We Wouldn’t Exist Without Net Neutrality

We Wouldn’t Exist Without Net Neutrality

This is adapted and cross-posted from Drew’s startup project, 198 methods – check them out if you want to see some of what Drew is doing when not helping our clients save the planet (hint, saving the planet by other means).

Big ISPs want to Kill net Neutrality, not on our watch.Imagine a world where Donald Trump’s tweets are delivered faster, instantly, to every device in the world, but our messages and emails planning protest and resistance take hours to be delivered. It’s not a nightmare (well, it would be) — it’s what the internet could look like without Net Neutrality.

Net neutrality is a basic concept: your internet provider cannot slow down your browsing on certain pages, block websites, or charge apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience. All legal content is treated the same.

It’s been crucial to new movements around the world because it ensures activists can share news and ideas at the same speed as corporations and governments. If you streamed a video from Standing Rock, Donated to a candidates campaign online, or just shared an online petition with a friend – you’re using Net Neutrality.

And now, that’s all in danger. Click here to send a message using the coalition action page to the FCC and your elected officials in D.C. telling them that you won’t stand by and let them kill net neutrality.

Trump has a former Verizon lawyer to lead the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a crusade to weaken Obama’s legal framework for net neutrality.

If they succeed, Cable companies and internet providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon  will have dramatically more control over what you can see online, and can extract bribes and payments from anyone who wants to get their message out. Without the current net neutrality rules, they’ll be able to block, throttle, and censor what you can see on the internet – not to mention charging you extra fees for decent service.

But its not too late to speak out: The FCC is taking public comments until Monday, July 17th. Which is why we’re teaming up with a  huge coalition of friends online to make our voices heard. Millions of people have already spoken out against the FCC’s plan to kill net neutrality, but we need to turn up the heat even more.

Thanks for standing up for a free and open internet.

Think big in 2017

Think big in 2017

So Trump is our President. What do we do now? Last month I wrote a general overview on what to do with your digital infrastructure after a race, and the lessons still hold true. What else?

We’re in a unique moment, with a president-elect who has never before held public office, and a historically unpopular agenda. There’s unprecedented levels of anger and frustration in our country. You can see it with the street-level protests, and in the donations pouring into well-known progressive activist groups.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have already seen surges of donations. In the former, many of those donations were given in the name of Mike Pence — a hook other groups could look at replicating.

Meanwhile, various Democratic groups at all levels have been flooded with new activists and volunteers.

So what to do with this new energy? Think big.

Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything talks about the organizing they did online and offline for Bernie Sanders. One of their lessons is to empower your volunteers to build the organization itself. This can be a new way of thinking about online organizing. Your email list isn’t just an ATM. Rather, it should be looked at as a membership and volunteer list: every person on your list has unique skills and talents. Use them fully.

Don’t limit your reach by only asking supporters to click on petitions and give money, or for volunteers to sit around and stuff envelopes. Consider asking your best supporters to do more. Help define your work and the direction you should go. Ask them to step up and own parts of the 2017 plan. Set your supporters free, and see what you can build together.

The Sanders campaign learned how much empowered volunteers can accomplish when you set them free and think big. You can do the same.

What do you do post-election?

What do you do post-election?

It’s the end of an era, President Obama’s term is over and we’re living under Trump rule now. Candidates of all stripes can learn from example of what to do after the campaign or elected office ends.

From Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to a city council race, what you do with your website, email list and social media after Election Day is crucial to your political future– if you want one.

Sanders has taken a popular route — similar to the one Howard Dean took after 2004 — by shifting his campaign over to a new organization. Dean for America became Democracy for America, and the Sanders campaign has become Our Revolution. That makes sense for a presidential-level campaign, with volunteers and resources in all 50 states. Note that Sanders isn’t necessarily prepping to run again, unlike Ted Cruz, who is keeping his campaign more or less under direct control. The Sanders social media accounts are still active and in his voice, which makes sense because he’s built an audience he wants to maintain engagement with.

Hillary Clinton has mostly stepped off the stage, which means the HFA infrastructure she’s built is sitting there unused. She’s slowly started tweeting again, but the future for her (and her campaign) is unclear.

Barack Obama’s OFA infrastructure has revved up after January 20, with on-the-ground organizing of events and his own social media accounts picking up activity. He may be one of the most active former presidents we’ve seen, as his legacy is directly threatened by Trump.

What you can learn from this is that your supporter base is invaluable. But you must keep in touch. Keep emailing your list periodically, keep your social media accounts active to keep your relationship with your supporters alive. It may or may not make sense to transfer your infrastructure to a separate organization, but either way it needs to be maintained.

Make sure that you have full access to everything before the campaign formally ends – if other people were posting to social media and on the website, sending mass emails for the campaign, you will want to make sure you have all logins and passwords to continue, and any instructions needed to operate the mass email software or update the website.

Aim for at least one email a month, if you can, to keep people up to date on what you’re doing on the issues you campaigned on. Social media updates should be more frequent than that – if you don’t have time to put a lot of content out on Facebook and Twitter, perhaps link the two so content is cross-posted. This isn’t generally a good idea, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Make sure to tidy up the campaign website so it has current content info, and old campaign info is hidden or gone. The site itself should be evergreen enough to carry on for another year or two without touching. Make sure the domain name and website hosting is renewed, and the contact info for the registration goes to a real person so it doesn’t slip through the cracks and get captured by spammers (or an opponent).

Finally, be sure to shut down any online fundraising pages, remove donate buttons and links from the website and social media so you don’t need to deal with contribution refunds after the fact.

If all this digital infrastructure is properly maintained, you will have a real boost up when running for office in the future. Or for changing the world as an activist outside the system.

Case study – digital fundraising with 350.org

Case study – digital fundraising with 350.org

The plan was to use modern digital fundraising tactics to raise approximately $1 million dollars between the end of November (Giving Tuesday) and December 31 for 350.org.

This was a substantial increase over past December drives, so we needed a mixture of smart planning, crisp writing, and updated ActionKit. Then, just as we were about to really get this party started in November, Donald Trump was elected President. In the first week of December, Trump announced former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tilerson as his nominee for Secretary of State.

In the end, we raised just over $2.2 million in the December Drive. Even more important, we dramatically increased recurring donors, which are a key source of ongoing funding for 350. Here’s how we did it and a a few key elements to our success:

  • Talking about Trump and the election: Simply put the election of Donald Trump was the key to success we never wanted, and couldn’t stop taking advantage of. Emails that mentioned Trump explicitly out performed non-Trump emails by a wide margin. It’s clear that 350 members and supporters understand the threat of the Trump presidency and are motivated to support your work as a result
  • Sending more emails. We added emails to the calendar, extended the fundraising plan by 2 weeks (from 4 to 6) and sent close to 5 million outbound messages in total, more than twice as many as in 2015. And more mail did not lower the average gift or yes rate; In fact we raised 14% more/email sent than in 2015.
  • Suggested asks and algorithms that bumped up the average gift. Our plan called for a 30% increase in the average gift. Thanks to ActionKit’s suggested Ask tools and more targeted segmenting of the donor list we beet that goal by $1 in small gifts and more than $40 in mid-level donations.
  • Recurring donors. We hoped to increase monthly giving by about 10%/month. Instead we nearly doubled it – and have beaten industry standard metrics for donor retention every month – so technically, we’re adding new monthly donors in 2017, instead of gradually losing the ones we signed up in late 2016.

Not everything worked perfectly, of course, and we had a few misfires of things where we got mixed results. Where we could identify consistent types of failure, we of course tried to pivot away from those behaviors. And on the whole, the drive was a huge success. But into every life a little rain must fall, so here’s some examples of things that need more time in the oven or were outright failures, may you learn from (and not repeat) our errors:

  • Video content: Historically, Bill McKibben records a year end video that’s sent to the entire 350 global community, and it’s usually the top performing fundraiser by far. This year, Bill recorded a video with his adorable dog, and it did fine, but not great. .
  • Match asks and pledge-raisers. We added several match asks to the YE series this year, and for giving Tuesday we ‘raised our own match’ by asking mid level donors to chip in first, and then asking non-donors to match their pledges. The #givingtuesday version was a big success – the content overall was one of the most successful part of our drive. But the individual match emails did not perform better than our best Trump content (see table above). That doesn’t mean matches are a bad idea, especially where there is not a specific anti-Trump message that makes sense to raise money on.
  • More photos and animated gifs. This one is a decidedly mixed result – with some clear indications that photos and animatics in donation emails are probably a good idea but more testing needed. To wit – we did one head to head test on Giving Tuesday where we tried versions with and without photos, and tried two different photos – 1 an image of Trump’s face and a more “uplifting” one of a big anti-Trump march. While the click and donate rates were similar for all three versions, the one with Trump’s face had a markedly higher average donation and raised more than $10,000 more. It’s also true that in the image tests, more of the clicks went to the image/button than to the text links. But because the click rate was not higher overall, we can’t say that the image itself caused more people to click – just that when presented with an image, they’re more likely to click on that than other content.
  • More links and different kinds of links. Interestingly, when we re-sent that same #givingTuesday email later in the day encouraging people to help us hit the match goal before the end of #givingTuesday, people were equally likely to click on the text link in the short lift note as they were to click on the image lower in the email. Again the overall click rate did not go up, so we can’t say for sure that adding the image or the lift note made the click rate go up, but we do know that people are more likely to click on short summary links at the top, and big images in the body of an email.

And here’s one to avoid.

  • Apologizing asks and “sorry but” phrasing. When comparing emails with photos/graphics, similar word counts and similar messengers/signers. One thing stood out as different between some messages: tone. Where we were defiant and the call to action clearly connected donations to the campaign with sentences like “If you believe in our collective work to stand up to fossil fuel interests, I hope you’ll make a $15 donation to 350.org this year” we saw big success. In otherwise similar messages where the tone was more apologetic and reluctant, like “Neither of us are super keen about asking you for money, but we are committed to this fight, and we hope you are too,” we had a struggle.

So that’s our experience raising money for 350 in the Post-Trump December 2016. Got ideas, questions, or maybe a suggestion for how to do things better? Hit us up on facebook, twitter, or just drop me a line and let me know how PowerThru can help you.

Evaluating your organization or campaign’s existing online profile & resources

Evaluating your organization or campaign’s existing online profile & resources

With a new year almost upon us, it’s time to take digital stock. Whenever I begin working with a new organization, I start by evaluating where they’re at digitally. I’ve walked into a campaign before to find out that email signups on the website are going nowhere! Or that fundraising is a separate system and online donors are not integrated into your mass email stream. Perhaps the campaign has an old Twitter handle from four years ago, and nobody knows the password anymore. Or somebody is squatting on the domain name of your organization because nobody renewed it. Without taking a thorough top-down look, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks – especially if the organization or campaign has been on digital autopilot for awhile.

So how do you get started in evaluating your organization’s digital program, and planning for the future? Begin by cataloguing all your digital assets, and making sure you have passwords to everything (or start reaching out to Facebook, Twitter etc. to try to get access back to old social media properties).

Here’s some basic questions to ask to help build that digital inventory.


Does your campaign or organization have a website? What technology is it using – it is using one of the popular CMSs (content management system, a la WordPress or Joomla or NationBuilder) or is it custom-coded? How easy is it to manage and update? Is it mobile responsive? Is your website meeting your needs: who is your intended audience, and can they easily do the things they need and want to do? How much are you paying for regular maintenance, and web hosting? What does your typical amount of traffic look like, and are you prepared for surges? Do you have full admin access to the site, or are you dependent on outside consultants? What domain names do you have registered, are they under your name, and how long is the registration good until? Does the website include an easy way to sign up for email updates, make a donation, and find your social media accounts?

CRM (Mass email, online donations, online activism)

Do you have an email list or lists? What CRM are you using, if any (a la ActionKit, Action Network, BlueUtopia, Convio, NationBuilder, NGP VAN, Salsa)? What does your contract and costs look like? Does your CRM meet your advocacy and donation needs? Do you have full admin access to the list? What’s the size of your list today, and how does your email list perform over time? When’s the last time an email was sent to the list? (If it’s more than a month or so, expect a pretty large drop-off from bounces/unsubscribes the next time you do an email). Do you have orphan lists, left in non-integrated donation systems such as ActBlue or an old NGP account, on paper (such as volunteer sign in sheets or meeting attendance sheets), or in old CRMs?

Social Media

What social media properties do you have? Do you have passwords and full admin access to everything? Do any names of pages or accounts need to be changed or updated? What do your audiences look like in terms of raw numbers, and in terms of engagement level? Are there duplicate Facebook pages out there, personal Facebook profiles instead of pages and so on?

Setting Goals

Once you’ve taken stock of where you at, and noted what needs improving, you can start to set numeric goals (benchmark average website traffic, email list size and open/click rate, social media followers and engagement rate, average amount of donations per email etc.).

If you’re wondering how your numbers compare to other non-profits, check out M&R benchmarks, the latest benchmarks study comparing online fundraising, advocacy and organizing for 105 nonprofits around the country. There isn’t anything so transparent for political campaigns, but you can observe your opponents’ social media counts and engagement levels (and their campaign finance filings) to get a sense of how their digital operation is running.

If you’re trying to figure out what are realistic goals on how big you can get, Facebook advertising can be a good tool for this: you can pull counts of how many people across the country are interested in your issue, or how many voters of your party live in your city, region or state. What % of your target audience have you already engaged with?

Once you have an idea of how big you could realistically get, you’re probably wondering how to get there. For your reading pleasure: how to grow your email list.

The last debate of the longest campaign

The last debate of the longest campaign

It’s been a grueling campaign season. And the last few weeks have, by all accounts, gotten incredibly dark and dangerous as Donald Trump declares the race “rigged” and tells his supporters to form roving voter intimidation squads.

But if you want to strike a blow for civility, normalcy, and good civic behavior join us for the last debate! We’ll watch live as Chris Wallace, the anchor of Fox News Sunday, moderates the final debate. He’s known for his aggressive questioning style of both Democrats and Republicans, so let’s hope he gets into climate change, voting rights, gun safety, and other issues that matter.

Live Blog The last Debate of the Longest Campaign

What’s new since our last conversation? Well, Laura delivered over 50,000 signatures to Fox News’ offices in New York asking them to ask about #votingrights and mass disenfranchisement. Sounds like a good idea to us, given Trump’s ongoing nonsense about “rigged elections”.

Also, tens of thousands of people have signed on to petitions calling on the debate moderators to ask a question about climate change. Given that Wallace works at Fox News, expectations are low that he’ll oblige (no other moderator has asked about climate change either). But we’ve seen him go after Rick Santorum on climate in the past, so we’ll be paying attention!

See you Oct. 19 at 9 p.m. Eastern / 6 p.m. Pacific live online from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas (UNLV).

No-hype required. Watch the Second 2016 Presidential debate Live with us.

No-hype required. Watch the Second 2016 Presidential debate Live with us.

Seriously, no event in modern political history has ever needed LESS hype, drama, or promotion than the second Presidential debate on October 9, 2016.

The only reason we’re even writing an intro for this post is because we teach and provide good Search Engine Optimization services for progressive political candidates and groups – and best practices require at least 300 words in a post.

So here it is – our live stream of tweets, comments, and updates from the second Presidential Debate

Live Blog The Second Presidential Debate LIVE with PowerThru and friends

Just to hit the appropriate word count, here’s a few facts and links:

First of all, let’s remember that the last time these two nominees met, it was a BIG deal. maybe one of the most consequential debates of recent presidential elections. I’ll let Tessa Stuart at Rolling Stone explain:

His humiliation at the hands of the former secretary of state that night sent the GOP nominee into a week-long death spiral. He declared himself the winner, and when no one agreed with him, blamed the moderator and then his microphone for his loss; for good measure, he lobbed a few extra insults at a former Miss Universe.

It would have been almost a relief, then, when a New York Times report last Saturday finally changed the subject – that is, if the subject hadn’t been changed to Trump losing nearly a billion dollars in a single year, possibly allowing him to avoid paying taxes for nearly two decades.

Then the subject changed again on Friday, also decidedly not in Trump’s favor, this time to a leaked 2005 hot-mic recording of Trump bragging to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush about assaulting women: grabbing them “by the pussy” and kissing them without their consent.

So, yeah, it’s a big deal. But will anyone watch? The first debate had record viewership, attracting about 84 million viewers over 13 channels. But that’s not normal, as Politico explains:

If recent history is any guide, the second one won’t hit those heights. In 2012, 65.6 million people watched the second debate between Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, shy of the 70 million that tuned in for the first Obama-Romney clash. But this weekend’s events could certainly change that.

It’s such a big deal that, for once, CNN’s over-hyping of something Anderson Cooper (btw – congrats to the first out gay moderator!) does is totally deserved. See you tonight!

Tune in for the Veep Debate!

Tune in for the Veep Debate!

Are you ready for some mostly-inconsequential, but possibly still entertaining Ruuuuuummmbblllee??!

*Ahem* We here at PowerThru love politics. So it will come as no surprise that we watched the first Presidential debate with rapt attention. Our clients and friends (and hey, us!) are working on a wide range of elections this fall, as well as critical issue-oriented campaigns like climate change, voting rights, civil rights, and more that absolutely hinge on the outcome of the election.

So yeah, we’re into it. Which is also why we’d like to cordially invite you to watch the Vice Presidential debate live with us right here on the internet.

RSVP below!

Live Blog Tune in for the Veep Debate!

Why watch with us?

Well, let’s be honest, the VP debate is not expected to be as Trump-y as the first presidential debate. Pence and Kaine are both staid, career politicians that nobody expects to make a fuss. In fact, veteran media analyst Jeff Greenfield says “If you could bottle the indifference with which America will treat the Pence-Kaine debate, it could put several time zones to sleep.”

BUT the battle of the Veep-steaks is worth watching (and promoting) for a few reasons:

  1. We're looking at you, Tim.
    We’re looking at you, Tim.

    For once the expectations are higher for the inexperienced white male Republican in a debate. Pence has to walk back some of Trump’s trumpier trumpisms including: Climate Denial, insulting all women everywhere, and painting Alicia Machado as a dangerous bank robbing felon who once threatened a judge while retaining the latino vote. Tim Kaine needs to wear pants, and gets bonus points if he works in a shoulder shimmy. 

  2. It’s about the media. Lester Holt was widely panned for his work moderating the first debate. Mostly because he let Trump tell 34 lies in 90 minutes (just about par) and never once said, “hold on there crazy pants.” Quijano has a lesser challenge, given that both Pence and Kaine are expected to, you know, prepare and also answer in complete sentences. But she’s still got a job to do – asking about Climate Change, voting rights, choice (which by the by NOBODY has asked about in a debate yet this year) and more. What’s more, if Quijano does ask solid questions on topics that matter it could set a powerful precedent for the second Presidential Debate – coming up next Sunday, October 9. That debate is in a town hall format and you can submit and vote on questions through our friends at the Open Debate Coalition. So the tone and content of the questions at the Veep debate will help shape the coverage and content of more important debates later.
  3. It’s about Congress and the Senate in particular. Pence served in the Congress, Kaine in the Senate. After the first debate, polls swung back towards Clinton and the Democrats. The Kaine-Pence debate offers a chance to talk more about the other-white-meat, err branch of Government. Kaine could have a chance to vote on the TPP during a lame duck session – should he? And how would he vote given Clinton’s for-it-before-I-was-against-it-don’t-tell-@POTUS stance?

So C’mon, do it for Uncle Joe! Tune in with us Tuesday, October 4 for a fun-filled night guaranteed to make you appreciate Joe Biden, and the democratic process.

Debate night with Powerthru and Friends

Debate night with Powerthru and Friends

Let’s watch the debate together to see if Trump and Clinton talk about the issues PowerThru Clients and friends care about: Voting Rights, Climate Change, $15 and full time and more!

Live Blog Debate Night with PowerThru