More Than a Website: Maximizing the Organizing Power of Your Nation
August 01, 2016
Here at Tectonica, we’re big fans of NationBuilder. Our studio is one of a small number of companies that have the distinction of holding all three NationBuilder certifications (Architect, Expert, and Developer). We even went so far as to have every one of our staff members become a NationBuilder Expert. NationBuilder is a tool with so much potential, and we like to see its users take advantage of the full range of capabilities this powerful platform has to offer. While NationBuilder is a great CMS, it kills us when we see nonprofits and NGOs only using it to run their websites instead of utilizing the incredible organizational tools that are built into NationBuilder.
Designed as a full toolkit to empower leaders to build movements and engage supporters to take action, NationBuilder attracts changemakers who want to craft an online presence that will allow them to get big things done. While three US presidential campaigns are currently running their websites on NationBuilder - and we’re certainly excited that the needs of such high-profile campaigns can be met on this platform - it is not just for big-budget political campaigns. Even groups that operate on a smaller scale can and should be using NationBuilder to spread their message, engage their supporters, and achieve their organizational goals. It may seem overwhelming that just one platform has the potential to do all of these things, but the power of NationBuilder - when harnessed optimally - can truly transform your online capabilities.
If you’re just getting started with NationBuilder or want to enhance your current use of the platform, think of this as an introductory guide to understanding NationBuilder’s potential. We’ve come up with three key objectives that will help you take your use of NationBuilder to the next level:
Get more people into your Nation
Engage your followers to take action
Organize your supporters to achieve your organizational goals
By implementing the following strategy tips, you can take the first steps towards turning your Nation into a organizing powerhouse that can meet your needs.
Step 1: Getting More People into Your Nation
Here at Tectonica, we know the value of good web design. We create beautiful and effective sites that can take an organization’s digital presence to the next level. But having a great looking website doesn’t do much when no one is utilizing it to actually serve your organization’s goals. You need to get more people into your Nation so that you can organize these supporters to help you and your organization.
Recruitment efforts can come in all shapes and sizes. For instance, a well-designed social media campaign can give you a lot of exposure. Another possibility is looking into paid advertising options. Getting the word out about your cause can be difficult, and sometimes it can be beneficial to think outside the box in order to make this possible. We’ve had many former clients who were particularly concerned about this very issue for their own organizations and causes. When Defense of Children International - Palestine was looking for a new digital presence, we had to rethink how we could design the site in a way that would maximize the impact of their powerful stories. Using the narratives of those most affected by the conflict, we created a site that relies on human compassion to motivate concrete action. By highlighting the programmatic needs of this organization, the site invites viewers to learn more and get involved.
In addition to a custom method of outreach, a great way to enhance the list of people in your Nation is by importing the contacts you have stored in services you already use. We developed Tectonica Tools to do just that. Our service allows you to transfer the contact information for people you already interact with on other systems. Using this service, you can import all of your contacts from mail services like Gmail, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact, and even from other services like EventBrite and Shopify. Tectonica Tools eliminates the need for you to start from scratch with building the list of people in your Nation, which gives you more time to focus on organizing these supporters and getting things done.
Step 2: Engaging Your Followers to Take Action
NationBuilder was built as a platform for people to get engaged and take action. Once you curate a thorough list of interested potential supporters, your next step is to get them involved. NationBuilder has a number of capabilities that make this possible. You can send email blasts to your entire database of contacts directly from the backend of your Nation. This level of communication can be taken to the next level by filtering your supporters into lists based on any number of characteristics in order to allow for more targeted outreach. You can even make lists by viewing all of your supporters on a map and focusing your efforts regionally.
Personalized and relevant invitations will always be the most impactful method of engaging supporters, and NationBuilder’s lists make it easy to identify your targets and reach out to them. You can even monitor the results and efficacy of your email blasts and also keep track of individual relationships with your supporters so you don’t overwhelm them with too many emails. With all of these features, NationBuilder is your one-stop-shop for taking simple members of your Nation and converting them into supporters.
Step 3: Organize Your Supporters to Achieve Your Organizational Goals
Basic engagement with your organization is a crucial way to introduce your supporters to your mission. You want them to sign a petition, donate money, or share your site on their social media. However, while these steps are important short-term engagement solutions, they won’t directly help you get closer to your overall goals as an organization. For some of our former clients in the real world, this deeper level of engagement can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of outreach efforts. In the case of political campaigns such as Sadiq Khan for Mayor of London, the campaign rallied volunteers and hosted successful events that led to Khan’s 14-point victory over his opponent in the election. But engagement isn’t unique to political campaigns. As an alternative to the US war economy, CODEPINK built a center of resources highlighting alternatives that build peace. This project included daily inspiration, resources for building your own project, and a map to find projects all over the world. Engagement can take many forms, but it always increases involvement among your supporters and makes your organization stronger.
The final step of pushing your supporters up the ladder of engagement is to give them individual tasks with a clear purpose and put them on track to take leadership roles of their own. To do this, you can create “paths” for your supporters where they have a personalized workflow that outlines the steps you want them to take. You can also create a leadership board that highlights your most involved supporters and therefore incentivizes deeper engagement.
NationBuilder has the capacity to give you the organizing power you need to take your digital presence to the next level. We hope these tips can help get you there!
Nov 11 - 2020
People don’t become Activists Because of a Cause. (And That Gives me Hope.)
This is a blog post about why I believe our innate need for belonging, the theories of a lesser known 20th Century French philosopher, and a couple millennia of organised religion, make me think that...
Oct 21 - 2020
The Five-Part Framework for Digital Organising
Backstory: Earlier this year, we set out to evaluate Europe’s progressive digital organising efforts. We did this in part because we see a great deal of misunderstanding and disagreement around what digital organising is, and...
Tectonica Organising Network
The best content on organising technology, strategies, and resources to help you build your movement.