I am in campaign mode and need to get up and running quickly with my website and other tools like events, volunteer recruitment, online donations and email blasting. What are the key things I need to know?
We often get asked for a "NationBuilder 101" or simple guide to setting up NationBuilder, so we've created this simple NationBuilder setup FAQ series to point out some of the key steps to quickly set up a lively and effective site on NationBuilder. The steps here can help just about any kind of nation get going quickly, whether you're a political campaign, nonprofit or NGO, or a small business or community group.
I know that NationBuilder integrates a bunch of technologies, like my social media accounts, online donations, voter data for political campaigns, and a flexible CMS with official and customizable themes. What should I have together to get that all linked up with my nation?
Yes! A big strength of NationBuilder is how well it pulls together activities from various other services and their APIs (application programming interfaces) into a filterable activity stream of all the activity from your prospects and supporters. There are five key things you want to get going on right away if you're using NationBuilder:
A Facebook Page. Here's where to set up a new Facebook Page, with some helpful tips for getting started - http://www.facebook.com/about/pages NationBuilder is going to help you integrate your Facebook supporters into your nation as they take actions such as clicking "like" on your Page posts and RSVPing for your events through Facebook.
Photos. An important part of building your website is having a collection of three or more great photos to display. If you don't have your own, Flickr's Creative Commons archives can be a great place to find some. Be sure to pay attention to the licensing rules, and you'll be able to put links to attribution for these shared photos in your NationBuilder site footer (In your control panel, Pages > Settings > Footer). Here is a link to Flickr's Creative Commons licensed photos - http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/
In general, key photos should be sized consistently. For feature photos, 660p wide is good, and you should have a consistent depth as well so you can set up sharp featured content sliders. If you don't have a favorite photo editing software, Pixlr.com (pixlr.com/editor), a web browser-based editor, can be helpful. You'll just download photos or pick from the web or your desktop and add them to Pixlr for cropping and resizing. If you want to use a dramatic photo-centric website theme like Focus or Resolve, you'll want a background image sized 1024x768 for the Focus theme (see internetismyreligion.com for an example) , or 960p wide and of consistent depth for the featured content sliders on Resolve (see coffeenation.org for an example).
NationBuilder will also prompt you for a logo during install (you can always add later under Websites > Settings > Logo), and square is the best size for that, like 150x150.
Written content. As you set up your NationBuilder website, you're going to want to quickly populate it with helpful descriptions of your candidate, organization, initiative, or business. Putting together several paragraphs of "about" text and an introductory blog post or two will get you going quickly with a useful website.
Bank account. If you want to take online donations or payments or set up a store for your nation (stores are a bit more of a "201" proposition, but here's a guide if you need to get one going quickly - nationbuilder.com/adding_ecwid_shopping_cart_nationbuilder), you'll need to connect a bank account. NationBuilder makes it easy to take online donations without a special merchant account using Democracy Engine or PayPal Express Checkout, but you still need a campaign or personal or business/organizational account to receive your donations.
For a full description of the online payment processors NationBuilder supports and their different options, check out this post - nationbuilder.com/how_much_does_nationbuilder_charge_for_donation_processing
NationBuilder has easy online signup with a 14-day free trial. Go to nationbuilder.com/startnow and enter your contact and billing info to get going. Once you sign up, you'll be prompted to install your account.
You'll be asked for basic details such as time zone and country that help NationBuilder customize features for you.
You'll need to enter a primary account name and email address - this should be the name and email of your candidate, campaign, initiative, business or organization, but you can easily change it later. You'll also be asked to connect your Twitter account (be sure you're logged in with the account you want to connect as the primary voice of the nation) and Facebook Page. You'll need to log into your personal Facebook account with permissions for the Page you want to connect, and you'll be prompted to pick from a list of all your pages which one you want to connect.
You'll be asked for a headline and purpose (this text will be a like a secondary headline on many of the official website themes) of your nation. You can leave the purpose blank if you want and it's easy to add later in the field at Websites > Settings > Basics > Subheadline.
You'll be prompted to create a phone number if you want one, and will be able to select an area code for that number. You can skip this and add later if you like.
NationBuilder will ask you to select default pages for your site, and you can uncheck any of these: blog, signup, volunteer signup, about, suggestion box, and calendar (events). For a full description of NationBuilder page types, check out nationbuilder.com/what_kinds_of_pages_can_i_have_on_my_nationbuilder_site You'll be able to select more pages later, and your defaults will also include core pages like Friends, Recruiting, Political Capital, Leadboards, Follows, Followers, Rules and Unsubscribe.
You'll also need to pick a website theme and style and a logo. The logo should be square and 150x150p is a good size. You can always change your website theme and style later under Websites > Theme, and you can review the available options at nationbuilder.com/nationbuilder_official_website_themes
Finally, you'll be asked to set the rules for your nation (the defaults are pretty popular), and the you'll be in your control panel, which is the nerve center of your new nation. Congrats!
For many NationBuilder setup activities, you'll be going back and forth to other websites and information sources, as well as looking at videos and FAQs while creating and customizing your pages and other accounts settings. Working in NationBuilder by opening a bunch of different tabs for different work activities is a good way to move quickly. Just be sure you're publishing pages that default to draft and saving your work frequently.
In the control panel, you'll be able to review activities, contacts and upcoming and past events in the Dashboard view. Under People, you'll be able to search and follow up with supporters and prospects and log contacts.
In Websites, you can edit and create new pages for your website and manage sitewide settings. Communication is the sub-section of the control panel where you can manage the voices of your nation and send social media messages, email newsletters and group text messages.
Finances is a handy section where you'll be able to quickly review donations and do advanced searches. Under Settings, you'll be able to do things like connect a bank account and manager your account and billing. Members of your nation with lower permission levels (See People > Point People > Permissions) will not be able to access all of these options.
Bank account setup is in the control panel under Settings > Bank accounts. The setup is most simple with a Democracy Engine account, and you'll be able to pick whether your nation is a nonprofit with tax deductible status and even set a custom disclosure form that someone must click through before making a donation (important for jurisdictions with unique campaign finance rules).
This video from NationBuilder Live walks you through the process and discusses available payment processors.
To set up a donation page after connecting your bank account, go to Websites > New page and select the Donation page type. You'll have a great set of customizable defaults to work from in setting up your public page for accepting credit cards.
Before you start emailing on NationBuilder, it's important to have a custom domain and email addresses that match that custom domain. We've made this easy for you with a guide to setting up a custom domain.
We also have some ideas for building up a good opt-in email list for your effort if you don't already have one:
You can import existing email contact lists by following the steps here:
After you have your custom domain and email address and an address list, you can set up your first email under Communications by selecting the representative of your nation you want the email to come from and clicking on "New blast."
There are a bunch of resources on your Communications options here.
Also see this guide on emailing with NationBuilder - nationbuilder.com/how_to_setup_email
NationBuilder pages frequently prompt folks to leave their cell phone numbers for mobile outreach and followup. For many campaigns and initiatives, text-based outreach can be very powerful. You can use the Messages tab to select a broadcaster and Texting to do simple mass texting campaigns. If you haven't already set up a phone number, you'll be prompted to do so before you begin a text campaign. You'll also need a texting plan (Settings > Billing & add-ons). Folks you contact will be able to text back and also to call the number (voicemails will come right back to your NationBuilder Dashboard and Messages sections).
Here's a video guide on setting up and using text messages - nationbuilder.com/how_to_text_messages
Easy access to voter data for qualified candidates and campaigns is one of our favorite parts of NationBuilder for politics. You'll need to be using the campaign edition of NationBuilder (if you're not, you can change this under Settings > Billing & add-ons > Edition). Then just go to People > Import > Request voter data and make your selections. Please note that it can take five to 10 business days to process a request, and up to three to six weeks if your request is for a newly created district or a custom build. You can find more about voter data at nationbuilder.com/supporter_data.
For regular basic and advanced trainings on things like setting up your website, using NationBuilder's people database, and working with voter data, check out our NationBuilder Live webinar schedule - nationbuilder.com/nblive
You can also view 30 on-demand how-to videos on our key features at nationbuilder.com/howto
We have hundreds of FAQs about various NationBuilder functions at nationbuilder.com/faq
You can also search on the FAQ page or in the footer of your control panel. In the footer, you'll also find our Support phone and email contact information, as well as links to our video tutorials specific to whichever area of the control panel you're working in.
Happy nation building!