People section updates simplify workflow

The People section just got smarter. Now you can create a universe and engage everyone in that universe within the same browser window.

people section

A few ways the new single person view simplifies event planning and followup:

  • Want to reach out to recent donors and invite them to an event? Create a filter click on the funnel to begin filtering and use single person view click the person icon to view individual profiles to log a contact, RSVP for the event, and accept ticket payment over the phone.
  • Did you remember that only 50% of RSVPs typically show up to an event? Target them for reminder phone calls and log the contact.
  • After the event, beef up your online engagement by inviting attendees to join a rapid response team. 

Using single person view, you can edit all aspects of a profile before moving onto the next person in the filter. Consider using this workflow rather than call view or data entry view in a list.

Since you'll never need to open multiple browser windows, you'll also find this is a better alternative to Dashboard > Followup view. 

Let us know how you streamline community engagement. 


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Why Every Nonprofit Should Organize

Does your nonprofit engagement strategy consist of a weekly email blast alongside the occasional Facebook post? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone! As a nonprofit organizer, I see hundreds of organizations struggling to answer the same question: How can we engage our community in a way that mobilizes people to take action?

Community building is essential for nonprofits, because you can’t move the needle on important social issues without an engaged and committed supporter base. Yet, many organizations default to a mass marketing approach that is focused on list building and email open rates, overlooking the most important ingredient to change - empowerment. 

Many nonprofits struggle to get to know their supporters, identify effective ways to engage them, and leverage the full potential of their network. Community organizing has the potential to address these challenges.

Popularized by the Obama campaign, organizing is a completely different model that focuses on relationship building instead of list building, prioritizes peer to peer asks instead of institutional asks, and values empowerment over brand loyalty.

By applying the key principles of organizing to your engagement strategy, every nonprofit has the potential to make a much larger impact.


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2014 Word of the Year

Merriam-Webster recently announced the 2014 word of the year: culture. The criteria required to earn such a title? Sheer number of internet searches. Apparently, “culture” made a lot of folks curious this year.

Joshua Rothman at The New Yorker outlined some of the possible reasons behind this existential quest for culture. His theory? "More people looked up culture this year because it’s become an unsettling word.”

Rothman speculates our yearning for definition derives from the fracturing of our current society. (Honestly, Rothman’s description leaves me with the visual of America as a 21st century Humpty Dumpty – we’re all the King’s men, clinging to the pieces and jamming them together with superglue.)

Perhaps it’s my optimistic side, but I’m inclined to disagree with such a pessimistic analysis. You see, maybe the internet searchers of 2014 just wanted a place to belong, a place to be recognized and remembered – a community. By searching for culture in general, they were just looking for a culture they could connect to. 

When People Search
Have you heard of the #MuseumSelfie? Once a year, Museum professionals cringe at the scourge of visitors running rampant through galleries, taking photos of themselves next to priceless artifacts. Sound silly? Let’s look at the statistics from Tweet Archivist:


Over one hundred million impressions in 24 hours. Twenty thousand tweets. Sounds to me like thousands of people were using the hashtag to take part in a larger movement that engages these cultural institutions. What would happen if museums embraced the #MuseumSelfie and built a community out of it?

Perhaps society’s interest in culture isn’t a passive disgust with how things are, but a nation-wide extension of arms toward something bigger than ourselves. To Rothman’s credit, he did end his analysis on a high note saying, “Confusion over its evolving meaning is a good reason to look up “culture” in the dictionary, but so is an interest in understanding the world and making it better.” 

What’s next?

It’s 2015 and people are looking at their current surroundings to make connections. If you are an organization it means your supporters want to belong – really belong. They don’t just want an email once a month, they want to be part of your community. They want to know the other people who are part of your community, so give them a chance!

There is a lot more to be said on this topic, but I’m going to boil it down to a single fact:

Fact 1: According to a study by Walden University 82% of adults reported participation in positive action towards social change in the last six months of 2014.

The current adult population not only cares, but it is actively working to give their time, energy, and resources to support causes they care about.

Try and get them engaged. Pay attention to the silly hashtags. Talk to them like people and treat them like a friend. Introduce them to each other and give them real actions (not just donations) to contribute. Let them be a part of your culture and they won’t let you down.

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Building community one story at a time

210742_483653044987035_1291169634_o.jpgTwo years ago, I found myself sitting around a dinner table with some truly impressive people. One started LA’s premiere social impact focused co-working space. Another had recently published an op-ed in the New York Times and was writing a book about his experience transitioning from Wall Street to founding a nonprofit. A third started a massive electronics recycling social venture. They were gathered to discuss increasing the profile of the LA social entrepreneurship scene.

Me? I was there as a guest of my friend who had just started working with the White House on introducing a new model of social impact funding.


In most crowds, I’m no slouch. I have a background in nonprofit management and consulting along with a growing profile as a storyteller and solo performer. But it was all so unfocused. I’d been working on an idea that would combine my passion for story with my commitment to making the world a better place. But it was still a half baked thought cloud.

So everyone’s going around the table introducing themselves and I know that it’s going to get to me eventually. Suddenly it’s my turn and I have no idea what to say. My eyes roam around the table at all of these amazing people illuminated in the faint glow of candles, and my mouth opens.

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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. 


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


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, 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, 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.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 11.33.09 AM.png

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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