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Experts blog

Welcome our newest Experts!

experts-ribbon-new-logo.pngCertified Experts are well-versed in using NationBuilder and possess a unique skill set to help communities organize online. They are qualified to provide consulting services to NationBuilder customers, and eligible for referrals from NationBuilder Organizers.

Last month, we added several new Experts to the lineup:

  • Chris Robinson is a Hill staffer and activist turned digital organizer. Based in DC, Chris has experience working with the Peace Corps and members of Congress.

  • Linda Wu Pagano is the resident expert at BackOfficeThinking, a Pennsylvania based non-profit consulting agency focused on growing medium-large sized non-profits.

  • Imran Moin is using his background in business development and finance to help local musicians and artists build their audience with NationBuilder.

  • Brad Hover is a LA based business professional helping small businesses grow their customer base and operate more efficiently.

  • Garrett Stark is a Tennessee based labor organizer with over ten years of grassroots experience. He's worked with a variety of unions, including SEIU, and also enjoys cross-sectional labor campaigns.

Check out our complete directory to find an Expert who can help your organization with exceptional workflow strategy, website setup, and data management.

Know NationBuilder like the back of your hand? Use your knowledge to consult and manage nations for organizations of all types and sizes—get certified today. 

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Big upgrade to the NationBuilder Member addon

We made a few big (and exciting!) changes to how memberships work. Key features of the free Member addon include:  

  • Multiple memberships per person (highly requested)
  • Both free and paid membership types
  • Automatic monthly renewals
  • Unlimited membership pages
  • Better automated email management: customizable reminders to renew, etc.
  • Members-only access to portions of your website
  • Give memberships automatically on any kind of page - including event RSVPs, petition signers, and endorsements
  • Import membership information from other systems

In addition, you’ll leverage core NationBuilder features like mapping and automatically syncing to Facebook and Twitter accounts. This makes it easy to personally engage with your members and identify the leaders you can ask to be more involved. Check out the Memberships HOWTO for more details.

There are a lot of ways to use the new Member addon -- here are a few to get your wheels spinning:

  • Monthly paid memberships: create a Donation page, check monthly payment, and set the membership expiration date to never.
  • Annual dues for your club: create a Donation page, check one-time payment, and set the membership expiration date to one year. You can customize the automatic renewal reminder they’ll receive when it is about to expire.
  • Free membership for one year: create a Signup page and set the membership expiration to one year.

If you are currently using the old paid membership pages, read the HOWTO for information about upgrading or contact your organizer.

If you’re not using memberships yet, now is the perfect time to start. The Member addon is included with your NationBuilder subscription at no extra charge, you just need an admin of your nation to turn it on under Settings > Billing & addons. And if you’ve got an old membership database laying around, we can help you migrate it for free.

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Busy? We’ll import your data for you.

There’s a feeling you get when you know your data is safe. It’s all in one place. Life is wonderful.

We want to help you get there faster.

Starting today, we are now offering *free* manual data importing during the trial period. And for the next month (until the end of July), we’re extending that offer to all existing customers.

You know that email system, your Google contacts, your old donor database, that random fundraiser you had two years ago with all the RSVPs in an Excel spreadsheet? We’ll take care of it.

And once it’s in NationBuilder, it will automatically sync to Facebook and Twitter. Instead of only email addresses, you’ll see pictures and bios and friends. It’s the first important step to building those relationships and organizing your community. And it means sleeping easy at night knowing your data is protected.

Our team of data specialists is ready to make sure it gets into your nation perfectly—just contact your organizer with a general idea of what you want to do, and we’ll take it from there. 

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Using NationBuilder to connect filmmakers with their audience

Last year, I went to a screening of Fruitvale Station—a film based on the events leading to the death of Oscar Grant. During the Q&A, screenwriter and director Ryan Coogler recounted how the film came together through the participation of the community and the people who personally knew Grant. They organized around a common desire to share his story with the rest of the world.

In order to successfully produce a film, filmmakers need to promote content, connect with their audience, and manage their digital presence—but not every project has the budget to hire a high-profile agency.

That’s where NationBuilder can help—by turning your website into an interactive portal, you can create meaningful relationships with existing fans while expanding your supporter base at the same time. In fact, films like The Invisible War, The Bully Project, and Dear White People are just a few examples of how filmmakers are using NationBuilder to organize and promote their projects...with huge success.

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NationBuilder field offices…Canada or bust! (and Austin and Oakland)

field-office-moose-tank.pngThank you for helping us pick locations for NationBuilder field offices last week. We were totally shocked by the number of responses that came in. Based on the feedback, we have decided to move forward immediately with offices in the following cities: Toronto, Vancouver, Oakland, and Austin. That’s right, we’re coming to Canada!

Do you know any great tech-savvy and fearless potential organizers in those cities? Please encourage them to apply! We are accepting applications immediately for politics and advocacy, nonprofits and universities, and brands/small business organizers. There are more details on how to apply at those links.

If you have a friend who is interested but doesn’t live near a city on the list, don’t worry—ask them to fill out this form and let them know we will be opening additional offices over the course of the next year.

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Top Three Finishers in CA District 26 Primary use NationBuilder


Eight states held primaries last Tuesday, including California. Primaries are especially competitive in California because of term limits and a unique open primary system where all parties are on one ballot and two winners advance to the general election. That means California can have Democrat vs. Democrat or Republican vs. Republican general elections, making primaries really interesting. 

People following closely couldn’t take their eyes off the State Senate race in CA's 26th district, where five strong candidates emerged, but only two could win. The top three finishers were NationBuilder customers Ben Allen, Sandra Fluke, and Seth Stodder, followed closely by Betsy Butler, who redirected parts of her own site to NationBuilder action pages.

All candidates were within a mere 6.3 percentage points of each other, and no one beat the next best finisher by more than 2.2%.

Given the strength of showing for the candidates using advanced digital organizing tactics, it is worth dissecting what might have made this very narrow difference in such a social media heavy district. First, we'll look at external-facing digital organizing tactics, and then we'll take a peek behind the scenes at the data.


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New NationBuilder Apps - Walkathons, Raiser’s Edge, Voter modeling, and more

We believe communities can create things that were never imaginable before. And yet, every day, I’m in awe of just how skilled and talented the NationBuilder community is. There are now over 40 apps in the directory. Check it out—here are a few of the latest to come online:

You can find the full list in the directory, and the new sync icon shows the apps that automatically update your nation’s database. If there are apps you’d like to see integrated, or whole new areas of functionality you need, please let your organizer know.

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

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CityZen, the newest NationBuilder theme

We’re pretty excited about the new theme from our friends at Tectonica, though I was a little confused the first time Jesse told me they wanted to call it CityZen. City? Zen? ...Huh?

The mockups looked great, but I remained perplexed until the end of the meeting. Ohhhhh, I get it! Citizen, a theme for governments!

So, yeah, that happened.

If you’re looking for more space to show off your content, CityZen is the first NationBuilder theme to feature a slide-out sidebar. You can choose from four different color variations—and because it’s responsive, CityZen looks great on any device.



See all of CityZen’s features in action on the demo site, or visit our public theme gallery for more info.


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Update from NationBuilder on denial of service attacks

NationBuilder began experiencing a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Monday, resulting in a full service outage from 1:07pm to 5:35pm PT, and intermittent outages through Tuesday morning. These attacks did not compromise any of your data or financial information.

We responded immediately to get all sites back online, and have been implementing a variety of countermeasures as fast as we can to ensure full service availability.

A DDoS attack is when a large number of computers (a “botnet”) flood the network. This clogged the pipes that lead to our servers, preventing access to NationBuilder. Technically, our servers were fine during the attacks, people just couldn’t reach them.

As we stated yesterday, we are reasonably certain one of our customers was targeted for their political beliefs and the attacks were an attempt to disrupt upcoming elections.

NationBuilder exists to provide the infrastructure for organizing – and that infrastructure must withstand any attacks.

And this week, we failed. We are deeply sorry.

The only good news to come of this is that we are dramatically stronger than we were before, both in our technical infrastructure and in our effectiveness as a team. We cannot promise this will never happen again, but we can promise that we will continue to invest heavily in our infrastructure to withstand any and all attacks.

We know we can’t make up for something that has immeasurable impact. However, we will be issuing you a credit equivalent to one week of service on your next bill because it is the right thing to do.

Thanks for all of the words of support and encouragement during this time. As always, our organizers are here to help. If you have additional questions, call us at 213-394-4623 or email help@nationbuilder.com.

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NationBuilder’s response to the DDoS attack

NationBuilder began experiencing a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack yesterday, resulting in intermittent service outages. Your data and financial information is secure, and we will not rest until service is fully restored for everyone.

We are reasonably certain the attack is directed at one of our customers for their political beliefs, and is meant to disrupt upcoming elections.

We know the impact is immeasurable, and we are very, very sorry. We are fiercely committed to serving all of our customers. Everyone has the right to organize – in fact, this is the very reason NationBuilder exists. We are grateful to all of you who have been communicating your support.

Our organizers are available 24/7 to help. Call us at 213-394-4623, or email help@nationbuilder.com. We will keep everyone informed through Twitter and you can monitor current availability as always through status.nationbuilder.com.

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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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