Securing nations

Many of our political customers in Europe are having their conferences this month, so last night I headed to LAX to hop on a red eye to London. It wasn’t until I was on the shuttle from parking lot C that I realized my passport had expired. Which is how I ended up at the Passport Agency office at the State Department in Westwood early this morning.

Today is 9/11. After walking past the Homeland Security van parked outside, through the metal detectors, and into the DMV-style waiting room, I sat down to wait for my number to be called. Instead of numbers, I heard names. One name after another coming from the tiny TV set. And then at 7:28 am, a minute of silence. The exact moment, twelve years ago, that the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about our customers and national security in the last week since the horrifying revelations that, in an effort to spy on potential terrorists, elements of the intelligence community in the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have engineered backdoors into core encryption standards relied upon by every internet user.  

These encryption standards are the bedrock of internet security, and the basis of the public’s trust in the internet. Undermining this trust doesn’t just put secure bank transactions or the free flow of commerce at risk. It puts the global spread of democracy at risk -- a far more important long-term national security objective than catching a few terrorists. 

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Your solidarity megaphone: NationBuilder for unions

United Voice of Queensland Big Steps campaign rally
United Voice of Queensland Big Steps campaign rally

Digital organizing is the future of union organizing. Amplifying your union's online voice around current issue-based or political campaigns is how middle class workers create change. We've seen it work. Let me give you a few examples. 

In March, Australian union United Voice of Queensland organized thousands of childcare workers to win the largest funding increase in early childhood educators’ wages in history. By running a tight field operation, they were able to collect petitions, parent pledges of support, and track volunteer recruitment.

"We used NationBuilder to mobilize more than 12,000 of our supporters and 5,000 members to lobby politicians, both online and in the community. The petitions and social media integration really helped us win," said Steven Miles, the Coordinator of Comprehensive Campaigns at United Voice Queensland.

Labor councils such as the Sacramento CLC are organizing member events and running successful voter registration campaigns. During the 2012 election, they were able to recruit over 800 volunteers to canvass homes, phone bank, and register voters both online and in the field. 

"We have several thousand people in our NationBuilder database. Whether it's for election day canvassing or our upcoming labor day BBQ, being able to pull a list of folks tagged as volunteers is an excellent way to do a quick call to action," said Teresa Villasenor, Office and Events Manager at Sacramento CLC.

The manual labor and time associated with administrative activities -- whether it be data entry, email blasting, or donation upkeep -- can be exhausting. It requires numbers of people and hours of planning to make one event a success. With NationBuilder you can aggregate all administrative activities, including social media outreach and online engagement to one central location, making face-to-face contact and on-the-ground mobilization so much easier. 

NationBuilder is a robust and powerful tool. There's so much more an organization or political campaign can do when they don't have to use different tools to segment lists, send emails, track donations, and manage social media. Here's how unions can get the most out of NationBuilder:

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Showing off NationBuilder Magic at Magic Market Week

Magic in Las Vegas!
Magic in Las Vegas!

NationBuilder has customers everywhere. We cover politics, back room bars, restaurants, bridges and activists. As an organizer, I get sent to some very interesting conferences. I've been at NationBuilder for 3 months now and am so excited to attend my first event with NationBuilder: Magic Market Week in Las Vegas. 

Let me tell you a bit more about why I'm going and how NationBuilder's social media integration, text blasting, and all-in-one email magic can help your brand soar. 

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What am I called to do? Investigating the 'story of self'

ganz-and-chavez.jpgWe all have a story to tell. Let me give you a little of mine: When I was 18, I graduated from high school and didn't know where to go from there. I knew college wasn't for me quite yet and I knew working as a waitress and staying in Tulsa, Oklahoma wasn't the right move either. I was inspired and motivated, but didn't know where to direct my energy.

This was in 2007. That February, Obama had just broken into the national spotlight announcing his run for presidency. I was curious, so I signed up to volunteer in Chicago. I was fairly active in politics growing up. My father was an elected official for a brief period of time. I had an idea of how politics worked. When I joined the Obama campaign, I didn't really know what I was getting into, other than that I was embarking on an adventure. During my first week, I quickly learned the ropes of a national campaign but also realized there was more to it: we had to tell our story. I didn't even know I had one worth mentioning. 

The "story of self" has been used for many years for persuasion, organizing and content creation. But where did it come from?

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9 ways to attract people to your nation

crowd of people in Paris
Photo by James Cridland,
Creative Commons license via Flickr

Every generation has a unique identity. Or so marketers who make a living crafting unique selling points for each generation say. 

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported on a study from Achieve Guidance called the 2013 Millennial Impact Report. It's available as a free PDF download and is chock-full of good advice. But don't expect these tactics to only attract people under 35. The advice ranges from website upkeep to email design to volunteer management and donor cultivation. There's no reason that these modern digital organizing best practices can only be applied to the youngest adult generation. 

The key theme of the report is this: focus your message how your organization impacts the world rather than how you make the sausage. People are far more interested in movements than they are in organizations. The study found that people prefer to give money on a secure website and are open to making small, recurring donations if they understand how their money will be used - and in particular who it will impact. 

Translating the best practices highlighted in the report, here are 9 ways to attract people to your nation.

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The lone female on the LA City Council

Nury MartinezCindy Montañez
Nury Martinez (left) won her LA city council
seat in a runoff against Cindy Montañez (right).

In a strange twist to local politics, men were elected to fill fourteen city council seats and all three city-wide positions in Los Angeles. One seat was left unoccupied after the May municipal elections. In the primary to replace Councilmember Tony Cardenas, who was elected to the U.S. Congress, no one received a majority of the vote. Therefore, a run-off was held between the top two candidates, Cindy Montañez and Nury Martinez

Though I've never lived in that city council district, I went to Van Nuys High School, which is located within its boundaries. News reports leading up to the special election last week, noted the odd fact that regardless of who won the election, the new council member would be the only female officeholder in the city. Both campaigns used NationBuilder as part of their campaign organizing efforts.

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Interviews with badass bloggers from BlogHer '13

Sheryl Sandberg with Lisa Stone BlogHer '13 Image: Danielle Tsi Photography
Sheryl Sandberg with Lisa Stone BlogHer '13
Image: Danielle Tsi Photography

Last weekend, I attended BlogHer13 to meet fellow lady bloggers from around the world. There were mom bloggers, fashion bloggers, life style bloggers, and so many more. I wanted to know more about this community: who ARE the most influential bloggers? How many of these women consider themselves tech savvy? What tools are they using to engage their communities?

I never knew so much about the niche communities within the blogging world but quickly realized a uniting factor: these women have so much to share. And I wanted to listen. So during the weekend, I spoke to a variety of different women to hear out their stories and their passions. 

BlogHer reminded me that these women are running some of the most powerful and inspirational communities on the internet. 

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NationBuilder <3 Designers

Three and a half years ago, Jesse Haff -- the cool kid down the street who introduced me to SimCity when I was eleven years old -- joined NationBuilder as co-founder, lead designer and employee #2. I had been coding for months and couldn't wait to get him started designing with our theming system. 

Since those early days of just the two of us, NationBuilder theming has been used to create thousands of sites, and today there are over 30 firms certified as NationBuilder Architects.

But there's one thing that Jesse has politely begged for since that first week: the ability to use the text editor on his Mac instead of the editor built into the browser.

Finally, on a hack day, in a beautiful moment of compassion, Charlie created a prototype. Months of tweaking and beta-testing later and it is finally ready. Introducing...

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What's happening at BlogHer13?

Currently, I am sitting in a room of 600+ women, listening to the Pioneer Woman tell her journey of growing up in Chicago, living a single city life, falling in love and moving to rural Oklahoma. Like many women at this conference, there is so much empathy and connection in these personal journeys.

Opening Keynote
Opening Keynote "Speed Date" session

And it's just started!

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Stop blogging in the dark

BlogHer starts on Thursday! And in preparation, I've been thinking a lot about blogging with NationBuilder. Like most bloggers, I try to maintain a consistent schedule of posts, mostly 3-4 entries a week, while also connected with people via our Facebook Page, Instagram, and Twitter, along with my personal social media accounts. As people interact with us, I start to get a better understanding of our audience, which then helps me figure out what they're interested in learning about. 

There was once a time when I blogged for fun but had no clue who was looking at my posts. I was obsessed with manually tracking Facebook likes, Twitter favorites and re-tweets in order to gauge some level of support. It was an inefficient process. With all this in mind, we've got some great things going on with NationBuilder to help bloggers stop blogging in the dark. Lauren Brown Jarvis and I are excited to share some handy information about why creating a nation with NationBuilder will help you take your blog to the next level.

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5 tips for Twitter dominance at conferences

Paola Bailey, Psy.D.
Netroots in June

From Netroots last month to BlogHer next week, I attend quite a few conferences for NationBuilder. And I love it. I meet lots of great people, tweet an abundance of interesting content, and listen to a variety of different panel discussions. I typically walk into these intimidating crowds of people, gathered in the overwhelming conference halls with gaudy architecture, shaky cell phone reception and generic hotel carpeting, not knowing more than just a few people. But if you tweet wisely and with humility, you'll leave with new friends, feeling enlightened with new information and new stories to tell by the end of the weekend. Whether you work for a nonprofit or a small business, getting your message out requires tweeting, following, and connecting with individuals online and in person.

Now as I prepare for the BlogHer on the 25th, let's talk through how this can be accomplished.  

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The benefit of sending email from a custom domain

Baby checks email on phone
Photo by Ben Grey
Creative Commons license via Flickr

If, like me, you're old enough to remember the first time you went online, setting up an email account was probably one of the first things you did. It's such an integral part of the digital experience that the basic distinctions in email are not commonly spoken about. For example, I bet you've sent an email directly to another person. You may use a company email address, with the format of username@companyname.com to send emails. If you use an email address with this format, including an organization's name after the "@" sign, you're using a custom domain email address. You might also have a free email address from Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, or another mailbox provider. 

On the other hand, you've probably subscribed to email from organizations. Sending an email to a large group of people at once is known as bulk email. Similarly, setting up an email blast for one of your nation's broadcasters is a form of bulk email.

We have a lot of tips for getting your email delivered and opened, but the most basic is to use a custom domain email address. Since so many individuals use free addresses, internet service providers (ISPs) don't think twice before delivering one-to-one email from those addresses. On the other hand, ISPs work hard to ensure that spam is filtered out of their users' inboxes. Sending bulk email from a free address sets off ISP spam filters and severely diminishes the likelihood of your email being received, let alone opened, by your intended recipients.

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Need sweet design work? Check out 4 new certified NationBuilder Architects!

NationBuilder Architects logoThere's a ton of functionality built into the NationBuilder content management system, which allows you to create interactive pages to provide your community a robust digital home. We've also provided hundreds of design themes and styles, which you can preview in the public theme gallery. On the other hand, you may have an established brand identity that you want to see built into your website's design. Or you may want to explore the edges of connecting your people database with your website. That's why we launched the NationBuilder Architects program as a way to help leaders (that's you) build custom websites.

And guess what? In just over a year, the program has grown to 28 certified Architects! And we're just getting started. We've got even more coming your way. We're excited to showcase four recently certified, independent web designers who can help you build a beautiful website. 

You ready?

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Telling your story begins with your website

NationBuilder Theme Gallery
to enhance your visual story

An organization's story incorporates the common bond that draws people together and the current action needed to achieve its mission. Articulating your story is fundamental to gathering new supporters and achieving your mission. As Lyndsey Hrabik pointed out in a recent post on Nonprofit Hub, your website design should be part of your storytelling process. Whether you're just beginning a redesign of your site or want to spruce up an existing site, you'll find it easy to accomplish with NationBuilder.

Visual Design

Many organizations use featured content sliders on their homepage to highlight different areas of their website or the latest news. This can be an extremely effective tool. You may want to consider using a header image rather than featured content sliders if your site is dedicated to a single idea or if your content strategy includes a quarterly over-arching focus. 

You can add a header image at Site Settings > Header image. If the image you upload isn't 960 px wide, it will automatically be reset to this size. You can also set a custom width for your header image

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Malala Day declares every child's right to an education

Malala Fund

The Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai in the head last October for having the temerity to expect unfettered access to education. Support for Malala poured in, and the Malala Fund was launched with the support of Vital Voices in November, 2012. Today, on Malala's 16th birthday, the fund became an independent organization and launched a new website created with NationBuilder.

Over 600 students met at the United Nations to celebrate Malala Day and to encourage world leaders to support the human right to education. The day began with Malala's first public speech since being shot. She addressed the youth delegates, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown. The speech is incredibly powerful and inspiring. It is incredible to know that after all she's faced, Malala is not bitter, but rather more focused than ever on achieving her goal of education for all, especially for girls and women.

As Grace Hwang Lynch pointed out on BlogHer, here's how Malala described being shot:

"They thought that a bullet would silence us, but they failed. Out of the silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aim and stop my ambition but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."

You can watch her entire speech below.

May we all have the courage to follow our passion as courageously as Malala Yousafzai. You can join the Malala Fund nation to make girls' education a true priority.

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