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New: Household targeting with NationBuilder

Have you ever opened your mailbox and discovered four of the exact same flyers? That’s what happens when your snail mail list has not grouped all the people who live in the same house together. The industry lingo for that is “householding.”

NationBuilder now does that automatically. All the details are in the HOWTO.

On top of that, NationBuilder also allows you to target people based on the makeup of their household. For example:

  • a household with one Republican and one Democrat
  • a household with only one donor
  • a household where everyone voted in the last primary election

Targeting by household works with any information about a person in NationBuilder…and then you just specify whether it’s everyone, no one, or one/two/three/four people in a household.

Three extra flyers won’t get you four more years, and it’s expensive. We hope you enjoy the update.

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Customize your walk+call sheet themes in NationBuilder

Have you ever wanted just one more field on your walk sheet? Has your candidate ever screamed about not knowing the assistant’s name for that big donor? Have you ever gone home late at night and cried over not having enough clipboard space?

We have. But not anymore.

Fully customizable call and walk sheets are now available in NationBuilder, and there are eight public themes you can use right away. If you want complete control, you can create your own custom theme using the liquid templating language, just like website and email themes.  

All of the information about a person is available including:

  • donation history
  • contact history
  • demographics
  • party affiliation
  • custom fields
  • anything in your nation

We hope you enjoy the update. For more info on creating a custom theme, check out the HOWTO

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How to figure out your fully loaded cost of technology

Screen_Shot_2014-04-29_at_12.18.51_PM.pngWe often speak with organizations that are considering upgrading their technology with NationBuilder, but have some concern over the cost. For the Executive Director, CFO, or COO of the organization, there is a more holistic way to view the costs of technology—including opportunity cost and staff efficiency.

To illustrate, I put together an example of a mid-size nonprofit with an annual budget of $2 million, 8-10 staffers, and an email list of 100,000 people they want to grow to 200,000. Let's see what happens financially when they bring on the NationBuilder platform.

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Updates to people targeting in NationBuilder

We combined advanced search and filtering into one interface. Just click on the People tab, and all the advanced search functionality is right there inside the little icon that looks like a funnel.

There will be a notification to point it out when you first sign in to your control panel. You may also notice a few other usability improvements there as well. We hope you like them.

P.S. A few months ago we dramatically improved how targeting works. If you haven’t had a chance to play around with it, check out the HOWTO for more details.

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Collective: a new responsive theme from NationBuilder

The NationBuilder design team is on a roll—they just released Collective, our second responsive theme in a month. It’s versatile, modern, and great for showcasing photos. Collective also features a completely redesigned blog page, and eight different styles. Check out the demo site...it’s hot.


You can switch to Collective from your control panel under Websites > Theme > Switch to a public theme > Collective (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.

Have fun! You can view all the public themes and styles in the gallery.

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Important changes to monthly donations

A few weeks ago we released staged donation pages, and now we've made a few more changes and enhancements to how donation pages work. The biggest change is that monthly donations are no longer tied to paid memberships (I can hear a few of you weeping for joy...) So, instead of creating a paid membership page, just create a donation page and turn on monthly donations.

We also added a few more features:

1. Monthly installments. We made it easier for people to contribute to things they care about without having to drop a lump sum of money all at once. If you’re running for office in November, people can commit to a $500 donation and pay for it through installments every month between now and the election. Or, let’s say your congregation needs to build a new church—people can commit to donate $2400 and pay a hundred dollars every month for two years.

2. Infinite donation pages. This isn’t actually a new feature, but it’s worth noting because it’s so unique. Create a special donation page for each of your board members, or give your top fundraisers their own page—because there’s no limit to the number of donation pages you can create (or any page type in NationBuilder). 

3. Fixed donation amounts. Imagine what you can do with a donation page when you can specify exactly how much someone can donate. For instance, you can set up basic store functionality by offering a t-shirt for a $20 donation. And since you can create as many donation pages as you want, you can run a crowdfunding style campaign with multiple levels of rewards. Each donation page tags people differently, so you can keep track of which reward to send them.

Things to note about monthly payments: 
You must be using a payment provider that supports recurring payments such as Authorize.net and PayPal Express. If you have any existing donation pages with custom templates, you need to make a few template updates that are documented here. Or, you can create a new one—donation templates that have not been customized on a theme will automatically inherit these new features.

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Using a Recruiter page to increase engagement

NationBuilder has 29 pre-built page types to choose from, so you can create a website that's as functional as it is beautiful. A lot of organizations need a Donation page, a Volunteer page, and a Blog page, but I'd like to spotlight another page type that can add a crucial layer of engagement to your website—the Recruiter page. 


Creating an action-oriented website that allows supporters to participate is important, and enabling people to share those activities across social media takes online engagement one step further. However, organizations and supporters alike also want to know when they’ve been successful. This is where the Recruiting page can help.

The first thing to remember is that any supporter who joins your nation is automatically assigned a recruiter id that can be used in many places from Leaderboards to Personal Fundraising pages. I'm frequently asked, "How can I include share buttons in my email blast?" The short answer? We have a page type for that.

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How to run a cutting-edge digital field campaign with NationBuilder

I work with a lot of political customers, and I often hear, “NationBuilder is a great system for engaging with people online, but can you really use it to run a field campaign for a major election?” The answer, of course, is yes! A resounding yes, in fact, because NationBuilder allows you to do things campaigns couldn’t even have attempted just a few short years ago. 


Every political operative knows that a field campaign has two main tasks:

- Identify voters as supporters, undecideds, or non-supporters.
- Engage supporters, both to ensure that they vote and to turn them into volunteers and leaders.

Excelling at one task will positively affect the other, creating a virtuous cycle that builds momentum for your campaign. Traditionally, field campaign success was attributed to a high volume of phone calls and door knocking (and those are still important), but NationBuilder opens up a slew of new possibilities for effective engagement. So, where do you start?

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Find donors who haven't contributed recently

The response to the new advanced search + targeting has been great, and based on your feedback, we realized there was one important thing missing: relative date searches. 

Instead of having to search for a specific date, you can now search by activity in the last six months, not in the last three weeks, or anytime within the last year. This makes it possible to:

  • Find active voters who are on the fence and haven’t been contacted recently.

  • Search for supportive donors who haven’t contributed recently.

  • Reach out to people with memberships that are expiring soon to ask them to renew.

Learn more in our HOWTO, and let us know what you think. 

P.S. We also added the ability to search people based on the number of Facebook posts liked, and the number of times they've retweeted or mentioned you on Twitter, amongst a few other social things. 

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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.


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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