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Local candidates using NationBuilder win big

Last night, several municipal candidates earned victories in their local races. In Malibu, Laura Rosenthal was re-elected after sweeping the vote for Malibu City Council, while Robert Garcia, the city's first openly gay candidate for Mayor, moves on to the general election in Long Beach. Both Charles Parkin and James Johnson are moving to the runoff in the race for Long Beach City Attorney.

There were also three Long Beach City Council victories: In the first district, Misi Tagaloa is headed to the general. Carl Kemp will be in the runoff for the 5th district, and Rex Richardson was elected outright in the 9th council district. Megan Kerr also won her race for the Long Beach Unified School Board.

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Digital precinct captains: distributing power through your organization

hfeature-profile.pngDuring the ‘08 presidential primary, precinct captains in Massachusetts were given access to voter data from a previous race - the ‘06 gubernatorial - for the first time. No one knew it then but this move had a huge impact on the race. The tactic sounds simple...but it’s not. Giving a precinct captain access to data means you have to set up specific permission sets, so he or she only sees a subset of the data (as opposed to everything). On top of that, the data needs to be editable but secure enough that any major issues can be undone. All of this requires extensive training and changes the fundamental job description of a field operative. Ironically, while George W. Bush was talking about the “ownership society,” Democrats were building this exact concept into their field operations, out of the necessity that comes with being underfunded. 

The problem with the data ownership model is that it only applies to the voter ID, not anything that happens after the ID takes place. But basic contact info, vote history, and support level is only a small fraction of what defines the relationship between the campaign and the voter. We also need to know if a voter has ever donated money, is willing to volunteer, sign petitions, and the voter’s social influence. There’s a big difference between an identified supporter who has 2,000 Twitter followers and one who has no presence in the community—the former should be targeted to become a campaign leader.

The way campaigns run is also changing. Outside groups are engaging voters and raising dollars well in advance of the race, and opportunities to engage years before election day are proliferating rapidly. We know the candidate with the strongest base almost always wins. We also know that a full-fledged field ID program can’t occur until the public is largely engaged.

So, how can you build a “Digital Precinct Captain System” and use it to develop a super-engaged base?

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Your nations are protected from the Heartbleed bug

As you may have heard, a major security flaw in internet security known as Heartbleed was uncovered on Monday.

The internet community sprung into action and a fix was made available immediately, which we implemented in all of our systems within hours. We reissued all of our SSL certificates, and we have also made sure that the vendors we use for email delivery, telephony, payments, etc, have similarly upgraded their systems and appear to be protected.

We do not believe our systems have been compromised, but you should change the passwords for all online services you use, including NationBuilder.

While the scope of the Heartbleed bug has led to a lot of publicity, small security problems crop up all the time online and there is an incredible community of researchers and developers who help keep the internet protected. It's community organizing at its finest. Please know that our operations team is always on top of the latest patches and security fixes.

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Using NationBuilder to engage the people who care about what you’re doing

danfutrell1In his first run for office, Dan Futrell earned a spot on the School Board of Somerville, Massachusetts, representing Ward 2—a district where 68% of the students are from low-income households. Prior to the election, Futrell was already a strong presence in his community, known for asking the tough questions and engaging with parents to maximize the impact of Somerville Public Schools. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a more devoted advocate—one look at Futrell’s Google calendar reveals, in addition to his normal work schedule, he’s clocked over 80 hours meeting with teachers, parents, and administrators since taking office. Long after his campaign, Futrell's ability to connect with people who care about what he's doing remains at the forefront of his mission—and he's using NationBuilder features to foster an authentic relationship with his supporters. But, before we deconstruct Futrell's digital strategy, let's go back to the beginning. His personal story is a testament to the importance of community and the transformative power of education that informs his work in Somerville today.

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Using Obama-style field organizing to rethink university alumni outreach

image via flickr
image courtesy of Flickr

In 2008 I wasn’t a very good alum. I’d graduated three years prior, and yet, I had never given money to my alumni association, never attended an alumni event and - after moving several times - never offered my new address to my alma mater. Sound familiar? Like countless other millennial alumni, I was disconnected from my university—and it had no way of finding me. 

Meanwhile, I was building a career for myself in Washington D.C., and in the fall I began volunteering for Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign as a field organizer. Along with other campaign staffers across the country, I knew the work we were doing was monumental. We weren’t just knocking on doors—we were using technology to identify and empower local neighborhood leaders. Each day we logged every person-to-person touch point and converted those interactions into data, so we knew exactly where to allocate our time and resources. Good people data led to more meaningful engagement with our supporters and more donations. In fact, the entire operation was self-fueling—a beautiful marriage of technology and grassroots organizing.

After the campaign, I had an epiphany. I was successfully moving full speed ahead in my life and my university had no idea what I was doing. I thought, “If a campaign strategy can change the political organizing landscape, why couldn’t it do the same for my alumni association?”

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Staged donation pages

For years, donation pages on the internet looked the same. You know what I’m talking about. And because people knew what to do when they saw one, standard donation pages became the norm.

Then the Obama campaign went crazy and redesigned theirs…and it worked! By breaking the content into steps, they increased conversion rates more than 5%. We like to call this a staged donation page, and we built it into our newest responsive theme - Presence - which we released last week.

And now, if you're using our other responsive theme - Aware - we made it easy to turn your existing donation page into a staged donation page, too. Download the conversion kit and follow the instructions—just don’t spend all that extra cash in one place! 

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Stop building lists. Start building relationships.

Post_graphic.pngPreviously a nonprofit executive, I too suffered from the pandemic that is “list building”—the constant drive to accumulate as many email addresses, social media “likes” and followers as possible, and the ongoing crusade to “maintain” those lists once they’ve accrued. We constantly talked strategy for sending email without losing more people than we gained, and discussed ways to prevent people who didn’t really want to be on our list from unsubscribing. And, perhaps most disturbing, we tied our success to metrics like the number of “likes” we could garner on a given post. At the end of the day, the lists we generated weren’t at all valuable because building a list for the sake of having one that’s “big” isn’t a worthwhile effort.

Nonprofits have limited resources, limited staff time at their disposal, and missions that are crucial to the protection, advancement, and progress of our society. There should never be a day when we dedicate time to building a list, or earning a “friend” that doesn’t advance our mission. If the online engagement you’re doing feels shallow, it probably is. If it isn’t obvious how "likes" translate into social change, then they probably don’t. And if you’re just “maintaining” your database or “managing” your churn, you’re probably making the same mistakes that I was.

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How community organizing tools help entertainers take control of their creativity

TopFrontBackgroundNew.jpgThe art of community organizing is a hit in the entertainment industry. Artists looking for resources beyond a manager or agent have discovered new ways to directly connect with their audiences.

Comedians Jamie Kennedy and Jon Lajoie, as well as creative nonprofits, have engaged their fanbase through dynamic websites that host video media and content updates about past and present performances. 

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Presence - our newest theme!

We have a new website theme for you—Presence—our second responsive theme in addition to Aware. From desktop to tablet to mobile phone, Presence elegantly adapts to different screen sizes AND it features a completely redesigned donation page

Presence

There are four style variations to choose from, with four more on the way.

You can switch to Presence from your control panel under Websites > Theme > Switch to a public theme > Presence (v2). If you are upgrading from a v1 theme and your site has pages with custom templates, you’ll get a warning and have the ability to restore the default v2 templates. Unless you've made drastic changes to your templates, it is recommended that you restore the v2 defaults.

You can learn more about Presence here or check out the demo site here.

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New feature: multiple choice custom fields

hfeature-multiple-choice.png

NationBuilder’s people database is dynamic and customizable. We released custom fields last year and one of the biggest requests was to have a multiple choice option. So, we’ve added multiple choice in addition to the existing text, yes/no, and number fields.

Tags and custom fields work well together—and it’s important to know when to use one or the other. For example, let’s say you have a bed and breakfast in Big Bear and want to keep track of your guests. You would use tags to know whether a guest is a skier or snowboarder and a custom field to find out what they want to eat for breakfast.

Learn more about creating custom fields here. You can always ask your organizer for more examples of how custom fields can help streamline your data...or for tips on where to shred some pow pow at Big Bear. 

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The most surprising thing I've learned at NationBuilder

Stories are the key to organizing. I’m talking about authentic, personal stories in particular—in civic life, it’s public narrative; in spiritual life, it’s a testimonial. They give meaning to our experiences and help us connect with other people. You can't build a community if you don't know each other.

At NationBuilder, we try to practice what we preach, so storytelling has become deeply ingrained in our company culture. I radically underestimated the kind of impact this would have—in sharing our stories with each other we've become more than a company.

This week, Forbes published an article about our storytelling culture. You can read the full article here

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Voter targeted digital advertising with NationBuilder

Organizing is about creating meaningful relationships, turning supporters into volunteers, voters, and donors. NationBuilder is great for that. But sometimes, particularly if you're a political campaign, you just need to reach everyone in your district as fast as humanly possible—and digital advertising is a cost-effective way to do that. 

Thankfully, there are companies that specialize in targeting advertising just to voters, so you don’t waste money on folks who can't vote for you. 

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Community organizing and technology across Latin America

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with the bright men and women who are helping establish the tech community in Latin America. We’re talking about go-getters: those involved with local startups, co-working spaces, accelerators, and social enterprise models in technology hubs across Colombia (my hometown!) and Argentina. Communities in Mexico, Chile, and Brazil are quickly following suit. 

Andres Barreto
Andres Barreto
image courtesy of campuspartycolombia

Before joining the organizing team at NationBuilder, I worked with digital ad agencies followed by a handful of opportunities in politics and nonprofits. Those experiences helped me understand that real change takes place at the intersection of community and technology—a concept that inevitably emerges in my daily interactions with young entrepreneurs across Latin America. I've collected their feedback to come up with a few key takeaways that I want to share with you—everything from tips for cultivating the best talent to understanding the relationship between the Latin American tech movement and the United States.

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Blazing trails in the cannabis reform movement

Medical marijuana neon sign
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Numerous polls have shown increasing public support for decriminalization of marijuana. But public support alone isn't enough to change the law - you have to organize communities to win political fights. And that's exactly what's happening now.

Despite the downsizing of marijuana dispensaries in California since last May, online organizing has increased and dispensaries are finding new ways to reach potential customers. In addition to organizing as a small business strategy, the internet is also helping advocacy organizations reach out to local communities to generate support for decreased reform and more favorable legislation for this growing industry. 

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New NationBuilder apps

It’s still the early days and the NationBuilder Platform is really growing fast. New apps are coming online daily, so I wanted to point out a few of the latest that might be helpful. Check out the app directory for the entire list.

  • 123FormBuilder: Add custom forms and surveys - for free - to any website and the data will automatically update in your nation.
  • Accurate Append: Match email addresses and premium phone numbers to people in your nation.
  • BillTrack50: Track the legislation that matters to you, including all 50 states and Congress.
  • CallHub: Voice broadcasts in 200+ countries.
  • Care2 Connector: Recruit supporters from Care2's global audience of 24 million members.
  • Crowdtilt: Group fundraising for everyone that automatically adds funders to your nation.
  • smartCommunicator: Surveys and custom forms for phone, web, mobile, and email.
  • Summit Political Apps: Custom iPhone and Android mobile apps for campaigns and constituent outreach.
  • Telephone Town Hall Meeting: Reach tens of thousands of voters simultaneously with an interactive call.

If you’re a developer interested in building your own app or integrating with NationBuilder, we are here to help—and get you a free developer nation. Check out the API documentation, our developer forum, or contact Adriel Hampton to get started.

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