Guide: Advocacy

This document is designed to provide best practices and guidance on how to use NationBuilder for your Advocacy efforts.

Updated over a week ago

Welcome! NationBuilder is a comprehensive platform designed to be an all-in-one solution for organizing and mobilizing supporters. We offer a range of tools to help you manage your website, build your supporter base, engage with that audience, and track your progress.

Follow along with NationBuilder’s mascot, Sally the Giraffe, as she starts her advocacy campaign!

Decide on Your Strategy

When you want to make a change in the world, you need a strategy. Use this template to build out that strategy. Start with your desired outcome, think about who is in positions of power, and what tactics you could use to pressure that person, group, or organization.

Desired outcome

An environment free from plastics for all animals at the City Zoo


Pressure City Zoo owners to ban single-use plastics


  • Petition - collect signatures from other animals and City Zoo patrons in support of the ban and present them to zoo owners

  • ActionButton - create a Contact your Lawmakers ActionButton

  • Rally - collect RSVPs and host a rally outside the City Zoo entrance on the day of spring reopening




Early May

Late May

Launch petition

Contact Your Lawmakers button

Host rally

Present petition to owners

Table of Contents:

Prepare for Action:

Sally the Giraffe, the beloved mascot of NationBuilder, is understandably passionate about environmental conservation. One day at the City Zoo, Sally was minding her own business, eating leaves from a tree, when a tube of plastic got stuck in her ear. For Sally, this truly was the last straw.

Despite having a long history of sticking her neck out for others, Sally had never formally organized an advocacy campaign. Luckily for her, she knows about a certain all-in-one software that will help her achieve her initiative of banning single-use plastics in her town.

Knowing that one of the hardest aspects of being an advocate is sometimes feeling alone, Sally started her journey by getting her whole team on board and setting clear organizational goals moving forward.

1. Add Control Panel users

A control panel user is a person with permission to access the people database, create webpages, send mass communication, etc.

Adding your team to the Control Panel will allow for the delegation of tasks and responsibilities, as well as increase accountability and transparency. Through custom permission sets, you can ensure that the personal data in your nation is only accessible to those who you intend to view it. Avoid burnout by bringing in teammates and delegating!

In the top right corner of your Control Panel, click the person icon to access the drop-down menu as pictured below:

Each Control Panel user is assigned a different permission set that administrators can customize.

Customize your permission sets prior to adding Control Panel users.

Check out our video on Managing Control Panel Users

2. Establish goals (Set your focus)

Setting goals in NationBuilder allows you to track progress toward your organization’s desired outcomes. These measurable goals can be tracked within your nation’s Control Panel! Goals will be displayed on the nation’s Dashboard, providing an immediate overview of the nation’s progress.

To create a goal, from your Dashboard click New goal.

Check out our video on setting up goals in your nation

Now that Sally’s team has been added to the Control Panel with their custom permission sets and established their goals to monitor, she is now ready to start building her website!

3. Build your website

Choose your theme

The first step to building your website is choosing your theme (look). NationBuilder offers 11 pre-loaded stock themes, as well as a theme marketplace where you can purchase pre-built themes from our certified partners.

Once you have chosen your theme, refer to the Stock Theme Guidelines for reference on image sizing, features unique to that theme, and other tips!

The themes in NationBuilder are responsive, meaning that they work on multiple devices such as laptops and smartphones. However, when you first open them they don't look like the beautiful demo sites that we display in our theme gallery. Your website is launched with a generic theme and a few “placeholder” pages that are ready for you to edit.

All the objects and variables that make NationBuilder so powerful can be customized for your stock theme.

Set up your web pages

NationBuilder offers dozens of different page types for you to build and customize your website. Templatized page types like Volunteer Signup, Events, and Calendar all perform specific functions for your nation and already include the forms needed for visitors to complete.

When you first log in to your nation, you will notice that there are already a few pages created for you. Your nation will come pre-installed with an About page (basic page type), and 4 action pages: Feedback, Signup, Donation, and Volunteer Signup.

An "Action page" is a type of web page that prompts visitors to take specific actions such as signing a petition, donating, or RSVPing to an event. When a visitor performs an action on the page, your nation can automatically trigger things like adding tags to a person or starting them on a path. By enabling these settings, you can more easily search for people, quickly access information about them, and communicate with them in a more effective manner. Spending some time adjusting these settings can greatly simplify the work of you and your team.

For helpful tips on editing content on your web pages, check out How to edit content on your web pages.

4. Connect your custom domain

Sally’s nation comes with the domain name She could continue using this for her website, or purchase a custom domain name from a domain provider (such as GoDaddy, NameCheap, GoogleDomains, etc). Sally decided to purchase and attach the new domain to her NationBuilder website.

If you have never connected a domain to a website before, it can seem daunting. NationBuilder offers a step-by-step guide to walk you through this process. Have the guide open in one window, and your Control Panel in another, and you will be able to attach your custom domain yourself in no time.

Here are some quick tips before purchasing your custom domain:

  • You must keep the registration active with the provider to keep it connected to your website.

  • Your domain provider must be able to support full DNS access and/or support 6 custom nameservers. If your provider does not, you will need to transfer it to a provider who can.

  • Most domains connect within 24 hours, but it can take up to 72 hours. Keep this in mind if you have a close deadline.

5. Import your contacts

Sally has made a lot of friends over the years, and needs to add her personal contacts to her nation so that she could let them know about her new initiative! Sally first checked to ensure that her spreadsheet list was formatted correctly to import into her People Database, then added 500 of her closest friends' names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails.

Start your advocacy campaign off strong by importing your existing contact lists into your NationBuilder People database. Reference our HOWTO guide on importing, and edit your spreadsheet accordingly. Many email lists will only include names and emails. To ensure that the names and email address import into the correct fields of a profile, map your column heading as seen below:

You may be migrating over an email list from a different application, so it is important to keep in mind that some of the fields available in one system may not exist on another. In addition, every CRM (customer relationship management system) will have different formatting required for data that is being imported into it. For that reason, it's important to reference our Fields Available for Import Guide, to ensure that your data is formatted properly and that you are adding profile data to the correct field. For instance, you wouldn’t want to import a supporter’s work address as their primary address, so mapping the fields correctly will ensure that your import goes smoothly and that your data is accessible in your People database.

Watch a video that guides you through an import.

6. Set up communications

Now that Sally has set up her team and website, her next step was to set up her broadcasters. She purchased the email address [email protected], as well as [email protected] from her domain provider and added them as broadcasters in her Communications section. Next, she created the Twitter account @Sallythegiraffe and attached it to her nation.

Broadcasters are the voice of your nation. You can connect your email, phone number, and Twitter handle to store all communications in one place. Your nation comes pre-installed with a broadcaster already set up with an email address to send from. It will appear as [email protected]. You can use this broadcaster as is to send external communications or attach your custom domain email address to send from.

📌 Note: Phone and SMS text features are available to customers in the U.S. and Canada. On the Pro plan, 350 texts/month are included for free, and more can be purchased.

7. Set up for donations

Sally was happy to fund the start of the campaign herself, but she knew that if she did not fundraise, it would be a tall order for her to complete their goals. Sally decided she would use NationBuilder’s fully integrated payment processor through Stripe to fundraise directly from her website. It would have only taken five minutes for Sally to sign up for NationBuilder Payments, but she has a ‘hunt and peck’ typing style.

NationBuilder Payments offers a fully integrated payment processor powered by Stripe. If you receive a donation from a supporter, you will likely want to re-engage with them at some point in the future. Setting up NationBuilder Payments to collect your donations will ensure that the donation and donor’s profile information is seamlessly transferred to the Finance tab and People database in your nation. There is no more need for a third-party payment processor with monthly fees, a complicated setup, or a separate donations system that doesn’t sync with the data in your nation.

The last step in getting set up to take donations is to attach the payment processor to your donation page. Since a donation page has already been created for your nation, access your donation page from the Website section of your Control Panel.

Select Donation settings > Basics and select your payment processor from the dropdown menu as seen below. From here, you can also choose to take one-time or monthly recurring payments, set your donation amounts, and add a donation goal bar to your page.

📌 Note: NationBuilder Payments rates differ per plan. For more information on plan types please see the add-ons page in your nation.

Call People to Action:

Now that Sally has set up her nation, she is ready to call her supporters to action! Sally needs to create and share a petition, encourage her supporters to contact their local representatives, create and share an RSVP page for her rally, and utilize Social Capital to further motivate and engage her movement!

1. Create and share petitions

Petitions are a great way to make your voice heard and advocate for a cause. With just a little bit of effort, you can create momentum and get people's attention, which can help grow your list of supporters and put pressure on decision-makers to take action.

Once you have created a petition page, you are ready to share it with your supporters!

To create a ‘Click Here to Sign’ button in your email, first, create your blast, add your content, and then decide where you would like to place the button. Next, click in the empty space where your button will go, then select +Add > Button and add your text, petition URL, and preferred color scheme.

📌 You can also create and share a petition using ActionButton!

Be sure to enable social share prompts so that your supporters can easily share your petition with their personal network. From your petition page select Settings > Social media and add your content for the post.

After the supporter signs the petition, a social share option will pop up on their screen. The links provided will automatically include recruiter links.

Sally wanted to get her local legislators involved and decided to create a Contact Your Lawmakers button for her supporters to easily engage with their representatives.

2. Create a Contact Your Lawmakers button

ActionButton's Contact Your Lawmakers button is a powerful advocacy tool designed to make it easy for your supporters to contact their local representative through email, phone, or tweet. The ActionButton will automatically detect their local representatives based on their IP address and can include a prewritten email to send.

📌 The Contact Your Lawmakers ActionButton is available as an add-on to your nation.

Here is our full walk-through on creating a Contact Your Lawmakers button.

Linking a QR code to your button is another great way to share. A quick Google search for ‘free QR code generator’ will pull dozens of great websites that offer this service for free or on a trial basis. On many of these websites, you will be able to customize the QR code design, add colors, text, and even your organization logo.

Prior to creating your QR code, you will need to copy the share link of your button and paste that URL into the designated box of your QR code generator. This will bake the URL into the QR code, and once scanned by your supporter’s phone, will bring them to your button.

Be creative! Staple your QR codes to a signpost, print them as stickers and put them around town, or create business cards to hand out. Just to sure to remove them once your initiative is complete!

3. Create and share events

Now that Sally has mobilized and engaged her supporters, she is ready to host a rally to let their voices be heard! She must first create the event page and invite her supporters to RSVP!

Select Website > New Page > Event Page to create your event page. While setting up the event, you have the option to leave the page unlisted or publish it. If you would like for the event to display on the top navigation bar of your website, be sure to select ‘Include in top nav’.

1. Set the date and time for your event based on your time zone.

2. Input Venue name.

3. Set Event Capacity, or leave it at 0 if the event capacity is unlimited.

4. Select to accept RSVPs, ask for or require phone and address, and ask for volunteers.

1. Add content to the Intro section of your event.

2. Enter the address of your event, and a geocoded map will be available on the event page for supporters.

3. Check-in on the RSVP counts for your event.

After you have created your event page, it is time to share the page with your supporters. You could send an email blast, or easily create an automated workflow series that will send emails to supporters who have yet to RSVP to the event.

4. Automate your process

Sally has one month to collect RSVPs for her rally. To save time, and give extra nudges to her supporters, she set up an automated reminder email series that leads up to the event.

To create your first automated email series, select Workflows > New Automation

Name your series, and then you will have the option to select the source of your automation.

Sally wanted to include all of the supporters that signed up on her signup page in her Event Rally RSVP series. They will first receive an autoresponse email from signing up, then receive the first event reminder email in three days.

You can create 3 different types of automation: page-based, list-based, or multiple source. The page types available for automation are Signup, Donation (V2), Event, Petition, Endorsement, and Feedback. Anyone taking an action on the selected page will be included in the series. Alternatively, you can add your targeted cohort to a static list as your source for the automation series.

📌Note: Multiple source automations are available on the Pro Plan and above.

You can create a separate email for each one in the series automation, or create one and clone the rest! Once you have created and named your email and selected your email theme, you are ready to edit your content. Select +Add > Button, paste your URL, and begin to customize the size, color, and alignment. After you have completed your email content, add your recipients, then review and send!

Finally, to ensure that a newly RSVP’d supporter is removed from the series, select Settings > Conversions then specify what a successful conversion is, and select to remove them from the automation. This will ensure that RSVPs do not continue to receive reminder emails from this series.

5. Use Social Capital to engage supporters

Sally has a tower of giraffe friends and family that are eager to champion her cause. To encourage her supporters, and to keep track of their efforts, she uses social capital points in NationBuilder. She named her ‘currency’ Giraffe Points and set up a Leaderboard page to display her top supporters.

Social capital can be a powerful tool used internally or externally to engage your supporters, encourage activity, and create clarity for your team.

From Settings > Social capital you can choose to creatively customize the ‘currency’ to your liking:

Social capital can be used to:

  • Award capital for actions you want to encourage

  • Deduct capital for actions you wish to deter

  • Identify and empower leaders

  • Measure supporter engagement

Sally decided to create individual recruiter pages for her top advocates to share and keep track of their engagement, and ensured that social capital points would be awarded to those who recruited new petition signatures!

To encourage your supporters' efforts and drive a little friendly competition, create a leaderboard page to keep track of their progress toward accomplishing your nation’s goals. Leaderboards will also help you quickly identify who your top supporters are! You can award capital for actions such as sharing a link, recruiting more signups or volunteers, donations raised, and much more.

Sally’s Rally was a huge success, and she received 500 more signatures for her petition. Soon after submitting her petition to the City Zoo owners, a total ban on single-use plastics was passed unanimously! Now backed by her grassroots supporters, and with NationBuilder at her side, Sally is ready to take her movement worldwide!

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