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NationBuilder’s ‘Workflows’ feature allows you to create and run automated email series that help streamline your team’s digital engagement with supporters, while saving valuable time on administration. By using ‘liquid’, it is possible to create email journeys for your users that are bespoke depending on the actions that they take, helping you build relationships and drive supporters to action. 

What is liquid?

NationBuilder uses the open source liquid template programattic language to access  data points from within your database. This can be used to display dynamic, customized content on websites or emails. Here are some examples of how you can use it:

  • Using liquid to display fields: In the same way you can use smart fields to pull information from people’s records within your nation, the underlying language behind this is liquid, and it’s possible to use liquid variables in emails to display dynamic fields
  • Using liquid conditionals: You can also use conditionals to display swathes of content (e.g. paragraphs, photos, buttons, links, etc.) based on criteria that you set. For example, using an ‘if’/’else’ conditional, you can send one piece of content to all volunteers and another to all non-volunteers without having to send separate emails. For more information on liquid variables and conditionals you can check out our documentation

Email series for event recruitment

For example, say you have an important event coming up; you’ve identified a group of invitees and added them to a list. You know that some people on this list will RSVP after the first email they receive, and others will need to receive a follow-up to help nudge them along. By using liquid logic, you can build a series that will query whether or not the recipient has RSVPed (and has the relevant tag) and send a tailored message accordingly. 

So for those who have RSVPed, you can send them other asks (e.g. encouraging them to donate or recruit their friends) and for those who haven’t, you can follow up with them to ensure that they do attend. 

The email series you build could look like the example below (which has a primary goal of getting people to attend and secondary goals of getting them to donate and/or recruit for the event).

This is a fairly straightforward example that is linked to prescribed tags, but you could use a similar sort of model for different campaigns (e.g. petitions, fundraising, recruitment, surveys, etc.) and by using auto tags set to filter criteria, you could  make more complex workflows. For instance, if person X opens email 1 but doesn’t click or take action, they get different text in email 2 than person Y who did take action, and person Z, who didn’t open at all.

Building your email automation series

Start by going into the workflows feature and start by creating a name, a description, and choosing the audience. In this case that would be a list you’ve created of all the people you think might be interested in your event, like supporters who are in or close to your city. 

Email 1: Starting with your first email, you will go through the process of setting up an email blast as usual. Since this email has the same messaging going to the full email list,  you don’t need to worry about any liquid variables at this stage. For this example, I’m going to complete the copy as usual with the subject “Can you make it to our London launch event” inviting people to my event and sharing the link with a button. Then click ‘add to automation’ to complete it.

Email 2: Next, click ‘+ Add’ in your automation series to add your next email. For this, I’m going to add a time delay of 7 days before sending the second email, which I’ll call ‘event activation email 2,’ and in my description I’m going to explain the two messages that I’ll be sending. 

I’ll use liquid variables and link them to the tags that would have been made for anyone who signed up. First, to make this work I need to make sure my event page is configured to add tags to anyone who RSVPs. In this situation I’m going to have a tag. ‘RSVP:LondonLaunch:Jan2020.’

I’ll set up my email as usual and then use the following for content: 

As you can see,we’ve included the relevant liquid logic tags (coloured in blue).  This will mean that all those with the tag “RSVP:LondonLaunch:Jan2020” will receive the first variation of text and the red email button, and everyone else will receive the second variation with the green button. The image above shows how this would look within your NationBuilder control panel. The preview on the left is just pulling through what is relevant for the editing user in the template; as that user doesn’t have the relevant tag, they are just getting the second message. 

Finally, I’m going to configure the donation page that I‘m directing people to in email 2 and will tag anyone who donates with “Donor:LondonLaunch:Jan2020. This will be useful in the next step.

Email 3: Again I’m going to choose a one week delay and give it a suitable name and description. This time I’ll use a different broadcaster and “from” name, as I want to add a bit of variation to encourage open rates and action. 

I’m now ready to set up my third email as follows; this time I’ve included the email in text form so you can see the variables in full. 


Hi "First name or 'Friend'"

{% if recipient.tag_list contains "RSVP:LondonLaunch:Jan2020” and recipient.tag_list contains "Donor:LondonLaunch:Jan2020”%} Thanks again for signing up and for your kind donation of "Last donation amount" this is so greatly received and will  help us to make progress towards our 2020 goals. 

With one week to go until the event we have one more favour to ask: could you share the following link with any friends or family over email/text/whatsapp/social media to help fill the final spots and make the event a huge success? The link to share is:"Recruiter code"

{% elsif recipient.tag_list contains "RSVP:LondonLaunch:Jan2020”} Thanks again for signing us for our forthcoming launch event. We’re really excited and it’s great you can join us. 

To help us fill the final spots, we’d be hugely grateful if you could share the following link with any friends or family over email/text/whatsapp/social media to help fill the final spots and make the event a huge success? The link to share is:"Recruiter code"

{% else %}I just wanted to reach out one last time to say that the final few spots for next week’s event are going fast, but it would be great if you could join us. 

Alternatively, if you can’t make it but know others who can, please do invite them along by sharing this link:"Recruiter code" - Or donate to our campaign fund for 2020

{% endif %} Thank you in advance for all your support. 

Best wishes, etc

As above, you can see we have our three audiences: (i) those who have RSVPed AND donated; (ii) those who have just RSVPed (but not donated, as these will receive the first variation); (iii) everyone else (i.e. those who haven’t RSVPed). 

You will also notice I’ve used the smart fields: ‘last donation amount’ (which helps to personalise the email) and the Recruiter Code which included on the end of the URL will give a unique trackable link and let you know who that person was able to recruit (if anyone). 

With that, my series is ready for launch!

Here are tips and things to consider when using liquid and automations:

  • Use saved filters to query more conditions: Automatically assign auto-tags to anyone in your nation who fits a certain saved filter criteria, so you can track who has clicked or opened the first email blast in the series, and then send different content accordingly. See this example/diagram.
  • Be creative: We’ve only scratched the surface by looking at tags, but there’s lots more functionality you can use. For example, the variable {% if recipient.is_donor? %}, finds if the recipient has any donation history. There are also no limits to the number of variations, so you can create more and more versions as you fine tune your process. For a full list of objects and variables, see here. 
  • Plan thoroughly and test:  Make sure you think through all the options available in an email journey. For example, you may have already set up auto responses, you may need to set up tags if you’re going to use them, etc. Also, be sure to fine tune your content to be as original as possible — it will make all the difference as you personalize it  at scale. To assist with the planning of your automations, click here to access the Email Automation Planning Template, complete with two email automation examples. 
  • Be careful if copying and pasting: In order to work properly, the liquid variables will need to have all formatting removed. So, double check that formatting wasn’t added when you copy and paste. This can be removed by selecting the liquid and clicking the ‘clear formatting’ button or clicking into the source code to inspect for any formatting.

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