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How is NationBuilder different?

Submitted by Jerimee on October 7, 2011 - 12:18pm

As an independent developer, we love our NationBuilder clients! Here's how NationBuilder is different than other online organizing tools:

Cross-posted from

How is NationBuilder different?


NationBuilder is a unique nonpartisan platform for organizing, bringing together a comprehensive suite of tools that today's leaders and creators need to gather their tribes.

Deeply social. We don't bolt on some share buttons and call it social media - we interweave Twitter mentions of both your broadcaster IDs and your website into the administrative dashboard and activity stream. Likewise, Facebook page activities and Facebook and Meetup events are tightly tied into your nation, helping you to create a database that reflects the true scope of your nation's support across the social web. You can interact with your Facebook and Twitter supporters and prospects right from your NationBuilder control panel and collect event RSVPs and market ticketed events. NationBuilder profiles aren't some sterile and contextless lists of names and email address, but rather rich social profiles with pictures and bios linked to people's social media profiles. We also help new members of your nations find and follow their friends from Facebook and Twitter right in your nation.

Real-time activity stream. Instead of running reports once a week, NationBuilder shows recent updates from your site, Twitter, Facebook pages, events, donations, any activity happening that you should care about. This activity stream is highly filterable, and provides field organizers, finance directors, social media managers and other parts of your organization a "now time" view of activity in you nation. This real-time newsfeed is similar to a Facebook activity stream, tailored to help you track and guide the health of your nation. It’s very addictive.

Runs your whole site. NationBuilder empowers you to run your entire site, supporter and prospect database and donor recruitment and finance tracking from one site. You don't need an extra content management system (CMS) with NationBuilder - it is one, with rich customizable themes that make it like a WordPress for organizing. NationBuilder allows you to quickly build a slick public-facing website complete with blog pages, calendars with Google maps, petition pages, customizable surveys and much, much more. Its social customer relationship management (CRM) tool is bleeding edge tech for organizing. And yes, we use NationBuilder the platform to run NationBuilder the software company.

No tech team required. NationBuilder is highly customizable without a line of code. If you have a designer, you can create anything you like with HTML/CSS and SCSS customization of our themes. We can refer you to great designers and consultants if you don’t have one, and have free screencasts for web play or download on how you can do it yourself. NationBuilder is not for coders who love to play around with plug-ins and integrating various tools - you'll probably be happier with WordPress, Drupal, Django, or Ruby on Rails.

Campaign aware. We provide access to the voter file for political causes and campaigns, with tight database integration and easy to use call and walk lists, including a turf cutter to narrow down target voters on an interactive map. You can email and text your supporters using NationBuilder, whether yours is a nation for 100 or 1 million.

How is NationBuilder different from ActionKit?


ActionKit is a great solution for huge organizations with in-house tech teams, whereas NationBuilder is meant for organizations that can't afford or don't want to deal with a tech team. ActionKit supports email, events and donations and can be customized and integrated with your current website. It is very expensive, and available only to progressive organizations. NationBuilder is available to anyone and far less expensive.

How is NationBuilder different from Salsa?


Salsa (also known as Democracy in Action and Wired for Change) products are a cheaper alternative to ActionKit for groups that have an in-house tech team and want to do a lot of custom coding and work with plug-ins. It is frequently used with Drupal or WordPress for a CMS and Ning for a social network, and requires a lot of integration work as a result. They have an email-your-legislator “spank and thank” tool at the federal level, and if that is important to you, you may want to consider it. Salsa's products are only for progressives, and they don't have NationBuilder's voter outreach tools and data such as the voter file, call and walk lists and turf cutter. For voter outreach, people will generally use NGPVAN with Salsa. Adding up all the additional tools needed and custom integration, it ends up being quite expensive.

How is NationBuilder different from Blue State Digital?


If you don't want to get your hands dirty running an online campaign and have the money to spend, look at Blue State Digital. This progressives-only web shop will create custom solutions using their own toolkit and will even write your emails for you. It does lack the voter outreach tools, texting solutions and voicemail that NationBuilder customers enjoy, but BSD will integrate with other providers for those services at a substantial cost. They are famous for running the technology operation for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

How is NationBuilder different from NGP VAN?


NGP VAN excels at generating district-specific campaign finance reports and integrating with official Democratic party voter file enrichment efforts. However, most of its grassroots organizing tools are relics, and allowing the finance compliance part of your campaign to drive a decision to use NGP VAN's full toolkit is a mistake. NGP will try to sell you a Drupal integration, and its own tools are inefficient and clunky (think Windows 3.1).

If your finance team wants NGP for compliance purposes, use NationBuilder and export your data to run quarterly reports. If you have access to the VAN through your local or state party organization, you can still use NationBuilder by importing your voter file and using our action tools. We would like to integrate with the voter file and compliance in NGP VAN more directly, but they have blocked us due to our nonpartisan political philosophy (or maybe they are just scared). NGP VAN is only available to Democrats in the U.S. and who they deem worthy in other countries.

How is NationBuilder different from Capwiz?


Capwiz from CQ allows lobbyists and interest groups to activate their supporters and point them towards a legislative goal. NationBuilder is designed to spur grassroots action through social networks and organizing around common goals. We're also a heck of a lot less expensive.

How is NationBuilder different from WordPress?


NationBuilder is a fully hosted CMS. We manage servers and scaling so you can worry about activating your supporters. We don't have plug-ins and instead have dozens of page types designed for action. We integrate email, texting and online donations along with our social CRM, things which have to be bolted on to WordPress, which can be quite painful.

WordPress is a great platform for blogging, and it also has a much more mature ecosystem of designers than NationBuilder - we have a lot of catching up to do in the custom theme department (if you want to build and market custom themes for NationBuilder, we want to hear from you!). If you want to run your own server and play around with plug-ins, WordPress might be right. But to get the native functions of NationBuilder for your nonprofit, for example, you'll have to integrate with other tools like DonorTools, MailChimp, Eventbrite and Salsa.

How is NationBuilder different from CiviCRM plus Drupal?


Building a highly customized CMS plus CRM using these open source tools can be quite appealing. However, it is time consuming and costly as it requires a skilled in-house or contract tech team. The code is free, but making it work the way you want it to can be a frustrating and lengthly process. In contrast, NationBuilder just works. With us, you get the benefits of the improvements for any of our customers rolling out to all at no additional cost. One of our early beta customers spent a year trying to get such a custom system working to their satisfaction, and 3 months away from their election they found NationBuilder, scrapped all their existing efforts, and were up and running with a custom theme in 2 weeks.

How is NationBuilder different than Convio, Kintera and Blackbaud?


If you've got money to burn and you've already learned how to use these tools, you might not want to switch. Otherwise, NationBuilder is an elegant replacement for these outdated donor management software suites. Our social CRM is designed to help you conduct donor outreach, interaction and contact logging from social media to phone and in-person contact, with rich analytics. You can print call sheets and download lists or your entire donor database easily.

But don't take our word for it, read what Tim Wayne from the Electronic Frontier Foundation had to say about his experience with both Convio and NationBuilder.

How is NationBuilder different than Kickstarter?


We're big fans of Kickstarter and have built similar crowdfunding tools into NationBuilder. It's a great place to go to raise funds fast, but first you need a base of supporters. NationBuilder helps you recruit and organize the base of support you'll need for a successful crowdfunding effort, even if you want to do it on Kickstarter.

How is NationBuilder different than Eventbrite?


We have great calendar and events tools, including ticketed events and flexible email tools. Eventbrite is great if you want to do an event or two, but NationBuilder supports events as part of a richer organizing infrastructure. We also have better integration with Facebook and a robust tagging system, helping you create a true events database of your supporters and prospects. Events professionals can also use NationBuilder's social media databasing and Klout and Topsy integration and search functions to target influential supporters in key geographical areas.

How is NationBuilder different than Ning?


Ning allows you to create an affordable custom social network and can be a great platform for your fans and supporters to hang out and chat. NationBuilder does many of the things that Ning does, plus gives you a highly customizable public website, a social CRM and email and texting features. A key differentiator is that while Ning is a community platform, NationBuilder is designed to help a leader or leaders move volunteers and loosely aligned supporters towards a common goal. Ning is more about hanging out, and NationBuilder is more about action.

How is NationBuilder different from SalesForce?


SalesForce can look attractive to nonprofits due to its initial 10 free licenses. However, it is a CRM designed for sales teams focused on one-way communication and its complexity can be daunting. NationBuilder is highly social and designed for advocacy and effective community building. SalesForce quickly grows expensive due to consulting requirements and once your organization expands beyond those initial licenses. NationBuilder has no limit on broadcasters for nonprofits.