Annie Mosbacher is the Vice President of Customer Engagement at NationBuilder, a software for political candidates, non-profit organizations and brands. Their customers are individuals who are working with organizations, building a community, or advocating for a cause. Annie’s day to day involves the long term health and retention of their customer base.
Annie’s passion for non-profit organizations and the power political candidates have to make change led her to work with and found her own non-profit organization prior to NationBuilder. Her first endeavor was in helping underserved communities. This inspired her to co-found a non-profit connecting high school students with career paths they weren’t aware of. Her mission was to fill the large gap between the fields students were blindly pursuing and careers the workforce actually needed.
Annie continues to pursue change, regardless of it benefiting her own political beliefs, through her VP position at NationBuilder.
Today’s guest is Annie Mosbacher, the Vice President of Customer Engagement at NationBuilder. NationBuilder is a SaaS company offering non-profits, political candidates and brands help in building their communities. Annie oversees their client acquisition and retention, which is an incredibly interesting position as her political consumers don’t necessarily need the product, a campaign builder, after election day.
In this episode, Annie explains how NationBuilder acquires customers and retains them after they’ve finished using the product. She walks us through their non-partisan view and explains why it continues to be a fundamental part of their business, despite backlash. Lastly, she explains the future of digital political and fundraising campaigns and how any business can learn from these industries to grow their own dedicated community.
This is the Lean Commerce Podcast.
How did you initially start working with non-profits and political campaigns?
1:44 I have a deep and profound connection with higher education. I served as an executive director at the beginning of my career, helping underserved communities. Afterwards, I co-founded a startup to help young high school students connect with future careers they may not have been aware of. There’s a large gap in what people are pursuing and what the workforce actually needs, and I wanted to close it.
What careers did you find students most often followed?
4:46 Students often followed a liberal arts degree or went to college and used it to initially explore their future career. Yet, plumbing, welding, and more technical fields had the most opportunities. Students weren’t choosing these careers because they weren’t aware of the option. We explained to them that in three years, they would make six figures in these fields and if they were interested we showed them how to follow through.
What does customer acquisition look like when your customers are political candidates?
10:05 We have always provided a free voter file to people interested in running for office but don’t have the experience or connections to show them how to build a campaign. Our campaign courses are certainly there to drive customer acquisition, but they are also designed to help candidates build their first campaign.
How do you advance your mission and financially keep NationBuilder afloat?
13:44 It’s multifaceted, but the grounding principle is that we are extremely non-partisan. We’ll work with any customer regardless of their political beliefs or backgrounds, which is unprecedented in the tech and software political space. We also have a lot of diversification in the scale of customers we support, ranging from large international campaigns to local school board candidates.
15:24 We offer different engagement paths, so whether a customer wins or loses their campaign, there are ways for them to continue to use NationBuilder to keep the momentum and to work with like minded candidates in their area.
What is the future of online campaigns?
18:14 There was a big report that came out of the Obama campaign, in the success they had using staged donation pages. For example, a donation page with one type of information capture per page (email, phone number, credit card, etc.). The theory was that people didn’t get fatigued filling out all of their information on one page. The landscape of digital campaigning now is that we’ve reverted to putting everything back on one page.
19:27 The digital campaign industry could go a lot of ways. Our society is very partisan right now and it’s infused into technology. For example, we currently have candidates banned from social platforms. There is a conversation we have to have in the tech industry about the service we are providing to democracy as technology is changing the roots of political organizing.
Do you think the playing field for candidacy is leveled now that you can run campaigns for a much cheaper price than ever before?
21:37 Certainly. The amount of virality that exists around candidates now has totally changed who goes into office.
What processes do you have in place to find new customers?
23:15 Averaging out, we have about equal amounts of political customers as we do fundraising and non-profits organizations. We also work with a few brands, which is the smallest sublet of our consumers.
24:17 We prospect into communities that have had success with NationBuilder. We also have a robust sales engine that focuses primarily on enterprise sales. A lot of our acquisition is inbound through word of mouth and the PR space.
27:40 Run For Office is our platform that collects all of the open seats that people can run for around the country. A lot of people are wondering how they can get involved in their community, and through the platform we use their address to find what seat they could run for. Anybody that doesn’t know how to run for office can come to NationBuilder and get an understanding of the landscape, have a conversation with our customer engagement team, and build out a campaign. This option didn’t exist ten to fifteen years ago.
What holds NationBuilder together and pushes the company forward?
31:23 I think that across the board, there isn’t anybody who works at NationBuilder that isn’t in some way deeply connected to the mission. Most of us are sold on working here because of the mission.
Why is NationBuilder non-partisan, and so open about this choice?
34:13 It has been a fundamental part of our company since day one. Everywhere that we talk about our values online, we fiercely explain that we are facilitators of the leaders in the world, pursuing what they believe is the most important thing. It’s not up to us to be the decider of who gets access to these resources.
What developments are on the rise for non-profits and fundraisers?
40:32 Organizations that recognize leadership and responsibility are going to win their campaigns. For example, by letting members of your community advocate for you can drastically spread the word about your mission or organization. This is proven to net out more donations. We are also seeing that long term community members give higher donations than short term, so focusing on relationships over time, versus building a large list, can be more fruitful.
43:40 There is so much that each industry can learn from other sectors. For example, political candidates can learn from non-profits. Look at different ways that communities are being built and see how those tactics and strategies can be used to build your community.
Resources mentioned in the Podcast:
Contact Annie Mosbacher at: