Last night was the April Net Tuesday here in Portland. We had Heather Cronk with us from PledgeBank to talk about online campaign building (both with PB and the general topic). It was quite a lively discussion, answering questions and leaving participants with others to think about in their organizations.

Some of the main take-aways from her presentation and our discussion are summarized below:

A great place to start your conversation about online organizing is to think about offline organizing. Successful offline campaigns include activities like:

  • canvassing
  • door knocking
  • phone banking
  • flyering

All of the messages in the offline campaigns are controlled. When you get to the door, you can’t change the language in the flyer to more personally match the person who answers. You can’t determine, either, that people will be ready to talk to you when you come to their door.

With online organizing, successful campaigns can include activities like:

  • email
  • blogs
  • podcasts
  • rss
  • APIs/widgets

These are all distributed messages. You or your organization can create the messaging and put it in a place where it is more easily disseminated than offline organization. Instead of requiring you to go door to door in a specific neighborhood, you can create and post the content in a place that people from all over can receive it.

With ‘web 2.0’, supporters don’t just read your messages, they can create their own content, interact with your content or with other supporters. Content can now also include:

  • wikis
  • videos and photos
  • peer to peer interaction/connection

This is the age of user-generated. People no longer want only to be a supporter, giving a donation for your cause at the time of physically meeting you on the street or participating in your fundraising event. Now, supporters can create their own widgets and fundraising tools to support you in their own way, often using their own version of your story and message.

Pledgebank and other similar sites offer a way for an individual or group with a good idea to create change, to make a commitment with the support of others. But, do people follow through on their pledges? PB did a survey of money-based pledges and found that about 75% of pledgers followed through. Of that 75%, they pledged anywhere from 75% to 150% of the amount they pledge.

It is easy to think ‘too big’ at first. You may want to march on Washington about your cause. It could be very difficult though to successfully mobilize thousands of people to show up and march with you. Instead, you could start with a petition and working to many people to sign it. Then, encourage people to call their representatives personally. Once you are able to successfully mobilize people to do that, you can work on local organizing events, and so forth. Build up to the march on Washington by building a quality, active membership first.

Some tools and resources include:

  • dotorganize.net – they have done surveys on how people are using the social web
  • netsquared.org and techsoup.org – resources on cheap software and also good community for questions and support
  • nten.org – great learning opportunities and participation with a knowledgeable community
  • new organizing institute – great resources on their wiki
  • onenw.org – much like dotorganize
  • aspirationtech.org – great workshps and curriculum
  • idealware.org – compares tools for you

Portland Net Tuesday is a great place to learn from, share with, and meet new people in the local nonprofit and technology fields. People working for in the changemaking arena come together each month to discuss technology tools, organizational challenges and successes, and ways technology can be used to help our organizations meet the missions and goals. Check us out and attend a meeting!

Pledging for change
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