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Build Your Power Online with Action Network

Home > Digital Organizing Toolbox > Build Your Power Online with Action Network

Build Your Power Online with Action Network

You organize because you want to build power and win your campaign. Online organizing is no different, and just like in your on-the-ground organizing, you need to be strategic and choose the right tools and tactics to win.

Action Network is a tool designed to help you build your power online. Action Network was built by activists who wanted to share these tools with other activists, and the platform includes petitions, emails, letter writing and more. You can use Action Network to find and recruit new activists, keep in touch with supporters, target decision makers, and keep your list well organized along the way.

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Many grassroots groups struggle to keep their lists organized, start online petitions only to realize they don’t get to keep the contact information of the people who sign it, or use online organizing tactics without a clear plan or strategy. But digital organizing can be powerful with the right tools and resources, and Action Network is a great place to start building your power online. With Action Network, you can keep all the contact information, organize your list, and recruit supporters to take action on- and offline.

That’s why Community Action Works is offering trainings and side-by-side digital organizing on Action Network to get you started. Got questions or want to learn more? Contact us!

How It Works

Action Network can be used to drive people to action both on- and offline. In this example, Community Action Works partnered with Arise for Social Justice to stop a plan to pass off polluting biomass incineration as renewable energy. This plan could have directed funds meant for clean, renewable energy to a proposed incinerator in Springfield, MA, which is already the asthma capital of the U.S. Together, we used Action Network to recruit people to attend a public hearing on this issue.

Step 1: Collect information.
We needed to find the right people who cared about this issue and would be willing to take action. So, we created a letter campaign on Action Network and shared this page with our existing networksincluding sending an email to people we know in Massachusetts, sharing it on social media, and asking other people to share it, too.


Step 2: Recruit people who sent a letter to come to the meeting.
After we spent a few weeks sharing the letter campaign, we had a list of more than 250 people who had sent a letter. Because Action Network allows you to keep all the data, we had email addresses and phone numbers for everyone who had signedand we knew they cared about this issue. So we sent them an email about the hearing and asked them to join us, and then followed up with a text message for people who were in the area.


If we had had more time, we would have done things a little differentlywe might have held a recruitment meeting to bring people together to connect and learn more before the hearing, and identify leaders who might help us run this campaign. We also did a lot of traditional recruitmentwe reached out to coalition partners, went door-to-door talking to neighbors in Springfield, and made phone calls to members to invite them. The hearing was a successmore than 100 people came and there were hours of testimony against the plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Action Network easy to use?
Action Network is very user-friendly. Community Action Works also offers trainings and side-by-side technical assistance to help you make the most out of the tools available. Contact us to learn more.

What tools are available on Action Network?
Some of the top tools that grassroots activists use are emails, petitions, letter writing, database and forms, and all of these tools are available on Action Network. See a full list of tools.

Does Action Network include social media?
No. Action Network doesn’t try to do it allbut it does include the online organizing tools that are most commonly used outside of social media.

How can I get set up?
Contact us to get started. We’ll set up a quick call to make sure it’s the right fit. From there, we’ll create your account, send you the login information, and get started with a training on how to use your new account.

Still have questions? Get help now!

Which Social Media Should You Use?

Home > Digital Organizing Toolbox > Which Social Media Should You Use?

Which Social Media Should You Use?

If you’re organizing people online (or offline), you’re probably thinking about how you can use social media. And for good reason—billions of people are on Facebook, and with millions more on Twitter, that means that the people you’re trying to reach are probably on social media.

But there are lots of social media sites out there, so how should you decide which to prioritize?

To answer that question, look at your campaign. What are your goals? When you are clear on what you’re working towards, you can start to think about what tools you need to win.

Top Social Media for Organizing

It might be tempting to want to be on every social media platform, but you have limited time and resources, so focus on what will help your campaign the most. Facebook and Twitter are two of the biggest social media tools to consider. Facebook is a great tool to connect with people that you already know, get visibility inside your circle, and recruit supporters. Twitter is a great tool for connecting with people that you don’t know, getting visibility outside your circle, and getting media.


It’s likely that people in the community you’re organizing use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, read news, follow topics they’re interested in, and learn about upcoming events. Facebook can be a powerful tool for organizing, too. Facebook can be used to:

  • Connect with people you know
  • Get visibility in your community
  • Influence targets
  • Recruit supporters to come to events
  • Strengthen your group with online conversation


Should you be on Facebook? Ask yourself:
  • Are your priority decision-makers on Facebook?
  • Are people in the community you’re organizing on Facebook? (Not sure? See research on the breakdown by age, race, income, education, gender, and the difference between rural, urban, and suburban communities.)
  • Would visibility on Facebook benefit your group?
  • Would online conversation between members of your group strengthen your work?
  • Who in your group has the capacity to manage Facebook?


Choosing the Right Facebook Account
How to Decide What Facebook Account You Need Flowchart

Click to enlarge.

When you’re setting up a Facebook account, you have the choice between a Page or Group. The type of Facebook account you should choose depends on what you want to do with it. This flowchart can help you decide.


On a page, only people who are given access can post. People must “like” your page to see your posts. With a page, you can tag your targets and create events. You can also run paid ads to reach more people or make sure more of your supporters see your post. Everything is public. A page is good for visibility, pressuring targets, and recruiting supporters.

Protect South Portland, a community group that has won impressive campaigns against ExxonMobil and for organic land care in South Portland, Maine, has a great Facebook page. See their page.


In a group, anyone who has joined the group can post, and only people who are in the group will see the posts. Groups are good for connecting with people you know, getting visibility within the group, and strengthening your group, as people in the group can engage in conversation with each other. Note: You can make your group Public, Private/Closed, or Secret. Use this infographic to decide which one to use.


Twitter is a widely used platform for news, updates, commentary and more. In organizing, Twitter can be used to connect with reporters, pressure targets and connect your campaign to a bigger coalition, network or movement. Twitter can be used to:

  • Connect with people you don’t know
  • Get visibility in the wider movement
  • Pressure targets
  • Get media attention


Should you be on Twitter? Ask yourself:
  • Are your priority decision-makers on Twitter?
  • Are people in the community you’re organizing on Twitter? (Not sure? See research and decide for yourself.)
  • How would the visibility you could get on Twitter benefit your group?
  • Are you part of a bigger movement, coalition or network that uses Twitter?
  • Is press a key part of your strategy?
  • Who in your group has the capacity to manage Twitter?


Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Getting into online arguments. Sometimes it happens that “trolls” comment on your posts with inflammatory statements. Even while this can be frustrating, it’s best to avoid a long, in-depth argument. Instead, you should think about the tone you want to strike, which is likely positive and recruiting, and reply with a simple comment and leave it at that. Your audience is not the “troll” who made the inflammatory comment, but rather the people who will see your response. If you have a group where anyone can post, it could be helpful to lay out written guidelines in the group description to establish what types of posts will be considered inflammatory and be deleted by the moderator.
  • Not establishing a point person for social media. You want to make sure that at least one person is responsible for a given social media account. It’s possible to have 1-3 others who want to help create posts, but one person should be in charge of making sure that happens. Also remember that your personal online personna is different than your group’s online personna, so make sure everyone who is posting is using the right messaging and tone.
  • Spending too much time on social media instead of organizing. Remember that all digital organizing should be a complement to your on-the-ground organizing. Around 20% of your campaign should be online, and that means 80% should be offline.


Next Steps

Once you’re set up on Facebook or Twitter, it’s time to use these tools to organize. See the Planning a Social Media Action page for ideas on how to use these tools to build power online.

Still have questions? Get help now!

Getting Your Website Started

Home > Digital Organizing Toolbox > Getting Your Website Started

Getting Your Website Started

Your website is your online home base. When people are searching for information about your group, your website is what they’re most likely to find—so you want to make sure it boosts your on the ground organizing. You can do that by setting the right goals and designing your website to meet those goals.


Websites can be used to:
  • Build your email list. If you are building your email list, having a signup form on your website can help.
  • Take online donations. If you are fundraising, having a website can be helpful to build credibility with donors and give them all the information they need to make a contribution.
  • Build credibility with the media. If media is a key part of your strategy, having a website can help reporters see all your information, including contact information, and makes you seem more credible. (Your decision-maker will notice, too.)
  • Educate people on your issue. Your website is a place where you control the message about your issue and can tell your story to help people learn more.


Before you get started

Have a goal.

Like everything you do in organizing, you need to have a goal that defines your strategy, and designing a website is no different. Consider why you are building a website. What do you need your website to do to make your organizing more powerful?

Your goals should shape what you put on your website, and where you put it. Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do. For example, if you’re trying to get as many signatures as possible on your petition before you deliver it to your target, then a link to sign your petition should be front and center.

Be honest about time.

The time it takes to maintain a website can vary, depending on what features you include. Think about who in your group can dedicate time to maintaining the website. Then figure out how much time it will take to maintain your website — for example, do you have a calendar that needs to be updated weekly? Make sure that your answers match up. If you can’t spend a lot of time maintaining your website, it’s best not to have something like a blog or a calendar that can quickly get outdated.

Groups we’ve worked with have reported that setting up a website, including design, writing and organizing data, takes longer than expected. Make sure this is a good investment of your time before getting started.


Core Elements of Website Design
  • Have a strategic design. What do you want people to do? Put it front and center. You might want people to sign up for your email list so they will get updates right to their inbox or sign on to your petition. Whatever it is, make sure it’s in the most prominent location so it can’t be missed.
  • Link to your social media accounts. Add buttons so that people can find you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of your other accounts, and make it easy for them to click the link and follow you.
  • Use compelling photos with people in them. Make sure your photos tell your story. Using your own photos is better than using stock photos.
  • Keep it simple. Keep in mind that your website is not supposed to be a library of every document, image and story for your whole group. Keep your text short. Focus in on the most important things you want people to do, and don’t try to pack too much into one page.


You don’t need to list your personal email and phone number on your website! Set up an email address and Google Voice number for your group. You can set these up to forward to your personal account if you choose.

Sample Website

Here’s an example of a homepage for a group whose primary goal is to build their email list. It’s simple, with short text and and uncluttered designincluding having only four pages (About Us, Our Campaigns, Get Involved, and Contact Us). The place to subscribe to their email address is front and center, since that is the primary goal. Links to social media are at the bottom of the page.

Build your own website

Domain Registration and Hosting.
These two steps are where you claim a domain, such as, and host it, or make it visible on the internet. There are many sites you can use to register a domain, and it’s important that you register your domain yourself instead of letting a third party register it for you. This ensures that you alone have the rights to the domain. You can register a domain and sign up for hosting at sites like or

Designing Your Website.
There are many sites you can use to build your own website, and there’s a range of price options you can select from. If you’ve never built a website before, check out Weebly and Wix. These sites are some of the most user-friendly options available to get started.

Still have questions? Get help now!

Design for Organizing

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Design for Organizing

Visuals are powerful. Using visuals in your campaign, whether that means lawn signs or graphics for social media, boosts your message. People respond to visuals, social media algorithms favor posts with images attached, and even if people don’t read your text they will look at your photos. That means your visuals need to tell your story and move people to action.

Like everything else in your campaign, you need to think about your goal for your visuals and the audience you’re trying to reach. First, think about the people you’re trying to reach and what message will resonate with them. Second, think about what you want those people to do. Your answers to these questions should guide your design.


What You’ll Need
  • Message. To have a good visual, you need to start with a good message. Visuals should complement your message. Have a compelling, consistent, and concise message that controls the frame of the issue. (Need help developing a message? Get help now.)
  • Call to Action. Make sure you have a goal for what you want people to domake sure your visual communicates that call to action. Have one call to action per visual, and make it clear.
  • Photos. Not every visual uses a photo, but chances are you’re likely to want to use some of your own photos at some point. Get in the practice of taking good photos at your actions and events that you can use to tell your story.


Free Online Design Tool

Canva is a great online design tool for both digital and print materials. It’s free to use, though some images must be purchased. Canva offers free templates for flyers, posters, social media graphics and more, and keeps templates updated with the best sizes for social media platforms. Check it out.


Core Elements of Design
  • Make the most important information stand out. Your call to action is likely the most important part of your visual, and you want to make it stand out. Be sure that people can clearly see what it is you want them to do. That also means you don’t want your design to be clutteredleaving empty space is a good thing.
  • Keep it simple and consistent. Use the same colors, fonts, and types of photos to keep your visuals consistent across your campaign. Consider creating a list of what colors and fonts to use to keep your design consistent. Don’t use more than two fonts in a visual.
  • Choose fonts wisely. Be sure the font is easy to read. Avoid really small fontit’s better to have less words than to have font that’s too small. Sans serif fonts are best for headlines, and serif fonts are best for text blocks.
  • Use your own photos. Close up photos, where you can see people’s eyes, are often the most compelling. Take photos at your actions and events and take photos of people holding signs.


Example: Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station

The Fore River Residents Against the Compressor Station are a great example of consistency, using their logo as a social media icon, on lawn signs and stickers, and as signs at every protest.

Example: Protect South Portland

When ExxonMobil planned to reverse the Portland Pipeline, which threatened to bring oil from Canada’s tar sands into their community, they organized to pass the Clear Skies Ordinance that stopped corporate oil in its tracks. They designed stickers and T-shirts for the campaign that matched the color of their logo.

Example: Save Forest Lake

Save Forest Lake was fighting Casella, a multibillion dollar company who wanted to put a landfill in their backyard. They needed people to vote yes in a community vote to stop the project. This message clearly conveys their “no landfill” message, the action they want people to take, and where to go for more information.

Example: No Sharon Gas Pipeline

No Sharon Gas Pipeline defeated a major pipeline project and then went on to work for clean energy in town. This graphic clearly conveys their message and where to go for more information.

Example: Growing Without Garbage

Growing Without Garbage was fighting a landfill expansion and they needed to build their list to pull off a community vote and find volunteers to make it happen. This graphic conveys their “stop landfill expansion” message, states clearly the action they want people to take, and has their logo at the bottom. It was shared on social media with the link to sign up.

Still have questions? Get help now!