Member-Sourcing Your Online Campaigns

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Facilitated by Ben Rattray,

Session Description

Ben will explain ways to to source your members to run their own online campaigns, including tips on how to effectively combine blogging and campaigning, as well as tactics for new member acquisition.

Session Notes

Presenter: Ben Rattray,, founder and CEO. His role: he talks a lot! 1) Sets vision for the org 2) recruits the right people to execute the vision, 3) raises the resources to employ those people.

      • Speaking of which JOBS JOBS JOBS: is hiring developers and designers (; wiserearth is hiring php programmers (part time).***

Community-generated campaigns are like throwing a lot of spaghetti on the walls and seeing what sticks. People might object (as with blogs 5 years ago): hey, there’s a 90% crap!  maybe, but what an excellent and unexpected %10.

By next yr expects to gain 500k members/month (members = petition signups). Site is built on Ruby on Rails. In the institution-building stage. Expanging and hiring (see above).

National npos feel obligation to run national campaigns. Those are the most difficult ot win. Member-generated campaigns give you license to launch 1000s of campaigns. Wins motivate action. By campaigns, Ben means petitions. Petitions are much maligned. They can have a significant impact on decisionmakers who aren’t used to public pressure. When you want to move beyond petitions and keep momentum the key is the organizer of the petition. That person can contact the signers and propose new actions.

Stories of Impact: - Boulder CO outlawed sleeping outside at night. Homeless people get tickets, can’t pay them and then get sent to jail. A blogger wrote aobut this on, out up oetition. 200 people signed it the first day. This got the mayor’s attention. She was getting national attention and email bombardment. There was a city council mtg, 20 people showed up, 10 homeless. A moratorium was proposed that night and passed. - Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Trying to pass for 10 yrs. Big orgs are asking their members to sign petitions every year. Members launching local campaigns really personalize those efforts. With the Dream Act, undocumented students … Andrea, South Florida, went to pay a parking ticket and was picked up bc she didn’t have papers. She was going to be deported to Honduras, where she’s never been. She came to this country when she was 3. Her friends started a petition and went to protest DHS facility. That got press and she was released. - A group of women was doing a sit-in in Chicago, 29 days ongoing. We wrote about it. They contacted us. We published posts under their name and then gave them the constituency/email list for their ongoing work.

Creating wins builds power. Local powerbuilding can support/oppose national legislation. Healthcare protests exposed the power of local action on national issues. takes an agnostic position in online vs offline campaigning debates. There’s an assumption that harder is better, but better is better. What’s better is the question.

12 editor/organizers train vol organizers who can contact and support campaign creators. They use judgement and traction (signatures, shares per page view, external links, etc). They’ll write about it, contact the creator, give recs, provide phone number for support (if wanted).

AVAAZ, MoveOn, GetUp, they’re all working on big natl movts or globally. is looking at local campaigns. will do opportunistic campaigns. e.g. There’s natl sentiment moving pro-LGBT and our goal is to push it and leverage it. For example the world bank has a matching gifts program for employees. Someone requested adding an anti-gay group be added to the matching gifts program, it was and we started a petition to tell the world bank to remove the group. is going to launch a prefabricated campaign template for local issues. Example: local school district should locally source food some %. We can show past campaigns, talking pts, data, contacts of public employees.

People are more likely to share campaigns when they’re local. – example of branded member page for Credo members to start their own campaigns. Any campaigns created there are branded Credo and Credo gets the email list. will proactively market the campaigns of clients. That’s part of the business model but the ultimate goal is to develop 100ks of organizers around the world. The decision to not get VC funding was a great decision. Even if one partner is committed to your mission they report to others who don’t necessarily. The company is profitable now. Ben's sense of double bottom line investing: more talk than actual investors.

Agnosticism is contrary to true community. Anyone can post a campaign on the site but we won’t support everybody. It’s a challenge and we’ll see how it goes as we expand. We try to stay out of progressive infighting. We take general stands (global warming exists) but generally not specifics (pro/con on whether enviros should support the climate bill).

Launched 2 yrs ago with blog network. Content gets SEO and traffic. We realized traffic is less interesting than wins that drive social change. We want conversions not page views. Petitions were on the site but not the focus. Then they started winning.

Primary impediments to social change: Information and Collective Action. 100k tweet doesn’t equal change, but if they tweet and can connect with each other then they have real power to take collective action.

Universities contain lots of idealists with lots of time. is trying to add oil to their fires.

Writing about campaigns can often be a tipping pt. Targets don’t like seeing their name on the web. These are often people who don’t get written about. They have RSS feeds on their name (or staff does) so they react. isn’t as good at long-term campaigns. They’re working on it but rely on individuals to carry the work forward long-term. The campaigns can also help build and package stories for media outlets.

Biggest org’l challenge: sense that 501c3s can’t do advocacy. They can, but there’s a fear out there. (See: Alliance for Justice, for help on this issue).

One challenge for activist orgs: feeling ethnically comfortable with your framing. You’re using someone/thing as a foil. Metrics will undermine your morality (just look at HuffPo).