Essentials of NationBuilder 3) Understanding Goals and Paths

One of the first lessons I learned when I started working in politics was “If it’s not written down, it’s not a plan” and the corollary “What gets measured gets achieved.” In the first article in this series, Setting Up Your Election, I discussed determining your Votes-To-Win and Dollars-To-Win numbers which are essentially the first two steps in preparing your campaign plan. In my second article, Point Persons and Permission Sets, I talked about strategies using Permission Sets and Point Persons to improve coordination and empower your organization. In this article, I will look at using NationBuilder Goals and Paths. Paths allow you to digitally write down your campaign’s plans and Goals let you measure your results.

A campaign plan should be broken down into measurable and trackable goals. NationBuilder allows leaders of an organization to immediately see the progress that is being made. It highlights successes as well as areas that need additional attention or resources. Of course, for a political campaign, the goal is to get the most votes or, more specifically, reach your Votes-To-Win number. However, there are short and intermediate term goals to get you there such as “Get 200 attendees to Campaign Kickoff Event”, “Find 200 Potential Volunteers” or “Raise $100,000 within 30 days.”

There are two types of goals that can be tracked: Action Goals, such as Petition Signatures or Pledges To Vote and Path Goals which tracks the numbers of completions of a particular Path, such as Volunteers Recruited. Path Goals allow more granular tracking, including the source of volunteers and the control panel users responsible for contributing to your goal.

When set up properly, the campaign manager and appropriate staff can log into the Nation’s control panel in the morning and immediately see the completion percent of any goal, the trend line from goal start to completion date, the recent progress of the prior week, and even the totals of each individual responsible for reaching those goals.

Now, how do we achieve those goals?

In an earlier article, I mentioned “Ladders of Engagement.” Think of paths as a ladder resting flat and each wrung a step along that path moving your campaign and supporters toward your goals. In NationBuilder, there are four default paths that relate to campaigns. You can also create your own custom paths. Take my example “Get 200 attendees to Campaign Kickoff Event” as a goal and apply a path to it. We could create a path “Attended Kickoff” and use a batch update to put everyone on our email and phone contact list on that path. The first step would be Contact Possible Attendees followed by Determine Interest, then Send RSVP Link, RSVP’d (Moving people to this step can be automated in the event page.), Follow Up, Reminder and finally Attended. Anyone who declined to attend would be “abandoned” from the path. Anyone who attended could be tagged appropriately and then batch updated as having completed the path.

Let’s take a look at a use-case to explore this further. FourTier Strategies was working with a Congressional campaign in the 2016 cycle. They had about 30 people sign up to volunteer but (based on our Vote-To-Win number which led us to our Voter Contact goal) we recognized that the campaign would need at least 200 volunteers knocking on doors and making phone calls over the 150 days until the primary.

Roughly 2,000 people had signed up for email updates. We had already appended phone numbers to our records so we decided to organize a phone bank to identify volunteers. The district was divided into 7 regions, each with a Regional Field Coordinator who worked under the campaign’s Field Director. We split our 2,000-person list based on which region they lived and ended up with 7 lists of between 250 and 300 people. We had 14 volunteers, so we split those lists and batch-updated each prospective volunteer to assign the volunteer who was calling them as their point person.

We created a survey as a phone script and then Scannable Call Sheets. Each of the volunteers, most of whom were calling remotely, had a Permission Set that allowed them to access people assigned to them so they were able to print out their individual call sheet. The survey answers would tag the respondents with Vol or Non-Vol, with what role they wanted to take with the campaign, and with their availability. The 7 Regional Field Coordinators were made the point person for the 2 volunteers that would be calling into their region so they could easily see their progress.

We created Volunteer Recruitment Paths for each of the 14 volunteers and assigned the paths to the appropriate Regional Field Coordinators. The path steps included Initial Contact, Survey, Call Back (if they got no answer or voicemail). All of these steps were assigned to the volunteer phonebankers.

The next step was Determine Suitability. This step was assigned to the appropriate Regional Field Coordinator for follow up. The RFCs were able to filter by people on the Determine Suitability step and follow up with identified volunteers. Once the RFCs had determined the suitability of their prospective volunteers, they moved them to the Invite Them To Volunteer Event step.

How was this able to impact the campaign? Within 10 days, they had identified 381 potential volunteers and had nearly 250 volunteers for a district-wide door-to-door canvass a week later.

One the real advantages to Paths is that allows a campaign to create flexible, transparent workflows for senior management, staffers and volunteers. NationBuilder only allows a supporter to have one Point Person at a time. Paths effectively eliminates this limitation because supporters can be on multiple paths. Different paths can be assigned to different Point Persons and even Steps on a Path can further be assigned to different Point Persons.  

Successful campaigns involve research, planning and setting and achieving goals. Using NationBuilder Goals and Paths as part of your strategy will help keep your campaign organized, efficient and moving in the right direction.

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Brad Marston is Co-Founder and Partner of FourTier Strategies. He is a Nationbuilder Certified Expert and Architect.