This year, the race for open positions on the San Francisco city school board is highly competitive, with eleven candidates, three of them incumbents, competing for four seats. And in a race that's sometimes seen as a jumping off point for higher politcal office, the candidates' roster this year is full of serious education advocates.
Three challengers are running their campaigns using NationBuilder and they say our community organizing system is giving them an edge.
Beverly Ho-A-Hun Popek
Beverly Popek is a first generation Chinese American and San Francisco native who has received a number of endorsements from prominent Asian-American community leaders. She is one of four challengers being backed by the teachers’ union, the United Educators of San Francisco, which is intent on unseating all three incumbent school board members.
Beverly attended public schools and has two sons enrolled in a Mandarin Immersion Program at Jose Ortega Elementary. She is single handedly running her campaign - without the help of consultants - using NationBuilder. When she was choosing a software to use, she picked NationBuilder because it was easy to use. "When I decided I wanted to run for school board, I did my own research on campaign software. When I tried NationBuilder my website was really simple to set up because the pages were already designed and ready to go. It's so clean and easy. It's a good match for me because it's just me running my campaign."
Beverly is also taking full advantage of NationBuilder's social media integration, which sets her campaign website apart from competitors who focus heavily on Facebook as their hub. "The website integration with Facebook and Twitter was a big selling point. It helps me connect more directly with my supporters."
Gladys Soto is running to represent San Francisco’s Latino community and English as a second language speakers on the board of education. She was also one of the first of scores of San Francisco candidates to adopt NationBuilder.
Elaine Santore, who handles communications and social media for Gladys' campaign, said their team likes working with NationBuilder because it keeps everyone involved and on the same page. "It's really nice for everyone to be working with the same program so we're not dealing with a bunch of separate systems. It makes coordination easy. When I don't work with NationBuilder, I feel a headache coming on."
NationBuilder's integrated contacts database and website allows the Soto campaign to coordinate their communications and outreach over email, Twitter and Facebook. "Before NationBuilder, it didn't even occur to me how helpful it would be to have a contacts database," said Santore. "It's really convenient because any way people sign into the system, we're able to contact them. I can easily email everyone on our volunteer list from the database so I don't have to deal with email chains."
Prior to running for school board, Sam Rodriguez was Assistant Director of Science and Education at the DOE under Bill Clinton and helped Gray Davis create the state's first Labor and Workforce Agency. Sam is also one of the four challengers benefitting from teachers' union support.
"We're using NationBuilder to build momentum and keep people interested," said Helen Lei, who works on the Rodriguez campaign. "From sending out email blasts updating supporters on the campaign's progress and for fundraising, to creating call lists and sending personal thank you notes."
NationBuilder's engagement pages have helped Sam create his own citizen advisory board made up of local parents. When they sign up to volunteer with his campaign, interested parents can select that they would like join his Parent Advisory Committee. Then the campaign creates meet-up sessions with the group so that Sam can hear their concerns and get their input.
"Sam’s website is very interactive," said Lei. "You can do more than just donate – you can endorse him, sign up to volunteer for the campaign or join the parent’s advisory group."