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Wed, 23rd July 2014, 18:46

People who share common interest and goals, like believing that the world is in need for social changes, often join organized community groups and try to influence all kinds of institutions and corporations, and even the politicians (editor's note: the successful influencers are called lobbyists), exposing their ideas and suggestions to them, and when the negotiations fail, they initiate petitions, boycotts etc.

The internet is full of community organizing platforms which help small or big communities grow but we’re going to compare a few of the more popular community building platforms offering the best online tools for community organizing.

 

NationBuilder

 

NationBuilder.com is a “Software as a service” platform, which is hosted on Tiggee servers, and it’s used by political candidates and organizations to build their own websites by providing them tools such as text messaging, email and social media, helping them to raise funds and track the number numbers; make calendars and mobilize supporters for educational purposes.

NationBuilder includes a 14-day free trial, free manual data imports, website themes and page types, hosted custom domain, and easy SEO control. The prices start from 19 dollars per month - 2,000 people in your database + 200 “emailable” people in your database and the most expensive plan is 999 dollars per month, and you get 500,000 people in your database + 100,000 emailable people.

In 2012, NationBuilder managed to raise 6.25 million dollars in funding after the platform was released a year before, being founded by CEO Jim Gilliam. The platform was built using Ruby on Rails and a 'Liquid' themes.

 

ActionKit

 

This company was founded in 1998, by Patrick Michael Kane, whose software was used by Facebook, Rock The Vote and even Obama for America, which registered 2.6 million voters.

ActionKit is used by small or large community groups in the U.S. (as well as elsewhere), to help spread awareness on climate change, social justice issues, gun control and disaster relief.

Pricing starts at 995 dollars per month for groups with up to 50,000 emailable supporters, but prices goes to - 2,200 dollars per month for 100,000 emailable supporters.

ActionKit.com is hosted on Linode servers.

 

Salsa Labs

 

Salsa Labs was founded in 2004, being presented to the public under this slogan "Ignite Action. Fuel Change”. This non profit online marketing platform is also SaaS and is hosted on Amazon Web Services.

The services provided by Salsa Client team are: data clean-up, webpage customization, custom reporting, campaign migration and large-scale content. You can raise funds online, knowing where the donations came from, and there will be no donation fees.

The Advocate package gives your supporters a “voice”, allowing them to write personalized messages to all kinds of political figures, or officials and legislators. Other packages are Communicate and Organize, but the pricing options at Salsa Labs depends on the configuration of the platform that you choose. Currently, it supports more than 2000 nonprofit and political organizations.

Controversy erupted in 2012 when one co-founder of Salsa Labs, April Pedersen, announced that the other co-founder and CEO Chris Lundberg was being fired due to some campaign issues.

Salsa Labs received a 5 million dollars injection of venture capital cash from Edison Ventures, a decision possibly regretted later because the organization started to appeal only to Democrats.

 

Blue State Digital

 

This firm is specialized in online fundraising, social networking, advocacy and constituency development, being founded in 2004 by the former staffers of Howard Dean. It seems Howard Dean came up with the idea of running a campaign in which the voters were engaged to raise funds, and the team found a method to do it – they built up an email list and asked people to invest 5 or 10 dollars in a grassroots organization. The campaign failed but a year later, the former staffers had a discussion with the Democratic National Committee and remade the party with Governor Dean’s 50-state strategy... Their digital strategy was used in 2008 and again in 2012 for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

The services offered by Blue State Digital include: strategy, content strategy, production, design, video, analytics, digital communications and online advertising.

You’ll pay 450 dollars per month for less than 50,000 emailable people. The price for corporations and brands starts at 1,950 dollars per month. To get 1-2.5 million emailable people, you’ll pay 6,950 dollars per month, while the price for Nonprofits Campaigns is 1,800 dollars.

 

NGP VAN

 

NGP Van is an American company that provides technology to Democratic and progressive campaigns, and other organizations, by offering their clients services such as: Fundraising and Compliance, Voter Contact, Union Organizing, New Media, SmartVAN and Social Organizing.

The software was used also in Obama’s presidential campaign in 2012, (editor's note: does anyone else see a trend developing here..)  For seven years in a row, the company has been recognized by Inc. Magazine and is currently among the 50 fastest growing companies from DC.

NGP VAN is hosted on Blackmesh servers.

 

Ning

 

The company was founded in 2005 and in 2011 was acquired by Glam Media, being an online platform used by individuals and organizations that need a custom social network/website. The appearance of the website can be customized, and you’re able to share photos, videos, to create forums or blogs, or to allow your members to “Like” the content using their Facebook accounts.

Currently, there are more than 90,000 social websites running on the Ning Platform, and what’s great about this platform is that the customers are allowed to display advertisements on their websites and monetize them (Google AsSense).

You can choose one of the three different plans:

  • Basic – with a monthly pricing of 25 dollars, 1000 members, 2 administrators and email support, with responses within 48 hours;
  • Performance – 49 dollars per month, 10,000 members, 5 administrators and email response within a day.
  • Ultimate – 99 dollars per month, 100,000 members, 10 administrators, priority email and hotline support and APIs in the near future.

We're not quite sure why but it appears the owner of Ning has listed the domain for sale.

 screenshot showing Ning.com domain is for sale

Salesforce

 

This is a global cloud computing company that was founded 15 years ago. In June 2004, it went public on the NYSE, under CRM stock symbol, raising 110 million dollars, and it’s a constituent of the S&P 500 index. In 2014, it was considered by Forbes magazine as the seventh “Best Company to Work For”.

In 2007, it was criticized for its low security level, allowing a phishing attack to compromise the contact information of its customers. Even so, there are still 20,000 nonprofit organizations and educational institutions that are using Salesforce CRM.

The plans offered by Salesforce are:

  • Contact Manager – 5 dollars/month, 5 users; Group – 25 dollars/month, 5 users;
  • Professional – 65 dollars/month;
  • Enterprise – 125 dollars/month
  • Performance – 300 dollars/month.

The Salesforce.com domain was registered with Network Solutions

Of course every community is not ready, or able to afford the pricing plans offered by the aforementioned community organizing platforms. For those looking at more modest alternative, there are numerous open source community building platforms, forum systems (also known as bulletin boards), guestbooks, and mailing list applications available. Most are free to utilize with premium services available as your community grows.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

Mother Teresa

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