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Keep your community close through digital organizing
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Keep your community close through digital organizing

How organizing online can strengthen community engagement in times of crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to dramatically impact the ways people organize on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean that the work you’re passionate about has to come to a halt. On the contrary, vulnerable populations need your support even more during this time of crisis. Our software was created to provide everyone with the digital tools they need to successfully organize their communities both on and offline. As social distancing shifts the way we operate as a society, we want to help you switch up your tactics to lean hard on the tools that bring your community together onlineand keep it growing.

Hosting virtual events
In-person events likely play a major part in your organizing strategy. While meeting in real life might be off the table for now, video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts make it possible to host most events virtually. 

Not only do virtual events align with the current guidelines around social distancing, they’re also much more cost-effective. All it really takes to get a virtual event set up is to create an event page with a link to the video conferencing tool you’ll be using, invite your supporters, and start sharing out the page via email, social media, etc. All the coordination around logistics like an event space, meals, and transportation fall away, and you can keep more of your focus on the purpose and programming of the event itselfwhich should give your supporters the opportunity to engage with one another, hear from your organization or cause, and stay excited about the work you’re doing.

You can also equip your community to self-organize with user-submitted events, making it that much easier to create more virtual spaces for supporters to connect with one another and bring new recruits into the fold.

Facilitating a virtual event can be challenging, but like many distributed organizations, this is something that we have been doing here at NationBuilder for a while. Here are some tips on facilitating: 

  • Create or share agreements at the top so people know how to participate
  • Orient people to the technology - where the mute button is, or how to go on/off video (suggest they stay on video!)
  • When people are speaking, ask them to state their name - and when they are not speaking, ask them to mute
  • Have a call to action for people to engage with during the virtual event

Optimize online fundraising
We know fundraising is a critical element of your workwhether you’re building a movement, managing a nonprofit, or running a campaign. Our action pages are built to maximize and diversify the actions your supporters can take, and make it that much easier for them to donate again. But what’s even more important now is to optimize the steps you take before your supporters donate and the path you will put them on once they do.

With your communications exclusively online, it’s essential that you set up a tagging infrastructure on all your website’s pages, and implement paths to ensure supporters are taken to the proper next step in their engagement with your organization. This way, you can continue to cater your asks to their individual experience as a supporter of your cause, and make your communications that much more human at a time when in-person communication is not an option.

Engage your volunteers
You’ve worked hard to build up your volunteer program and basedon’t let it fizzle out now. This is an important time to make sure you’re staying in touch with your volunteers, letting them know exactly how they can help keep your work moving, and updating them on any new roles you may have created due to the current circumstances. You’ll want to shift your focus to the digital roles your volunteers can take onperhaps you’ll start recruiting more social ambassadors or shift your focus to new contributors for your weekly newsletter. Think about the roles that can be fulfilled online and how they can contribute to moving your cause forward, then conduct purposeful and thoughtful outreach to your volunteer base, as well as people who have shown interest but haven’t volunteered yet.

Make information easily accessible
Easy access to accurate information becomes key when empowering your supporters online. This means you should ensure that all the resources and tools you’d usually share across various settings (e.g. at an event, in the office) are readily and openly available for reading, downloading, and sharingideally on a dedicated page of your website.

You can keep supporters updated on these resources via social media, which makes sharing materials with their networks a simple click away, and through targeted email blasts to your supporter base, where you can customize your audience based on their role with your organization and send out the resources that are most relevant to each group.

And, in line with readily-available resources, you can encourage supporters to share their own insights, strategic tips, and tools with one another through user-submitted blogs. A supporter might come across some helpful practices in their work, and making it easier for them to share that information with your community can have lasting ripple effects.

Drive quick action with petitions
Petitions are a great resource to quickly get people interested in and fired up about your cause. With the right tools, they’re easy to share far and wide, and a low-barrier ask of potential supporters. 

Keep up your outreach with phone banking
If you can’t meet in person and go door-to-door, you can still keep a connection with your growing community via phone. You can organize phone banking sessions with your volunteers and assign them lists of people to call from your database, they use the call view in the NationBuilder control panel as they track the conversations they are having.

Deepen relationships
In times of crisis, building relationships is more important than ever. During a period of only online interactions, you can get creative about how to deepen relationships between your supporters. Rely on the leaders within your organization, distribute leadership, and create a variety of spaces to make sure everyone’s voices are heard. You can pair people up for “virtual lunches,” host Story Circles to practice listening and building community through storytelling, or host an online gathering for your entire organization. 

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