Last week, Corporate Action Network launched an online organizing toolset called the Action Network. I have some experience with community organizing (I started a successful campaign to save my local branch library), so I was interested in what this new tool could do.
I created a petition and set out to explore. The first feature that caught my eye was the design; it’s clean and simple. Also, the Action Network guides you through each step. For those new to online advocacy, this is particularly helpful. In addition to outstanding usability, the Action Network boasts these innovative features as well:
It's more that just petitions.
You can create an event, share files, set up a form for questions or surveys, and email your supporters. I did all of this from my Action Network dashboard. If you’re managing a campaign, you can enable additional site features (yes, for free) where you can create a campaign page that displays a list of associated actions. Furthermore, the site has great collaborative features such as an “Event Campaign,” which provides other organizations or people the ability to host events within a framework that you set up.
You can easily customize, theme, and embed your actions.
A quick copy and paste of the embed widget allows you to share content on social media or other sites. By checking a box to remove the styles, I was able to embed my petition on a website and integrate it with the target site’s look and feel within minutes. I was also able to quickly add a set of checkboxes to my petition so I could ask supporters for additional information.
The email and reporting tools are phenomenal.
The toolkit provides excellent ways of managing mass emails so you can target exactly the supporters you’re trying to reach. I was able to set the email to include and exclude supporters by state, zip code, radius, radius from event, and even include or exclude supporters based on whether they had recently responded to any actions I’d set up. The same thing goes for reports. The Action Network provides a rich set of criteria to choose from when setting up a report.
You own the data.
The Action Network doesn’t email your supporters. I felt good about that. Sometimes I worry that by asking people to support my action and be on my mailing list, I am signing them up for yet another service that will clutter their inbox. In addition, the Action Network made it very easy for me to download my supporter data if I want to use it outside of their website.
The free version is fully featured for individuals and small groups.
While other organizing websites have a complicated structure of free and paid features, the Action Network keeps it simple by offering it’s entire organizing toolset upon registration. The catch is that it’s only available to individuals and small groups that support progressive causes, which could be a significant drawback depending on your organization’s size or political leanings.
To be fair, there are some potential downsides to this platform. Chief among them is visibility. Since the Action Network has no email base of it’s own, I don’t see a great way for them to promote your material (although there are a few featured actions on their homepage). Additionally, because they are not as established as sites like change.org and moveon.org, the reach of your actions beyond your base may be limited (especially at first). However, their collaboration tools and excellent usability are big time savers for organizers and help make up for these deficiencies.
Despite these caveats, the Action Network brings some much needed simplicity, innovation, and collaboration to the petition tool space. As for me, the next time I have an issue I feel passionate about, I know exactly where I’ll go to organize support for it.