(Nonprofits+Politics)2.0

October 24, 2010

Get this App and Get Out The Vote

Screenshot of Wall feedback on the Commit to Vote ChallengeWith all this talk of an enthusiasm gap fueled by the fervent Tea Party and frustration over the slowness of progress thanks to GOP obstructionism throughout President Obama’s term, Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, and other like-minded voters can take nothing for granted.  It is more important than ever that people who want to keep America moving forward need to reach out to every friend, family member, and co-worker who might be interested in a reminder to vote.

That’s why I was so pleased to get wall posts this weekend from Hartford City Councilor Luis Coto and my friend John from the Young Democrats asking me to commit to vote.  The ask didn’t end there, however, and that’s the really innovative piece of the newest GOTV social media tactic available from Organizing for America: The Commit to Vote Challenge.

The design of this Facebook app lets you share your reason for voting, and then invite your friends to commit to voting and share their reason too – plus, it even wraps in a little competition to make getting out the vote that much more fun.

Tech President sums it up well:

Hop on over to My.BarackObama.com/CommitChallenge, type in your reason for voting, and the app published your intentions to your Facebook Wall. But it also sets you up to tweak your Facebook friends, one by one, about similarly committing to vote this election (even if the whole tone of the effort is more dutiful performance of civic obligation than the electric fervor that powered things in 2008). For a dollop of competition, the site tracks how you rank compared to the number of commitments your Facebook friends have managed to pull in, awarding titles like “Committer” and “Grassroots Recruiter.”

The spirit of this app fits well with the strategy that Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts Democrats have brought to this election: people talking to people they know.  This is the strategy behind their powerful online organizing tool, their Friend Banks, and so much other outreach that’s being done.  Gov. Patrick sums it up well:

(If you’re curious, here are the first and third things you can do).

Voters screen their calls (if they even have a land line) and are tired of robocalls and negative ads – and organizers have known throughout history that the way to build a movement is through person-to-person contact.

The Commit to Vote Challenge gives you an easy way to make it personal right now by sharing why you’re going to vote and encouraging the people you know to do the same.  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to get this app and get out the vote too!

That being said, the rollout of this app and my over enthusiasm for it did provide a few valuable lessons and critiques to keep in mind as you do your outreach:

  1. Actually make it personal. When I was asked my reason to vote, I wrote a someScreenshot of critiques of the Commit to Vote Challengewhat long reason tied to what’s at stake in Massachusetts and in Washington.  My hope being that it would resonate with people wherever they lived and get them thinking about what’s at stake for them.  However, I received more than a few people who reminded me they weren’t in Mass, so I’m thinking that wasn’t the best strategy.  Instead of taking my approach of copying and pasting my reason for voting into every Wall Post I sent out, consider tailoring your message to each person you talk to – or at least having one national or values-based message, and one for your state and sending them accordingly.
  2. Stream clutter. Unsurprisingly, many of my friends are the political type – and so are many of their friends – which means that as this rolled out, a number of people felt like the app was cluttering up their feeds.  Frankly, I’ve seen many causes that take up the feed for the day with people all updating their statuses on behalf of ah issue, and I can’t think of any cause more important to raise awareness for than voting.  I’d say there’s too much at stake not to use this opportunity to remind everyone you can to get out the vote, but it might be worthwhile for future developers to consider a private message or event invitation instead for future iterations.  That said, I know the app developers did add a mechanism to filter out everyone who already committed so they won’t get repeated invitations and hopefully that will reduce some redundancy.  But really, it’s election time and we only elect good candidates if we get people to the polls, so don’t be bashful about sharing why you’re going to vote and then making personal invitations for others to do the.
  3. People are protective of their walls. I didn’t realize this, but a number of people just don’t like the idea of having this automatically sent to their wall – even if you are really there selecting them to send it to.  As I said in number two, there’s too much at stake in this election not to reach out using this app, but do try to make it personal and perhaps a  suggestion for future iterations would be an invitation to one massive GOTV Facebook Event, which hold your friends’ walls harmless and have the added benefit of adding election day to their calendars.

Help create excited voters and start some good conversations like the ones above and the ones below (even with my Massachusetts-oriented message) by getting this app and getting out the vote now!

Was your Facebook stream flooded?  If so, are you excited there’s such energy among your friends to vote, or do you think there are other ways an app could turn voters on without turning others off?

I’ve included my reasons for voting below the screenshots – check them out and leave the reason you shared on Facebook in a comment – but, really, make sure you invite your family and friends to GOTV first!

Screenshot of a Wall exchange between Kevin and Jason about importance of voting and difficulty of accessing ballots for people in military

Screenshot of Facebook Exchange Between Kevin and John about importance of voting
I’m voting…

  • because we need more progress,
  • because I don’t want our country or Massachusetts moving backwards,
  • because the Bush admin was kind of a drag,
  • because so many candidates like Charle Baker promise more of the same failed policies,
  • because Democrats in Congress & Mass have been fighting for and helping us recover (did you know MA is #2 in recovery & 5th best for doing business?),
  • because Democrats like Gov. Patrick and our Congresspeople have values that put people first and support equality (which is even more important when things are tough and Republicans would add $700bil to our deficit for a tax cut for rich people in Congress and put our safety net and schools in danger with an untimely sales tax cut in MA),
  • because there are infinitely more reasons I could go on with,
  • because there are real choices in this election and I’m not going to be wondering if there’s more I could have done if Republicans win and set us back decades on financial regs, civil rights, and health care reform,
  • because there’s more work to do,
  • because there’s too much at stake.

September 23, 2010

ActBlue: The Best Kind of Addiction, or How to Fundraise from Young Professionals

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 2:00 am

I have been asking for money for organizations or campaigns, or at least working for organizations and campaigns that ask for money, for a long time.  Despite that, I rarely give.  When I did give, it was been because someone I know was asking, which figures:

“Asked who could get them to donate to an organization, most Millennial donors say they would be likely or highly likely to give if asked by a family member (74.6%) or a friend (62.8 %). Only 37.8% would be likely or highly likely to give is asked by a coworker.”

But lately, that’s been changing; I’ve gotten a bit addicted to supporting progressive causes I believe in (e.g. here, here, here, here and more that hasn’t been reported yet).  Multiple, small contributions – aren’t I just the millennial online donating cliche :)

Partially, it’s because there’s an incredibly important election happening in Massachusetts and I’ve been happy to give to Governor Deval Patrick because I appreciate that he’s helped Massachusetts lead the country in access to healthcare, job creation, student achievement, and because his administration represents an important change of pace in Massachusetts government (actually passing reforms, working with unions to get concessions that work, closing the Mass Turnpike Authority [don’t ask], and investing in infrastructure across the whole state).

But part of it’s for another reason.  It’s the same reason I’ve been able to raise $335 for our volunteer-run Young Democrats of Massachusetts with no financial investment on our part – or more significantly, that Gov. Patrick has raised more than $1.3 million from nearly 6,000 contributors online.  Online giving makes you feel good, and is good for you.  And ActBlue is an incredibly easy way to make your campaign feel good, too.

For those not familiar with ActBlue, there are a few great benefits you should be aware of – and then you should sign-up:

But the great features aren’t the only reason to get connected:

And what got me to enter my credit card information on a website other than GrubHub or eBay?

  • For me, low dollar events in almost every case – from a Turkey Fry in Dorchester, bash in Downtown Crossing, evening with David Plouffe, and the list goes on.  Young professionals like the opportunity to network or the sense that they’re getting something directly from their contribution, so events are a great way to get the wallet opened up – and ActBlue makes the registration process easy.
  • As mentioned before, being asked by someone you know will always be the most likely way, and some of our YDM Board members have done a great job of introducing new donors to our PAC through ActBlue’s easy tools
  • What about emails? While I think Governor Patrick’s campaign is doing amazing things on every front, none of his email appeals have resonated.  They tend to run on for four or five paragraphs, and lack the bullets, bolding, images, and linking that I think would increase response rates (seriously, guys, there should be a link in the first two paragraphs of a fundraising appeal).  I’d also encourage more targeted appeals (“hey young people.. yada yada yada.. give $5, $15, or $50″), more exigency (“help us meet this deadline,” “give today so we can stay on the airwaves tomorrow,” etc.), and more talk of specifically what my contribution will enable.

Regardless of what you give, or to whom, it’s important you get involved now.  And even if you can’t give, you can find a candidate you like and create a fundraising page for them.

Until we are able to undo the notion of “corporations = people” and take money out of politics, campaigns are some of the most important causes you can give your time and/or resources to.  I’m not saying give less to the 501c3’s charitable organizations you support, but I am saying stay in one extra night, skip a few coffees, or otherwise redirect $25 to a candidate who represents the values you care about (like Deval Patrick).

And if your a progressive campaign or qualified advocacy organization, sign up for ActBlue now.

Nonprofiteers: Don’t just give, get involved. Government has a direct impact – and all to often neglect – for the nonprofit sector.  You can blame some politicians – on both sides – for not being involved enough in our sector.  But you can absolutely blame the thousands of nonprofits that don’t understand that the third sector needs to act like all the rest and play an active role in the political process.  There are some things you and your organization can legally do (PDF) related to ballot initiatives (PDF) and public policy, but budding nonprofit leaders would be wise to start finding ways to get involved in other aspects of the political process.

Part of the reason I’m so adamant in my support for Gov. Patrick is because I know he looks at the role of government the same way I do.  Government should help strengthen our communities by helping people help themselves.  And I know he knows nonprofits play a crucial role in that.  Helping people with disabilities lead independent lives, included in our community.  Empowering the most vulnerable people in our communities.  Enabling people to go to work because they don’t need to stay home to take care of a loved one every day.  Employing more people that many of the other sectors we’re investing heavily in.  Acting as an economic engine. Check out the leadership he showed addressing nonprofit human service agencies in 2008 and  2009.

For some quick tips on getting your campaigns online giving and other strategies off the ground, check out Learning from Obama: Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 and Beyond and Internet Media Strategy Tips for Political Candidates.  Happy campaigning.

Whether you’re a 501c3 nonprofiteer, advocacy organization, or campaign, let us know your favorite fundraising tool and the most important features to you!

January 6, 2010

How Facebook is Friendly for Advocacy

Adriel Hampton made an astute observation about how Twitter is a friendlier space for elected officials and politicians than Facebook given the full  “control of one’s presence, without any overt need for filters.”  To boil it down, Adriel explains

If you’ve got a wide open Facebook page and somebody wants to spam you all day long, you need a strategy to deal with that. Left alone, it’s going to muck up your page.

To make an obvious extension of that thought, it’s worth noting that this is conversely a great benefit to nonprofits, other advocacy Comments Supporting the People First Campaign on Governor Deval Patrick's Fan PAgegroups, and angry constituents using Facebook.  Your campaign can get lots of added visibility and show a strong impact through the simple act of asking your membership to leave status updates on their fan page – and all of the comments left on an officials Facebook page will remain publicly visible unless the official deletes it, which would just add fuel to the fire.

Given the very tough financial position the Massachusetts government is in, human service providers, caregivers, clients, families, and the community came together to form the People First Campaign to remind Governor Patrick about the importance of protecting services for our most vulnerable citizens.  Supporters connected through emails, phone calls, tweets, and Facebook messages – and made their voices heard to the Governor through all of those channels as well.  In advocacy and organizing, be sure to consider all the ways to reach supporters, and for them to engage.

While I think 86 retweets of our act.ly petition on a statewide issue is pretty significant for a newly formed statewide advocacy campaign (I’d love to find out if @MassGovernor’s been tweeted by more constituents on a single issue), and proportionally reflect the community’s belief that these services need to be saved, Facebook did offer supporters some other benefits.  For one, there’s still a lot more people on Facebook than on Twitter, which means more people visiting the landing page or getting the emails about the campaign were able to participate on Facebook than Twitter.

Perhaps the most powerful (and obvious) difference between Facebook and Twitter is the character limit.  We spend so much time discussing the uniqueness of Twitter’s 140 character limit and how it can be used, it’s easy to forget how empowered supporters become with the ability to share their stories – and, perhaps, influence other people who read them, whether staff or other constituents.

It is important to note that many Fan Pages set their Wall to only display updates from their account, requiring readers to click the button to view Just Fans to see the messages left by visitors.  This is a handy thing for campaigns to consider when setting up their campaign, and a handy workaround for advocates seeking visual real estate on the default view: comment on the Fan Page updates.

I’m not sure why I was surprised that Governor Deval Patrick’s Facebook Fan Page was the only online presence he has controlled by his campaign and not the office of the Governor like so many other platforms, but it makes sense.  I’m glad smart guys like Adriel are thinking about Gov2.0 engagement on Facebook, but frankly besides putting specific questions out for public comment, it’s hard to see a constructive, beneficial, practical way for government agencies to interact on Facebook.  Is having the broadcast channel worth the comments you can’t control?  Perhaps it depends on the agency/official, but I support and respect those that are trying work in a medium with such little control.

Screenshots of Facebook Fan Page Comments Thanking Governor Patrick for Putting People FirstIt’s not all thankless risk for elected officials on Facebook.  In addition to broadcasting messages, receiving feedback (like it or not), and the campaign, Facebook’s can also offer the largest platform for people to show their appreciation when an elected does the right thing (like protecting important human service funding).

There’s a big difference between the logistics of government engagement on social media and that of candidates, and I think we’ll see campaigns continue to leverage Facebook.  Although Facebook has these benefits for advocacy organizations, campaigns also have the same benefits in sending  updates to rally supporters  – reaching the widest audience, sharing more than 140 characters at a time, permanence of updates, etc.  And, like advocacy organizations, can use all of the other robust features Facebook offers (like planning events and using other tools for setting up a winning Facebook Fan Page).  Just be sure whoever’s maintaining the page has thick skin.

While we made it through the last round of 9c cuts with fewer cuts than expected, Massachusetts continues to face tough decisions as we look ahead to the 2011 budget process, which is starting now.  We still need your voice to make sure Governor Patrick knows we’re still paying attention and expect him to continue to put people first as he looks at the budget.  Please take  a second to send him a reminder on Twitter, or by leaving a message on his Facebook Page.

It’s good to be back in WordPress, and I’m resolving to make sure I’m sharing at least two posts per month for 2010, so please let me know what’s on your mind – and what you think advocacy organizations are reaching out to government, elected official, and candidates in the world of social media.

September 9, 2009

Good Old Fashioned Rallying

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — kgilnack @ 1:29 am
Health Care Reform sign

It’s been far to long since I’ve been in touch, but I haven’t forgotten about those of you kind enough to subscribe to get posts in your email or reader, or check-in to see what’s new.

I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences changing web hosts in the near future – it’s actually been sitting about 2/3rd done for a couple weeks.  But since it is still an in-progress case-study, I want to see how it concludes and give you the full report – and what I hope you’ll find a useful starting point for your own due diligence and migration.

Besides changing hosting companies there’s been lots of other excitement going on, especially in the Boston elections and the national health care debate.  This is a bit off-topic for this blog, but I had the great pleasure of going out to support a public option with Young Democrats and 1000s others from around New England and wanted to share a bit of it with you.

It was a very well organized event, and incredible seeing so many people coming out to not just settle for “reform,” but to demand our elected officials settle for nothing less than a public option.   Here’s an example of how the Greater Boston Young Democrats are using Facebook, our pseudo-Google Site’s Blog, and Picasa to connect our IRL activities with our online members.

First, of course, came the Facebook invites from GBYD and our affiliated Young Democrats of Massachusetts.  Interesting note on this is that for whatever reason Facebook had our event disabled for a crucial 24 hours of RSVPing, which is part of the reason YDM sent their invite out after.  One important reminder that came up was the need to have non-Facebook ways for people to get involved in your events, which we do with our Google Calendar.

However, I’m wondering if something like Eventbrite or the other services I’ve compared before might be a better RSVP tools for people coming form email anyway.  Unlike Facebook, these tools allow people to RSVP without having to sign-in or create an account.  Plus we can remind those on Facebook with an Event Invite there as well.  But, given the demographics of a Young Democrats chapter, I’m not sure how beneficial this will be.. look for some A/B testing to come.

During the rally I kept busy with my camera and got some pictures you can see below or here, which I hope captured some great moments during the day.

And of course I sent a few tweets (here, here, here, & maybe a few others :-P) to let those who weren’t able to attend know what was going on (really wished I had a camera phone to do some twitpicking).  It was also nice of @InventingLiz to retweet and help us generate 80 clicks to the photo-album (nice awareness, but wishing I had gotten them on a landing page on our site first).

After getting home and getting the pictures online, I wrote a brief recap of the day for posterity’s sake, tying in the photos that were taken and uploaded on Picasa.  The easy integration between Google-owned Picasa and Google Sites is another reason Google Sites was the best free choice for our organization.

Here’s the post as it appeared in my very inelegantly titled Young Democrats, OFA-MA, Labor, Community Members & Leaders Rally for Health Care Reform

This afternoon GBYD was pleased to support a Labor Day health care reform rally and march from the Boston Common to Copley Square.  The rally was sponsored by Organizing for America – Massachusetts and SEIU Local 615, as well as many other community groups.

It was great to see GBYDers out in force, active in many aspects of local politics, like..

And that’s not to mention the Young Democrats who came out in force to show their support for health care reform!

Check out photos from the day below and this Boston Globe write-up 1,000 rally for health care reform on Boston Common.  You might also be interested in this commentary from Blue Mass Group:

It was inspiring to see such overwhelming support for fixing our broken health care system – but perhaps even more inspiring to look around and see so many Young Democrats taking on impressive leadership roles in our community.

[INSERT SLIDESHOW THAT WORDPRESS.COM DOESN’T ALLOW TO BE EMBEDDED (another reason Google Sites was the choice of GBYD)… err, see it here]

Oh, and I suppose it’s worth noting the last step in sharing the story of Monday’s rally – analyzing all the other steps and sharing them for your edification here in this post… or maybe this won’t be the last thing we do with it :)

I hope you’ll share how you or your organization connects its online efforts with your offline actions.

What strategies do you find work best?

Have you been active in the health care reform discussion?

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