Social Movement Technology

How are small teams achieving such big results?

Groundforce Digital
3 min readSep 23, 2015

If you work in the social sector then you are likely reading and hearing a lot about how technology can increase the impact of your organization. Services such as NationBuilder, MailChimp and Basecamp make digital organizing and campaigning more accessible to organizations of all shapes and sizes. New online services are constantly popping up to make everything from fundraising to project management easier. But if you are like many of the organizations that we work with, you are scratching your head wondering how to get started.

The first step in selecting any tool is to ensure you have clear objectives. When we say ‘social movement technology,’ we mean digital tools that enable very small (2–5 person) teams to engage large communities of people — through actions such as online signups, fundraising calls and event invitations — and to achieve results that would otherwise be unreasonable given the limited resources at their disposal. Results such as:

  • Four volunteers building the digital infrastructure for a provincial political party leadership campaign in under a week.
  • Two millennials building the infrastructure to support the elections of 14 municipal shadow councillors in two weeks.
  • Two people building the websites and contact management systems for 21 local campaigns and training their teams over the course of a year.

Find one of these highly-productive teams and it is likely you will uncover some great social movement-building technology. Out of necessity, these teams adopt emerging digital tools and push the boundaries of existing technologies. They are always seeking the optimal technology solution to minimize the time and cost of setup for the fundamental unit of a social movement — a small group of people with big ideas.

One system that is gaining significant traction in this small-team market is NationBuilder, and here’s why:

The price: NationBuilder starts at $29/month and gives a two-week free trial period. That’s pretty standard pricing for software-as-a-service. However, a closer look will reveal that NationBuilder integrates what would typically be four separate systems into one: people management, website content management, email communications and fundraising.

The support: The online resources provided by NationBuilder are robust, but comparable to other products. To understand the value of NationBuilder’s support offering, you need to look under the hood. NationBuilder has over 50 staff dedicated to customer and technical support. Most importantly, NationBuilder uses NationBuilder! They support well over 5,000 clients around the globe with the same system they make available to small startups.

Now that these and other tools are readily available, opportunities abound for organizations that are willing to innovate and try different approaches. Let’s start talking about the possibilities.

Chris Cowperthwaite | Groundforce Digital | | @GroundforceLive



Groundforce Digital

Digital strategy, product and campaign studio. Posts by @cswc.