“There are three pillars to any successful movement — stories, tools, and faith.”
These are the words that begin “The Internet is My Religion,” the 2011 widely-viewed story of Jim Gilliam, who explains the struggles with religion, as well as with his health in this viral video.
“Growing up, I had two loves — Jesus, and the internet.”
Gilliam explains his religious upbringing, and his embrace of the web at age 12, at which point he met folks of all walks online.
“I was judged by my brain instead of discounted for my age. I loved it.”
Gilliam goes on to describe the harrowing tale of his fight with lymphoma as a teenager, and subsequent months of radiation while searching for a bone marrow donor that saved his life.
Gilliam then spent years embedded in the 90’s tech boom, working both at Lycos and Business.com, before diving deep into the documentary space post-9/11.
This restored his faith — not in God, but in the internet, in people connected through the internet. Gilliam continued to make films and documentaries, creating change and building cause-based communities via the internet in order to organize viewings and change the discourse of the war.
Gilliam soon discovered he needed a double lung transplant, and went to the internet to rant against the health system, to connect with people. UCLA was then flooded with calls and emails from supporters, and Gilliam was placed on the list to receive a transplant (Gilliam’s story is also the foundation of the book The Internet is My Religion, coming July 12).
“God is what happens when humanity is connected. We served God best when we do what we love for the greatest cause we can imagine. We have faith that people, connected, can create a new world. Each one of us is a creator, but together, we are The Creator.”
These profound words set the stage for NATIONBUILDER, the LA-based software platform which has helped creators organize communities the world over since 2008.
NationBuilder beta launched in October 2009 with 5 customers, hit public beta April 2010 with 20 customers in the first month. And has snowballed into an international organizing platform with over 125 employees across Los Angeles, New York, DC, London, and Vancouver.
And growth has been on a tear — of the $500 million raised by organizers since its launch, nearly half that, $241 million, was raised in 2014 alone. This, in addition to helping users connect with over 47 million supporters, recruit nearly 900,000 volunteers, and coordinate almost 117,000 events.
But don’t let the name fool you — NationBuilder is not just used by activists and politicians. In the past year, a good number of enterprise clients have come on board, including AirBnB and Carnival Cruise Lines. using NationBuilder to manage customer relations and find their customers in multiple online spaces.
“The internet makes it possible for communities to create anything. But communities never create anything without leadership. You can’t just put up a website and expect that bridge to get built, you have to talk to people, build relationships, send emails, tweet, host events, recruit volunteers, ask for donations…and you have to do all of that at a scale much larger than yourself. You have to lead.”
NationBuilder has taken every aspect of community building and put it all into a smooth-flowing relationship management platform + content management system, to help its clients communicate and activate their core base, while also helping identify potential supporters to join the community.
Okay, so that’s a lot of heady shoptalk, but what does it really do?
Basically, NationBuilder is a community operating system that helps people organize and build community-based relationships at scale. It makes it super easy to rally supporters around your cause, plain an simple.
What you do with that power is up to you — Build a landing page? Check. Raise awareness? check. Build your email list? check. Get more social followers? Check. Collect donations? Check. Turn twitter follower into a customer? Check.
NationBuilder is being used the world over by groups of all walks:
Politicians of all stripes have used NationBuilder, including Eric Garcetti, Rick Santorum, and Hilary Clinton, who used NationBuilder to launch her book.
NationBuilder is being used by schools, student organizations, and Greeks.
NationBuilder is being used by nonprofits, artists, and advocacy groups, such as GLAAD and DreamCorps.
NationBuilder is even being used by corporations to help build community around their products!
For case studies, click here
One of the first things people praise about NationBuilder is the ability to upload and sort myriad, siloed lists under one platform — your contact lists, your databases, your socials, your emails, your text messages, your website, your shop — so that you become better engaged with your audience.
NationBuilder Match can then automatically match email addresses to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Klout, and surface your most influential supporters. On top of that, the service can help track & reward your strongest recruiters.
You can track communications with your supporters, so that you and your team can identify your strongest members, or highlight areas that need more attention.
You can use tags, lists and filters to track information about your supporters and send communications based on their interests, or set up custom fields and geo maps for better targeting.
You can easily download a complete snapshot of your database as a CSV, import and export contact information, email lists, and donation histories.
You can set goals for fundraising, donors, tweets, petition signatures, signups, volunteers, followers, endorsements, event RSVPs, survey responses, suggestions and more.
You can even manage parent / sub nations, in order to better communicate to specific audiences within your overall community.
NationBuilder even allow qualified political groups access to each state’s Voter Data for free, something that campaigns used to pay tens of thousands of dollars for such information from private consultants!
Send out targeted tweets & messages to engage them in the cause, or target & find proponents who have never engaged with them.
For more complex activities, Dedicated Organizers (in verticals such as Political, Nonprofit, Charity, and Enterprise), and Certified Developers, Experts and Architects can help you build a site on steroids, but for the average person looking to build a base around a cause, the DIY tools can get you set up and running in under a couple hours.
Expect further growth from NationBuilder in the coming years, as NationBuilder ramps its efforts to build beyond politics and into the enterprise space.
And NationBuilder is hiring! See their careers page for more information.