A key element of organizing is building relationships. This process can begin when one person has an idea and invites other people to join him in achieving a mission. The scope of an organization's work and the depth of its impact is greatly expanded when the responsibility for building relationships is distributed.
While point people have formal responsibility for individuals in your nation's people database, growth occurs faster when all supporters share your message and recruit new people. This process begins when a supporter follows the social share prompts that display automatically after she takes an action on your website. When a supporter recruits friends to join your nation, it proves she has influence within her network and she should be thanked for her efforts. Recruiters should also be nurtured through a ladder of engagement, so that they feel a sense of accomplishment and gradual increase in responsibility for the nation.
One of the fundamentals of building and nurturing the community who will help you achieve your goals is reaching people where they are already gathering. This means that to reach your full potential, your organization needs a strategy that connects social media with your website and offline events.
Of all the social media channels, Facebook's effectiveness has become increasingly difficult to predict. In the last year, their programming updates have diminished the number of fans who see a page's posts and limit your ability to connect with supporters outside of Facebook.
The Facebook app ActionSprout helps reignite and enhance an organization's direct relationship with its supporters. Rather than relying on like, share, and comment, ActionSprout allows you to connect with people around 25 unique actions - everything from demand to congratulate to pray to thank to volunteer.
The entire interaction takes place within Facebook, which significantly increases conversion rates. Once a person participates in an action, his name and email address can be synced in real time with your NationBuilder people database because ActionSprout is one of the first apps connected to NationBuilder's API.
Movement for Change is using community organizing to reconnect people's everyday lives with politics.
With local chapters across the United Kingdom, they needed an online solution for connecting people to local events and each other. “A key part of Movement for Change’s strategy over the next three years is to build an innovative online hub which connects activists across the UK to achieve change through Community Organizing," said Kathryn Perera, Chief Executive of Movement for Change.
Today, Movement for Change is hosting a Summer party in London. Activists and members of Parliament will get together to celebrate the new website and this year's organizing accomplishments. If you're in London town, be sure to swing by their headquarters to join the celebration.
So what is Movement for Change doing to take their field organizing tactics online?
There are a variety of ways to use your nation's virtual phone number to connect with prospects and supporters. Using one of these tactics can give your nation a great boost - viewing them holistically and as an organic extension of your other efforts can fundamentally change your relationship with your community.
For example, the majority of US mobile phone owners use text messaging and some people, particularly those 24 and younger, prefer communicating via text, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. You can take advantage of this preferred method of communication with the following tactics:
promote texting JOIN to your nation's number
set up text keywords for all action pages on your website, especially to RSVP for an event and to sign a petition
incorporate text messaging into pre and post event planning
when developing a social media ambassador program, give people the option to receive communication via text
In this video, I discuss how to create a holistic texting program for your nation:
Here at NationBuilder, we get really excited about new sites launching on the platform. We email them to each other, tweet about them, take screen shots of their homepages and gush over how they keep getting better and better.
This week my inbox was filled with links to beautiful, powerful new websites. Here's a look at a few of them.
Volunteers with A Big Project in Valenciennes, France
At NationBuilder, I work with campaigns of all sizes. Consistently, I have noticed one thing: regardless of size, many campaigns are not using the simple but extremely useful volunteer tools NationBuilder has to offer.
But it's not too late to start!
You can easily create an awesome volunteer sign-up page. From recruiting for specific volunteer roles to setting up automatic follow-ups, anyone can run a sophisticated volunteer recruitment program.
A lot of organizations and movements are built around a hierarchy that obscures access to information. At each level, a supporter receives expanded access to the vision, strategy and tactics. Compartmentalization is promoted as a way to keep people focused on assigned tasks. Executives wonder why an intern should be given "inside information" about strategy and managers who spent a few dozen years getting to their current position find it disconcerting to explain their work to younger colleagues.
That philosophy flies in the face of the openness nurtured by the internet. Here at NationBuilder, we have weekly staff meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page. It's quite refreshing how frank our founder Jim Gilliam is, especially around information that cannot be shared publicly. It sets a standard of respect, accountability, and shared vision that permeates everything we do.
Glenn Lopis expands on the idea of transparency helping to create a shared vision in 5 Powerful Things Happen When A Leader Is Transparent on the Forbes website. While his examples are from for-profit companies, his points are equally important for nonprofit and public sector organizations. He summarizes his article with a simple formula:
Social capital (also called "political capital" or "PC") is NationBuilder's currency system. With a little bit of planning and some creative thinking, you can use political capital (or whatever you'd like to call it in your nation) to motivate your supporters to take different actions in support of your organization.
For example, Greenpeace India used their version of PC, "karma points," to drive support for the Junglistan campaign - an effort to stop the Indian government from clear-cutting huge tracts of land for coal. They set up a leaderboard to rank and recognize the petition signers who were able to recruit the most supporters and campaign leaders from their networks and communities. Ultimately, they mobilized more than a quarter of a million people to take meaningful action in support of the campaign.
What a weekend. Sunday morning there's a feeling of sadness in the air and I find myself asking "what happened?"
The information and socializing at Netroots moves so quickly: after the parties, hundreds of 15 second conversations, and business cards, we need time to process. And so today, as we all return to our homes and back to our normal ebb and flow, is a good day to reflect on the highlights from the conference.
Thursday afternoon, NationBuilder Taxonomist Rachael Stern, participated on the panel Moving the Needle: How We Won Gay Marriage in 2012.
The drive was long. Chandler, my lovely coworker, and I were on our way to Netroots Nation in San Jose. We grew bored pretty fast so to occupy ourselves, we sang pop-forty songs and made a few stops at California tourist destinations including the mountainous landscapes of Santa Barbara and "Garlic County" off the 101. Northern California was a majestic blanket of sun washed hills busting out of the earth. This scenery and car ride left me at peace, fully engulfed in thoughts as I thought about the weekend ahead: what's going on at Netroots?
Well, today was the first day of the conference where over 2,000 progressive activists gathered in the halls of the San Jose Convention Center. Seven of our NationBuilder organizers are here to share the story of what we do and to share literal sweet M&M treats, too. And to my delight I got to give them to folks like Howard Dean and hip hop artist / blogger / designer, Laguardia, from Miami.
Long before assuming office in 2008, Russell had a fundamental belief in connecting one-on-one with her community. After college, she worked full-time as a cashier at Colucci's, a local Italian deli in Portland, Maine. Her approachability and multi-disciplinary engagement won Russell her campaign for Maine House of Representative in 2008 and reelection in 2012. Today, she continues her presence at Colucci's, working behind the counter once a week to keep a local presence.
Since taking office, Diane's organizing savvy has expanded her influence way beyond the boundaries of her district.
Dan Cowen recently graduated from Syracuse University and is running for Syracuse Councilor At-Large. His campaign challenges the machine politics of upstate New York with an integrated online and offline organizing strategy.
NationBuilder has provided us with an invaluable, holistic approach for building Dan’s campaign. Above all, it is incredibly cost-effective. The platform allows us to manage everything from donor lists contributions to retweets on Twitter, and everything in-between.
I recently spoke to Andrew to get more insight on how they're running their campaign's nation. "Prompting a supporter to tweet after a giving a donation generated more leads for our campaign than any other activity," Andrew explained. "There's no better platform for running a campaign," he added.
In college, I was a mentor six months out of the year for students at Roberto Clemente High School in Humboldt Park, Chicago. I used visual art as a medium to empower and educate teenagers. I collaborated with other artists, mentoring students about art and mural painting, listening to stories about their day and the latest Lil Wayne song. I remember last Father's Day, during my final weeks at Roberto Clemente before moving to LA, one of my student's was dreading that Sunday.
Our VP of Engineering, Dan Walmsley, participated in the Ungrounded flight from British Airways last night. The 'hackathon' involved getting 100+ innovative thinkers on a plane and forcing them to chat without wifi about expanding the ranks of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals.
Though we were incredulous that someone would create an event without internet access and call it a hackathon, Dan had a good experience. When he returns from across the pond, Dan will be able to provide a fuller account of his travels. Here's his brief summary:
The flight was a chaotic, 11-hour brainstorm in which a diverse group of CEO's, teachers, techies and people of all stripes pitched in on dozens of ideas, with the highest-voted selected for further development. The outcome was not just viable plans to improve opportunities in STEM for people all over the world, but the creation of a community committed to meaningful change. My experiences at NationBuilder, because of our unique mission, were helpful in framing what's technically possible and the importance of providing opportunities to grassroots leaders. What could have been perceived as gab-fest among the Silicon Valley elite was instead a moving and inspiring experience, and it all came down to who was in the room, and expert facilitation by IDEO.
Dan was on Team Altitude and focused on encouraging women in STEM. You can see some of the 22 project ideas being pitched on the plane in this photo by Michael Smolens. With stickers, the participants cast votes on which projects should be developed further. Four projects will be presented at the G8 Innovation Conference and DNA Summit tomorrow. One of the winning projects, AdvisHer, an online mentorship community for girls, already created a website, Twitter handle and Facebook page. (Though I'm sure I'm not the only one eager to transform the community into a nation.)
So there's something you should know about me: I snap a lot of photos. Everyday, I obsessively document my surroundings, my mundane routines, my adventuring on Saturday's, my friends, and of course, lots of artwork. When I joined the Communications team at NationBuilder, I insisted we keep a visual tab on our day-to-day work life and culture of NationBuilder. So we started an Instagram.
For those other nation builders out there that are as jazzed about visual documentation as I am, did you know that you can embed an Instagram onto your website? It's true! You can embed a feed of photos from an Instagram handle or hashtag into your nation's website. In this video, Adriel Hampton walks you through the process.