This workshop will cover tips for growing your activist list – the set of people you can communicate with regularly, and who have expressed an interest in what you have to say. A one hour workshop that aims to cover this topic is by its nature not comprehensive. I have tried to pack it with juicy tidbits and case studies that you’ll be able to use in your own work. For more comprehensive trainings, check out NOI’s regular multi-day trainings – neworganizing.com.
Fission Strategy = Boutique (our fancy word for small) web development and online strategy firm. We work fairly exclusively with progressive nonprofits, including: MomsRising Greenpeace Center for Community Change Oxfam And many others. My business partner is Cheryl Contee – also known as Jill of Jack and Jill Politics. Prior to starting Fission, I worked at MoveOn.org from 2004-2006 and then ran NOI for it’s first year.
This is going to be a high-intensity tour through how to build these kinds of lists. We’ll focus on email lists but I don’t think it makes sense to ONLY talk about email anymore.
The big question: How do I grow my email alert list?
Lots of groups, esp. 501(C)3 groups, struggle with feeling like they actually can’t make a difference. If you don’t think your campaign matters, neither will anyone else. If you consistently run up against the problem that you’re not able to create a campaign you think will have a REAL impact, take a hard look at how your organization is set up. (It is my personal belief that one of the reasons MoveOn is a power-house is that it has a PAC doing a lot of hard-hitting work – supporting candidates and legislation – that 501(C)(3) orgs cannot.)
PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES. Step away and come back and read your appeal with fresh eyes. If you hesitate to send the pitch to your best friend or your mom… it’s probably a bad pitch.
There are moments when the BIG story you’re trying to tell overlaps with something that’s in the news cycle. These are your potential growth moments. So for example the RI4A campaign is fighting a long battle to reform the broken immigration system. When Sheriff Joe Arpaio was caught on take pulling over a family and taking a mom away from her kids, who were left in the car wondering what happened to mommy… that was a gut wrenching demonstration of how a broken immigration system lends itself to abuse. Crisis: Joe Arpaio is abusing his power. Opportunity: Demand an investigation by the Attorney General, so he’s out of power. Theory of Change: Drawing attention to abuses within the system shows how broken the system is – and we need a ground swell of public support to demand that the system be fixed. WARNING – Looking for moments does NOT mean twisting any news story to fit your issue. People are not dumb. If your organization fixes potholes and you try to leverage the healthcare debate by saying that fixing potholes will reduce healthcare costs, people will NOT be tricked into thinking you are the go-to org for healthcare. In my experience, white-hot issues that have dozens of orgs working on them are only white-hot for the few orgs that legitimately have influence on that issue.
In 2008 MomsRising looked at their stats and realized Mother’s Day was one of their biggest list growth days every year. So they looked around at what had worked for other organizations in terms of list growth, and invested in the one that seemed like the best bet: a really funny video. They even hired the same writers that made the funny MoveOn “non voter” video in fall 2008 (the Onion). The trouble with Flash and viral video is that (1) they’re an expensive bet, and (2) usually the interesting bit doesn’t require the viewer to enter their contact info. The MoveOn and MomsRising videos got around that by making the video content customizable. But to get the bang for the buck, you have to fill out a form with a pre-checked opt-in.
I’m going to go off track a little here and give some examples that did not lead to immediate big list growth, but had payoffs that led to long term growth and sustainability.
Press In December 2007, MomsRising.org and HealthyToys.org collaborated to offer mobile access to toxic chemical test results on children's toys. This service is still available and can be accessed by texting: &quot;healthytoys [name of a toy]&quot; to 41411. We sent an email out to the fill list (120K at the time)… Ultimately <400 subscribers to the list and about 1400 requests for data to the system… but DOZENS of mainstream media hits including a feature on NPR.
Funders The availability of Catalist data on MomsRising members allowed us to pursue an aggressive phone-based GOTV program in the final weeks before the election. Using a predictive dialing system called Activate, 690 member-volunteers made GOTV reminder calls to over 16,500 infrequent voters (voting in only one of the last three general elections) on the MomsRising list. As a subset of that program, we also used the Catalist data to pull the phone numbers of those 690 volunteers and call them to encourage them to make the calls they signed up to make -- an important extra step, given the high potential drop-off rate of call-from-home volunteers (no one likes to make cold calls). Result: Case study presented to Democracy Alliance + Surdna + Atlantic Philanthropies via DIA
Quick turn around after Act.ly launched. Partnered: ACORN/MomsRising Not huge response but good exposure, press coverage.
MomsRising saw a 40% increase in action rates when we do a high ask with a Yes/No option
Credit: Jeff Regen, Defenders of Wildlife
Credit: Jeff Regen, Defenders of Wildlife
The more you learn about your supporters, the more personally you can speak to them. The more personally you can speak to them, the better response you will get. MoveOn regularly asked whether supporters were military or military families during their campaign to end the war in Iraq. Asked those vets to play a special role as spokespeople in the campaign. MomsRising also consistently sees better response to emails that are geographically targeted (or at least have the appearance of being targeted).
RI4A had 0 people on its list on June 3. By June 5 we had send 100,000 faxes to Congress via our website. We went from 0 to 13K in two days. 30K in two weeks… Because we started with a list of 300 orgs that were aligned with our campaign principles and asked them to send out the first alert with us. Great press, big impact, great confidence builder among the campaign and its allies, and scared the pants of the anti-immigration people.
Last Spring, MomsRising – an advocacy organization that brings together mothers in support of family-friendly policies like paid sick days, healthcare for kids, and safe food and toys – created a customizable video that merged in the name of your mom (or any mom) to mock news coverage of her receiving the 2009 “Mother of the Year” award. They had a feeling it might have the potential to go big, so they recruited about 40 organizations to send out the video. Ultimately about 50% of the list growth came from partnerships. Really saying something b/c that video grew their list from 150K to 1.2MM in about 2 weeks. Several partners had list growth in the tens of thousands, and MoveOn grew by >500K. Key in both cases = not asking for a favor. Offering a list-growth opportunity. Built a partner code into the URL and sent them their signups.
When promoting their Mothers Day video, they aggressively courted their strongest online “influentials” base: mommy bloggers. Just a little research on moms online presence and behavior turns up a very rich online culture of mommy bloggers. MR did research to find those mommy bloggers that were both influential (i.e. their blogs get a lot of traffic) and aligned on core MR issues. Aggressively reached out to them in advance of the launch – personal emails, “briefing” conf call, regular updates as the video went viral, effusive and public THANKS to those who posted about it.
Here’s the bad news: You thought direct mail was dying. It is. So is email. While email will remain your #1 source of online actions, including fundraising, for a long long time to come. It is, and will remain, on the decline. You cannot depend on it alone to sustain you.
At the same time… Back in February of 2005, just 8% of adult internet users had used a social network site. That percentage had risen to 16% by August of 2006, and as of December 2008 stands at 35% of online adults. There’s even higher use among the younger set: 75% of online adults 18-24 have a profile on a social network site 57% of online adults 25-34 have a profile on a social network
So, while email open rates are steadily declining, Use of social networks for communication is exponentially increasing. More than two-thirds of the global* online population visits social networks and blogs; Participation in these “member communities” is now the fourth most popular online category - behind search, portals, and PC software, but ahead of personal email use , according to research from Nielsen Online. Use of member communities is also growing twice as fast as any of the other four largest sectors . Mobile is ALSO playing an increasingly important role in social networking. 19% (10.6 million people) of mobile Web users in the US visit a social network through their handset – up 156% over 2007 .
And lest you think people are only using these sites to hook up or take silly quizzes… 43% of adults on social networks say they use them to “ organize with others for an event, issue or cause ” – these are your people. More than one third of social network users visit their profile daily. Among social network users, more than one third (37%) visit their profile daily.
If your boss follows up with: “But I just don’t get what Twitter is.” Show this video.
Find out who on your list is on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.
Also: Social Mention Sign up for daily alerts based on keywords.
MomsRising is a great case of an org that has been successful dipping a toe into the social network space. They did the very lightest lift thing to get on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter – and saw immediate results.+ Twitter + Facebook Made a profile on Twitter, used TwitterFeed to hook up to the blog. Followed mommy bloggers and their followers. Made a Cause on Facebook. Recruited a handful of volunteers, created a Google Group to manage them. Asked them to (1) welcome all new supporters, and (2) repost MomsRising actions. Added links to both to the bottom of emails. Both became among top 10 referring sites, up from ~0 the year before.
LearnaPalooza is a local event I created in DC and helped organize in 07 and 08. Both years, we turned out several thousand people on 2 months of volunteer evening and weekend organizing. Started with a post to a Yahoo Group – Adams Morgan list in DC has 2500 people on it. Worked so well I went and joined a bunch of other Google Groups and Yahoo groups in DC. All told, have instant access to post messages to 10s of thousands of highly targeted recipients. This is true throughout the US, esp in urban areas.
Follow leaders in your space. Follow their followers.
Follow people talking about your issues (search)
Follow journalists and bloggers.
Follow decision makers.
Padmasree Warrior - CTO - Cisco http://twitter.com/padmasree What CTO before Twitter could have had an unfiltered megaphone to 400K+ people interested in Cisco? It’s great for Cisco, but it’s also great for her. Imagine how much harder it is to fire her now!
Thank people Respond to posts Post daily, even if you’re just reTweeting Get staff and volunteers to reTweet your stuff Post links to your outreaches and website
We also had discovered in talking with these mommy bloggers at BlogHer that they kept in touch via Twitter – that was their primary method of staying in touch. So during the video push, we also put extra staff on Twitter, posting regular updates, direct messaging mommy bloggers, responding to every mention of the video with a THANKS. Other “influentials” audiences may congregate in other places. Various sets of political influentials have email discussion lists. Some groups have regular in-person meetings. Key is figuring out who reaches your audience and reaching them in a way that makes them feel good about helping you out.
When you perform the following activities there is a good chance that a notification or description of your activities will show up in both your Mini-Feed and your friends’ homepage News Feed: Post pictures on your profile Create or join a group Post a video on your profile Posting a link to your profile Writing and sharing a note on your profile Posting a status update on your profile Creating or RSVPing “yes” for an event Posting a comment on a friend’s wall, photo, or note (this will only show up on someone’s News feed if they are friends with both you and the person whose content you comment on)
Status Message Saturation One effective means of building visibility and buzz is to recruit people to update their status messages en masse. You can send a message to members of any relevant groups you administer, post a note to your profile, message your friends or write on their wall…these are all tactics for reaching out to ask people to update their status to bring attention to your cause.
Pervasive Profile Pics Similar to the status message tactic, you can organize folks to change their profile pics en masse. When someone changes their profile picture, a notification is sent to their Mini Feed and to their friends’ News Feeds. And any subsequent activity that shows up in the News Feed will be displayed next to a thumbnail of the new profile pic.
Facebook events are well designed for viral growth. Facebook currently allows you to invite an unlimited number of friends to events. Anyone who RSVPs “yes” or “maybe” is likewise able to invite an unlimited number of friends. Thus you can quickly and exponentially grow the list of invited people to friends of friends of friends if you make a concerted push. If you call for a “Facebook Day of Action” and recruit staff and supporters to send event invites that day, it could result in hundreds or even thousands of invitations sent by the end of the day. The benefit of this is that an event administrator is able to message everyone whose RSVP status is “yes”, “maybe” AND those who are “awaiting reply”. Your message will be sent directly to invitees’ Facebook and email inboxes. Fission Strategy worked with Oxfam International to coordinate a Facebook &quot;day of action&quot;: a concerted push with coalition partners to send thousands of Facebook event invites in a single day. A week before Oxfam's participatory climate action in Central Park, we were able to recruit and email nearly 5000 New Yorkers on Facebook, and promoted the event in thousands more Facebook news feeds. Video of the final action can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3-xsNk6AGg .
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It is the basis of everything we do. Take a rainy weekend and hole yourself up with Dominos and learn it.
What it is: a system that allows people to sign up to get text alerts – like email, sort of, but on your phone
RI4A is using Mobile Commons for our mobile network. Give Handout: Mobile Vendor Options
The mobile (text message) alert network has grown from just a few hundred in March to over 50,000 and has proven an excellent mechanism for generating calls to Congress. How it has grown: 1 – in person events 2 – viral growth via actions 3 – radio DJs 4 – partner orgs The response rate on the list to the most recent call alert (Obama announcement) was 16% for the English language list and 31% for the Spanish language list. That’s compared to 1-2% on an email list, typically. The list has also been responsive to “kickers” asking them to get friends to call and reminding them to call. An early test showed a phenomenal pass-along rate: the list of 980 made 214 calls, then passed the alert on to friends, generating another 800 calls for 1033 total. That response rate is obviously extremely high and will go down over time – though a strong reminder to always encourage pass-along.
Worked with: Robin Pressman + Ben Yuhas
BUILDING AN ACTIVIST LIST
This is me. Roz Lemieux. I am a partner at Fission Strategy. You can learn more about us at: www.FissionStrategy.com
Case Study: First Name No first name: 0.17% donation rate First name: 0.22% donation rate Adding the first name to the subject line lifted open rates by 6%, click rates by 12% and donation rates by 30%
Case Study: Talking Points Bullets on what to say to personalize: 6.94% action rate 28.36% emails personalized Normal (‘low’) request for personalization: 7.65% action rate 5.50% emails personalized Giving people concrete bullets to talk to on landing page suppressed action rate by 9% and lifted personalization rate by 400%
What is modeling? You start with a list of supporters , about whom you have some information, e.g. marketing or voter data. Then you do a short poll to a large sample of the list, to find out who is (and isn’t) a supporter. Then you create a “model” of a typical supporter . The model is a description based on the data that you have about your list – e.g. demographics, voting history, location. Then you rank how likely each person on your list is to be a supporter, based on the model. You can focus on those most likely to be supporters, so your outreach is more targeted, more efficient.
How does modeling work? Catalist Enhanced Voter File 230,000,000 records Universe of Likely Supporters Patch-Thru Calls Model of a Likely Activist Apply Model Universe of MOST Likely Supporters Call Congress Txt 2 Join Sign Petitions MOBILIZE