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Over the last two years, a global pandemic has changed us. It’s changed the way we think about each other, our perspective on what’s important, and our awareness of the things we take for granted. As we’ve mourned and adapted, this global tragedy and shared experience has changed the way we want to live and work—for now, and in some cases, forever. 

While quarantines kept us apart, we flocked to new technologies to help us stay together. Millions of people wanted to help and contribute in a time of need, while simultaneously wrestling with how to be a “part of” anything at all in our new, more digital, lives. Communities everywhere wrestled with being together, apart.

Helping leaders meet the challenges of building community in this new era is our work here at NationBuilder. As the world’s only software for leaders, we know that the infrastructure we provide for nonprofits, advocacy efforts, campaigns, and brands matters—now more than ever. And in this new era of engagement, we take that responsibility very seriously. Leaders deserve cutting-edge innovation to help them engage new supporters, meet existing supporters where they are, and lead their communities to action. 

That’s why we’re so proud to have made over 1,500 product improvements in 2021, all in service of innovating the product to meet the demands of this era. In the year to come, our product innovation will be driven by three key areas of insight based on our research, the best practices of engagement in this new digital era, and the experiences of leaders all over the world.

1. Organizations must meet their existing and prospective supporters where they are

If we didn’t know it already, the past two years have made it abundantly clear that organizations must be sufficiently agile to meet their existing and prospective supporters where they are. And, as 2021 made clear, “where they are” is evolving. The average American now consumes more than thirteen hours per day of screen time; 60% use two or more screens at once. Leaders are in competition for attention in this digital world, so they can’t just rely on traditional mass email to communicate and get their message out. Digital tools have to help leaders communicate with people via the medium of their choice.

That’s why we invested in the ability for customers to get their messages to new supporters way beyond inboxes. 2021 broke every text message record across our customer base—growing 100% YoY, as more direct connection became critical in uncertain times. And our acquisition of Action Button enabled nonprofit organizations and brands to meet new supporters by embedding their calls to action in content relevant to their missions, in articles on major publishers across the internet—engaging new supporters at the moment they’re moved to act on the very news that they’re reading.

2. Offering people easy, frictionless ways to take action can capture the once-in-a-generation interest that currently exists for purpose-driven work

More people than ever before want to engage in mission-driven campaigns, nonprofit organizations, or purpose-driven communities. As the public is asking for simple ways to participate, we’re building the tools to ensure that our customers are prepared to diversify the actions their supporters can take, while making taking action fun and easy.

In 2021, we added frictionless ways for people to donate, with the launch of Express Payment Options, and had record-breaking volume on NationBuilder Payments—up over 60% YoY. We also introduced completely new ways to move people to action, with the launch of our native advocacy functionality via the Action Button add-on, as well as sentiment polling, quiz functionality, and new ways to keep in touch with, listen to, and activate your community of supporters. Diversified actions mean increased engagement and loyalty of supporters over the long-term, as well as new on-ramps for bigger communities of support. Finally, some of our most successful users have mastered the art of making high-impact action really fun. Leaning into gamification via social capital and leaderboards can drive increased engagement via some of the most core best practices of organizing your community.

And in 2022, we’ll launch improvements to our existing automations product that will make it even easier to move your supporters to action, all while launching continuous improvements to our email editor to aid your team in building best-in-class outreach, simply. 

3. Trust is (still) everything

Trust has never been more critical. As we’re further away, more isolated, and living through trying times, our circle of those we trust for guidance has shifted. We’re also more savvy than ever before and wary of being “sold” or advertised to. So what does that mean for organizations trying to engage more people in their good work?

It means leaning on best-in-class tools that make good on a simple truth: your existing supporters are your best advocates and recruiters. In order to speak to supporters authentically—and to reach new ones—leaders must equip supporters to be their voice, as a fundraiser, local leader, or recruiter.

“Distribute leadership” has long been one of our product principles, and we’ve built solutions from personal fundraising pages and recruiter links all the way to NationBuilder Network, designed to facilitate powerful distributed organizing. But as distributing leadership became more critical than ever over the last two years, we evolved our product offering to meet the moment, launching a more streamlined and sophisticated way for organizations to build community among their supporters, and deputize them to lead the charge in increasing engagement and driving scale. Our first release of Groups is a step towards our vision to revolutionize what distributing leadership can look like for every organization. 2022 will bring more releases and improvements to truly usher in this new standard for distributed organizing across our customer base.  

The last two years have pushed us to look in the mirror and find out who we are—forcing us to evolve, and rise to new challenges, while reminding us of what’s important. As people around the globe seek to take action on what matters to them, we’re committed to being the infrastructure supporting their first action as well as their fiftieth, as we serve the mission-driven campaigns and organizations inviting them to participate in building the future.

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