Rise of the Netroots | npENGAGE

Rise of the Netroots

By on Jan 20, 2009


Today is inauguration day in the United States and there will be a lot of stirring words spoken, many people gathered together to celebrate, and lots of merriment into the wee hours of the morning. Tomorrow the issues and challenges confronting the Nation will still be there, and expect the netroots to continue having a major impact on the political process. This new type of digital citizen already changed political campaigns and advocacy forever.

Millions of Netroots
The Obama campaign built an email list of about 13 million addresses and sent more than 7,000 different messages during the election cycle. One million people signed up for Obama's text messaging program, and this was used heavily on election day in battleground states. The My.BarackObama.com website had more than 2 million users, 200,000 offline events were planned, and 35,000 volunteer groups were created. And there are another 5 million supporters on other social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace.

The Change.gov website gave us an early indication that leveraging the netroots wasn't just about getting elected. Expect to see Web, email, text messaging, social media, and social networks used during the Obama presidency to inform and interact with constituents. It could be a policy initiative, a bill stuck in Congress, or something else that needs public support to move forward. Unlike traditional media channels, many of which are passive, the online channels drive action in powerful and meaningful ways. The netroots are here to stay.

Lessons for Nonprofits
Numerous books, blogs, and presentations are being devoted to covering what really happened during the 2008 presidential campaign. And many wise nonprofits are adopting these lessons learned for their own online efforts. Consider that the Obama campaign raised more than $500 million online from about 3 million donors. Of the 6.5 million online donations, 6 million of them were in increments of $100 or less. With all the buzz and attention around their social networking efforts the reality is that they were able to get both followers and dollars.

If you're still trying to make sense of what the Obama campaign did, then why not start by finding the answers to some key questions. Have you already taken a good look at your 2008 online fundraising results? What was the mix of donors that gave both online and offline? What age and generation groups do your online donors call into? What were your conversion rates on direct mail and email messages? Have you put these numbers against your 2007 results? Have you modeled what might happen in 2009? What are you waiting for?


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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