NationBuilder is somewhat unique as a content management system — because it isn’t one, really. It’s far more than that. NationBuilder is a community organizing system, and once you internalize that it transforms everything about the way that you approach using the software.
When I talk with prospective clients about working with them to design a custom NationBuilder website theme, one of the things I emphasize is the importance of what I call “NationBuilder-first design.” The idea is to design a theme that takes advantage of as much of NationBuilder’s native functionality as possible — to build a NationBuilder theme, not a website that runs on NationBuilder.
This is especially important if you‘re new to the platform because — at least initially — your ability to imagine your site’s community organizing potential is limited by your prior experience with less powerful platforms. It’s not your fault; you’ve been trained to see your website as a tool to do a limited number of things: tell your story; collect email signups; receive donations; etc. But it can do so much more.
In fact, it’s probably precisely because of that added functionality that you were drawn to NationBuilder. If leveraged properly, features like referral tracking, public profiles, and leaderboards can be incredibly powerful for organizing and growing your community of supporters. You should insist that they be an integral part your NationBuilder website.
A lot of folks will try to convince you to let them design a website for you, then shoehorn NationBuilder into it with a few signup forms here and there. Don’t buy it. If you do, you’ll be leaving a lot of tools on the table — tools that you’re already paying for, I might add — that can help you successfully grow and organize your community. Instead, insist on an authentic, NationBuilder-first theme. It may seem like more work up front, but you’ll be happier (and more successful) in the end.