May 8, 2012

Growing nonprofits and social movements with NationBuilder

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The Million Hoodies movement is among the activist campaigns using NationBuilder to engage and organize supporters. (Photo by Joe Lustri)

Service helps you mobilize your supporters to take action

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause and advocacy organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, educators, Web publishers.

Guest post by Adriel Hampton
Chief organizer, NationBuilder

My company NationBuilder has been in the news lately after raising a significant round of funding from a hot VC firm and for initial investments from several early Facebook employees.

The tech press headlines are fun, but it’s what happening behind the scenes that’s really important. Just over a year after launch, NationBuilder is working with hundreds of nonprofits, activists and social good organizations to help them grow their communities and move their supporters to action. Our community organizing system offers a solution to two damaging technology paradigms: the legacy in-house server setup with huge architecture costs and annual contracts that cost more than a full-time staff salary, and the stitched-together “free” solution that requires half a dozen log-ins and leaves organizational data fractured and nearly useless.

NationBuilder overcomes these technology challenges with a highly elastic infrastructure that relies on innovations in cloud computing and email delivery (if you really want to geek out, you can check out a full description of our stack here) and by pulling together the core elements of organizing on and offline – a flexible, customizable CMS; deep social media integration with Twitter, Facebook, Meetup and more; supporter and volunteer recruitment and tracking; online donations and donor management; bulk email; action tools; text messaging; and events.

For smaller organizations, NationBuilder offers a toolkit that used to be affordable only to the largest nonprofits – including full ownership and easy export of data such as supporter email addresses. For our larger customers, we’re able to replace old infrastructure and expensive contracts with transparent, affordable pricing and expert technical support. On larger projects, organizations typically work with NationBuilder expert consultants like Liberal Art. That’s how America Bikes built out is web platform, complete with 50-state action tools for promoting pro-cycling legislation and policies. Other large nonprofits using NationBuilder include Media Matters for America, The Black Institute, the Brave New Foundation and The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict.

Meeting the needs of modern advocacy campaigns

Our core technology shift to deep social integration and the cloud means rapid and affordable scaling for the kind of surging traffic typical of today’s advocacy campaigns. When the State Integrity Investigation, a project by PRI, Global Integrity and The Center for Public Integrity, launched its 50-state investigation of public corruption in early March, its traffic spiked 15,000 percent overnight. On the NationBuilder network, that surge caused not a blip in actual site performance nor in additional costs to the organization.

Unions and loose social movements have also begun using NationBuilder to great effect, including the British Columbia Federation of Labour and Freedom Train 2012, an indigenous people’s coalition effort to ban tar sands pipelines and tankers in Canadian First Nations lands and waters.

“It’s social at its core, which is incredibly important when it comes to maintaining momentum.”
— organizer Daniel Maree

In the States, the Million Hoodies Movement is using our community, volunteer coordinating and gamification features to deepen the engagement levels of supporters. “It’s really created a sense of community among our members and supporters, while serving as an incredibly effective communication and activation tool for our volunteers and community leaders,” said organizer Daniel Maree. “It’s social at its core, which is incredibly important when it comes to maintaining momentum.”

As NationBuilder’s chief organizer and community manager, I’m always looking for new ways customers are using our platform to catalyze community and to expand our network of consultants helping folks build their nonprofits and NGOs. Thanks to our big funding round in March, we’ll be continuing to push the boundaries in what’s possible for an integrated CMS (content management system)/CRM (customer relationship management) solution and to develop new features to better support the community.

Because it really comes down to supporting the community’s actions.

Adriel Hampton is chief organizer at NationBuilder and founder of Gov 2.0 Radio. He is a frequent speaker on social media for social good and advises governments, politicians, NGOs and businesses on the best uses of emerging technologies. You can find him online at @adrielhampton on Twitter and or email [email protected].
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