“Please RSVP by emailing…”

I’m a big fan of the TV show, The West Wing. If you’ve never seen it, it’s an award winning political drama that’s chock-full of relevant anecdotes and references for political / nonprofit work.

In one of my favorite scenes, the White House Communications Director goes on a tangent about people who have half an idea — who buy a big new thing and don’t know how to get the most out of it.

As a NationBuilder Expert, one of the things that always makes me cringe is when I see people under-utilizing the software. From using a “Basic page” to display a list of FAQs to embedding a third-party donation form into your site, there’s just something exasperating about seeing well-intentioned folks not get what they’re paying for. But there’s one thing that really breaks my heart more than the rest: not using the “Event page” to collect RSVPs.

We’ve all received it: the email blast inviting us to some upcoming event. It tries to be fun — exciting even! — and maybe uses an embedded image to try appear more like a postcard than an email. And at the end there’s the ask. “Please RSVP by emailing jane@doe.org.” Ugh.

Presumably, Jane is the event organizer. She’s responsible for planning the details, getting a head count, etc. Put another way, she’s super busy. Now, poor Jane — on top of planning and running the event, along with her day job — is getting (hopefully) inundated with email RSVPs. And you just know that a good number of them are more than RSVPs: they’re questions too. So now Jane is bogged down in countless email exchanges that eat up her time and attention.

And what about those RSVPs? Where’s Jane tracking them, anyway? In a spreadsheet? Pen & paper? Certainly not in the state-of-the-art people database their organization is paying for, monthly. And that’s a shame.

Instead of forcing directly people to overwhelm Jane with email, they could ask people to RSVP on a NationBuilder “Event page.” There, they’ll get structured data: names, emails, addresses, +1 info, etc. And everyone who signs up can be (a) tagged, (b) assigned a point person, and (c) sent an autoresponse confirmation email. Heck — NationBuilder can even pre-fill the supporter’s personal info from the database, meaning they’d be able to submit the form with one click.

And what about Jane, out event organizer? How will she know how many people are coming? In her NationBuilder Control Panel, she’ll be able to watch as an accurate, real-time list of everyone who’s RSVP’d (see example) gets generated automatically. She won’t have to do any data entry, and when the event gets close she’ll be able to quickly generate an email blast reminding everyone about their RSVP and sharing last minute tips (like directions or parking info).

I genuinely don’t know why any organization using NationBuilder would choose to manage RSVPs via email, except that they don’t know any better. So I beg you: don’t let yourself — or your clients — be that guy who buys a big thing and doesn’t know how to get the most out of it. Save yourself time and stress by letting NationBuilder automate your organizing.

Share this post