tweeting, you’ll be able to hear as someone starts a sentence that will be really tweetable, so you can capture it as they speak. When you have a good quote, post it and then immediately open up a blank tweet and get ready for your next one. 

In between tweets, search for the hashtag (make sure to look at all tweets and not just top tweets) and retweet and star folks. 
  6. Follow users who are giving you a lot of love and/or who are valuable potential supporters. 

As people follow you and retweet you, thank them publicly and use the event hashtag. This shows that you notice and care about people who want to engage with you and makes it a lot easier to build that small interaction into a deeper relationship.

    Hey @SallytheGiraffe, thanks for the follow and all the retweets! #giraffecon2014

  7. Ask people who seem awesome on Twitter to have lunch or coffee or meet in the hallways between talks. I've met amazing people because we had so much fun retweeting each other during a conference that we just had to be friends.
  8. The best tweets are super short. Even shorter than 140 characters. Don’t try to cram every thought in. Focus on memorability, not length.
  9. Be a real human being. Include your personality and not pre-packaged messaging. Gush on the speakers in your tweets if you're a huge fan. Use clever hashtags if that's your thing. Try to connect what people are saying to your organization only when it’s appropriate and won’t make you look like a corporate drone. It’s better to not mention your organization in your tweets and be seen as a thought leader than to shove in the brand and delegitimize everything you say.

    This: 
    "Creating community is the next big thing in business."  - @BobTheBuilder This is why I love my job. #BusinessCon2014

    Not this:
    Love hearing @BobTheBuilder talk about business at #BusinessCon2014. Speaking of business, did you know @NationBuilder is a business? And we work with businesses? And we can spell business? #NationBuilder4Eva."

After the event: 



  1. Add everyone who interacted with you on Twitter to your database, or if they are already there, log your contacts.
  2. Follow up with everyone who retweeted, starred, or followed you. Thank them, and set up phone calls and emails to get to know them better. Something like this: 

    "Thanks for all the retweets at #KansasCon last week @AbeLincoln! Would love to hear more about your work on states vs. federal rights. What’s the best way to connect?"

  3. Tweet a thank you to the organizers and volunteers for their hard work and include the event hashtag.

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Happy tweeting, everyone! If you've got questions or want to catch up at a conference I'm attending, tweet me at @justlikeharmony and we'll make sure to connect. 

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Using text blasts to increase your end of year donations

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Inspired by the use of text blasts in the BC municipal election campaigns, I started to think about ways that nonprofit organizations could incorporate this tactic into their holiday fundraising appeals.

I have to admit, before I began training at NationBuilder I didn’t have much knowledge or experience with text blasts. I knew the technology existed in the NationBuilder toolkit, but never used it when I was organizing at Pivot Legal Society. During the successful David Eby campaign, we sent text blasts for the GOTV effort – and we won over the Premier of the province by 1000 votes. But, despite our success, I hadn’t thought about the myriad of ways different organizations could use text blasts to achieve their goals.   

It wasn’t until I went to a presentation by NationBuilder partner, Mobile Commons, that I finally understood the power of text blasts for NPOs. First of all, the open rates on text messages are somewhere in the range of 90%! Compare that with the best stats from email and we’re talking about a 55 - 75% increase – that alone is enough evidence for me. Text blasts also boast a 6% click rate (on average) compared to a 2% rate for email click rates (on a good day). If you’re doing text based advocacy, the response rate is 5X higher through text than email. Check out this blog post by the folks at Mobile Commons for more details.

After my epiphany of sorts, I started thinking, how can NPOs use text blasts to drive donations? Aha! What about the sacred cow of all non-profit fundraising? The holiday appeal. Text campaigns work best when there is a sense of urgency (GOTV is a great example), and the December 31st deadline for holiday giving provides that urgency.

I previously worked at a non-profit for 10 years, and each year we used email, phone calls, and direct mail to maximize our presence during the holidays. We would inevitably send an email on December 30th or 31st reminding our supporters to donate before ringing in the New Year. Surely that same methodology can be used with text blasting to help nonprofits increase end of year donations.  

Here is what your nonprofit can do this year (it’s not too late):

Build up your holiday appeal, whatever that looks like for your organization. IMHO, it should definitely include multiple ways to connect with your strongest supporters - emails, calls, and letters. As part of the appeal, include text blasts with specific asks to your strongest supporters.

Create a filter in your Nation to identify your textable supporters who have not yet donated. In the last days of December, send those supporters at warm text from a well known broadcaster (Executive Director or campaign lead) reminding them to donate before the end of the year. Make sure your the donation page is responsive and looks great on mobile devices.  

Part of me wishes I was still the ED of a non-profit, so that I could test the returns of adding text blasts to a holiday appeal. Let me know how it works for you.

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