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We’re moving! Visit our new blog!

September 30, 2014 in Online Voting by Jenn Barton, Marketing Director

At Votenet we’re devoted to helping you create your best voting experiences – and that includes providing you with the best educational and strategic information to make you successful and happy running voting events and elections for your organization.

So we are proud to announce the launch of “Devoted. A blog by Votenet.” This new blog epitomizes our devotion to helping you create great voting experiences and features new columns, resources and new content driven by reader feedback .

So go ahead and check it out. And while you’re at it, sign up for email alerts when we publish new content.

(P.S. Don’t worry. All the posts from Voting 2.0 have been moved to the new blog and we will also keep this blog up for a few months.)

Click here to visit our new blog – Devoted. A blog by Votenet.

Weekend Reading from Votenet: September 12, 2014

September 12, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Some posts that caught our attention this week…

If you’re trying to launch a new idea, you need an Innovation Wingman: “…someone you can turn to who isn’t going to remind you how much you’re risking by pursuing your idea…someone to help you plan for the best case scenario…someone who, when things look the bleakest, encourages you to carry on.” Learn what these wingmen look like and how to find one. (Matt Davis, The Cooperative Trust)

Here are ten things to do before implementing something new. (Scott Oser, Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter of the Canadian Society of Association Executives)

National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, September 23. You and your organization can help spread the word, or sign up to be a partner and help register voters. If you need to register to vote, the NVRD website can get you started.

Good reads about elections, voter turnout, innovation, email marketing, boards, and voter registration.

The Pew Charitable Trusts reports something we’ve known for a while about voters: “Field experiments demonstrate that low-participation groups (of voters) can be mobilized by personal contact on the phone or in face-to-face conversations, especially if the interaction is repeated before the election.” This finding holds true for members too. Personal contact is the best way to mobilize members to vote in organizational elections, and reminders about voting increase their likelihood to vote. (The Pew Charitable Trusts)

Election administrators will do the darndest things to get people to the polls. Last week, we reported that Los Angeles is thinking about paying people to vote. A “political junkie” in Oklahoma has created a website to shame people into voting: “With a few strokes of the keyboard, people can look up the voting history of anyone registered to vote in Oklahoma.” Behavioral and political scientists have proven that shaming does work, but there are better ways to leverage social norms to mobilize voters. (Janelle Stecklein, Edmund Sun)

Many state legislatures have enacted voting “reforms” that affect the ability of students to register and vote. The Campus Vote Project has a toolkit for student leaders and organizations that want to give young people a voice in the election by breaking down barriers to voter registration and voting. (Campus Vote Project)

As electioneers, we love experimentation, but we understand it can be a bit daunting if you don’t do it regularly. Emails are a good target for experimentation and improvement. “A/B split testing is one of the easiest ways to learn more about how your audience behaves and what kind of subject lines, copy, and other key parts of an email encourage subscribers to take action.” Informz explains the basics of A/B testing. (Alex Mastrianni, Informz)

A graph from McKinsey & Company summarizes their survey findings on high-performing boards. Take it to your next board meeting to use as a basis for a board self-assessment exercise. (Anthony Demangone, Musings from the CU Suite)

In the meantime, check out these 26 practices of high-performing boards. How many are part of your board’s experience? (Gail Perry, BoardAssist)

This Week on Voting 2.0

You don’t have to tolerate low voter turnout. Many of the factors that influence turnout are in your control, for example, voter knowledge. When members understand the roles and responsibilities of elected leaders, the issues at play, and the differences between candidates, they are more likely to vote. In part 1 and part 2 of our webinar recap, we share how to communicate effectively with members so they take an interest in elections, learn what they wnat to know about candidates, and take the time to vote.

Enjoy your weekend!

Good reads about elections, voter turnout, innovation, email marketing, boards, and voter registration

photo by Page Dooley/Flickr


Make a Long-Lasting Impact with Election Communication to Members

September 11, 2014 in Increasing Voter Turnout by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

The more members understand the differences between leadership candidates, the more likely they’ll take interest and vote in your organization’s election. In last week’s webinar, Votenet’s “get out the vote” expert and University of Florida political scientist Charles Dahan shared some tactics for communicating with members about candidates.

Communicate in chunks.

Make it easy for members to learn about and focus on a few election topics by chunking your communications. A member is more likely to spend a few minutes learning about candidates’ views on a single topic than reading an entire voter guide or long list of candidate positions.

First, find out what issues the candidates should address by asking your members what they want to know. Send members a link to an online form that collects their feedback. Once you know the most critical issues for your members, ask each of the candidates to provide a short response in writing and by video – smartphone, tablet or desktop videos are fine.  

Organize the election page on your website by topic so members can easily find and read what most interests them. Post each candidate’s position on an issue in a simple table that includes a headshot of each candidate. Create a compilation video of each candidate’s response to a single topic.

After the election, build on momentum.

Behavioral and political scientists have learned through field experiments that voting is habit-forming. Members who vote in one election will likely continue to vote in future elections.

But that’s not all! You can use the election as an event that your whole organization can rally around. By deepening the member’s understanding of how association governance works, and how leadership decisions impact their business, job, career, and life, you will strengthen the member’s relationship with your association.

Members do make a difference when they ask for and review information about candidates, and when they take the time to vote. They’re investing their trust in the organization and the leaders they elect. Share email and website data on election information consumption with elected leaders. Let them know which issues resonated most with members – which garnered the most clicks and views. Leaders need to know what members care about so they can be responsive to their needs.

After the election, let members know which crowdsourced issues were most popular. Which videos were most watched? Which topics were most popular?

Keep members in the loop about leadership decisions and the impact of those decisions on them. Rather than treating the election as a once-a-year isolated event, create a culture of democratic participation. Make sure the flow of communication and feedback between elected leaders and members continues throughout the year.

Make a Long-Lasting Impact with Election Communication to Members

photo by Ally Aubry/Flickr

How Clarity and Disruption Increase Election Interest and Turnout

September 9, 2014 in Increasing Voter Turnout by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

You don’t have to tolerate low voter turnout. Many of the factors that influence turnout are in your control, for example, voter knowledge.

When voters understand the roles and responsibilities of elected leaders, the issues at play, and the differences between candidates, they are more likely to vote. Last week, Votenet’s GOTV (that’s “get out the vote”) expert and University of Florida political scientist Charles Dahan shared some tactics for increasing voter knowledge in the last webinar in our Summer Candidate Webinar Series.

Be clear about leadership impact and candidate differences.

Help members gain a clear understanding of what leaders do in office and how their decisions affect the businesses, careers, and lives of members. This clarity will not only increase member interest in voting but will also increase members’ interest in running for office.

The diversity of the candidate slate is another factor that influences turnout. If candidates appear too similar, members won’t bother voting. Why take action when the end result will be the same no matter what? Although candidates don’t always want to focus on their differences, that’s exactly what you need to do when communicating their positions to voters.

Voters don’t like ambiguity. Diversity creates interest. Strongly encourage candidates to take clear positions on issues. What issues have real world consequences for members? Ask relevant questions that elicit unique answers, for example, “What would you do in circumstance X?”

Get your members more deeply involved in the election by asking them what they want to know about the candidates. What issues need to be addressed by the candidates? You might even ask the candidates, “Why is the outcome of this election relevant to members?”

Capture the voter’s attention first, then educate them.

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to increase the member’s awareness and knowledge about the election. But how do you get them to pay attention?

When you disrupt the normal flow and pattern of communication that they expect from you, they’re more likely to pay attention. In other words, mix it up. Experiment with an entirely different email design and format for your election marketing emails. Change the template. Use a more attention-grabbing color or a different font. If your writing style is normally business-like, use a more conversational tone.

Jolt them out of their normal election mode – which may be an inactive mode. Pique their curiosity – make them want to click to learn more.

Run some A/B testing to see what works. Send the “normal” type of email to one group and the “disruptive” email to another group. Then compare results.

Take full advantage of tracking mechanisms, like email marketing and website analytics, to learn what links people click on in emails or social media updates, and what pages they view. Figure out what interests them; if it’s not the election, you need to ramp up efforts. Find out which of your voter knowledge efforts were the most effective.

After the election, in the survey you send to members, find out what kind of candidate information they would like in the future. 

We’re planning future webinars and would love to know what types of challenges and problems we can help you solve. Send your questions and gripes to

increase election awareness voter turnout

Weekend Reading from Votenet: September 5, 2014

September 5, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Some posts that captured our attention this week…

How would you like to have a strategic network of members who provide input and feedback to your organization? The young credit union executive behind this “advisory board” idea has already anticipated your first reaction: “Why do we need another board, don’t we already have one?” She believes an advisory board is a better representative body to keep an organization’s “finger on the pulse” and “on the cutting edge.” (Brianne Meszaros, CUES Next Top Credit Union Exec)

The founder of AirBnB said, “The 20th century economy was powered by big corporations that standardized everything because they never really knew their customers. The 21st century economy will be powered by people.” Instead of seeing the sharing economy and crowdsourcing as a threat, look at it as “an opportunity to change your business model to leverage this… to work with the crowd so that the crowd becomes a partner.” Membership organizations should have a natural advantage here. (Jennifer Tuohy, Triple Pundit)

Tweet of the Week

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits has the same taste in cake that we do!

crowd decision-making, member engagement, online voting, electioneering, boards, credit unions, associations, cooperatives

The International Codes Council wanted to give its members – city and county code officials – a way to participate in the codes development process without having to spend days away from the office at Council meetings. This year, members used a new online system to submit and vote on code proposals. (Julie Ruth, Window & Door)

Here’s one for electioneers: a tiny reminder from Associations Now of the value of experiments. They tested whether the use of emojis in subject lines would increase email opens. Tests like these “teach us important things about the people we want to reach.” Try some simple controlled experiments with your election email marketing to see what works with your members. (Ernie Smith, Associations Now)

How do you onboard new board members? One of Guidestar’s suggestions is to take advantage of the unique perspective and fresh set of eyes that new board members bring to the table. “They’ve been viewing your organization from the outside, which gives you a great opportunity to talk about your vision, mission and values in a way that you don’t on a daily basis with the insiders in your organization.” (Randy Hawthorne, GuideStar Blog)

Learn how a credit union recruited directors ranging in age from the 30s to the 70s using a commitment to board diversity—and a readiness to support their development. A comprehensive board orientation is followed by tours and discussion of the organization’s strategic planning process and more. (Katie Larson, CU Management)

You’ve heard the phrase, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Today, I read “culture eats governance for breakfast” too. “Cultural norms, custom and practice will be a strong influence on your members whatever you do, and it’s up to you to make sure that it’s a strong ‘co-operative culture’ that is being nurtured and absorbed by your new members.” Here are six tips that any type of membership organization can use to create a strong, cooperative culture. (Kate Whittle and Nathan Brown, Co-operative News)

This Week on Voting 2.0

As more workplaces begin experimenting with flatter management structures and Millennials rise up into executive positions, will we start to see changes in how associations and other membership organizations are governed? Will the members of the future expect to have more say in how their association is governed and how decisions are made?

Enjoy your weekend!

crowd decision-making, member engagement, online voting, electioneering, boards, credit unions, associations, cooperatives

photo by Theresa Thompson/Flickr

Will Future Members Demand a Different Type of Governance?

September 3, 2014 in Governance by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Companies like DreamHost, Menlo Innovations and Gore-Tex have created organizational cultures that practice non-hierarchical, self-governing management: a democratized workplace. “This structure—largely flat and very flexible—is especially appealing to those new to the workforce, twenty-somethings who tend to approach work differently from their parents,” says Matthew Shaer in a New York magazine article, The Boss Stops Here.

The article got me thinking. As Millennials rise up into executive positions, and more workplaces begin experimenting with flatter management structures, will we start to see changes in how associations and other membership organizations are governed?

Millennials have grown up seeing interconnected, peer-to-peer networks getting things done. Will they expect to see that same dynamic at work in their workplace and in their membership organizations? Will the members of the future expect to have more say in how their association is governed and how decisions are made?

In most associations, decisions about strategy and resources are made by the board of directors who are presumed to represent the will of the entire membership. Will this be acceptable to members in the future? Or will they demand that they have a say in resource allocation, legislative and regulatory focus, and other strategic decisions?

The article points out that “the big negative of going bossless is the loss of the “quick mandate”—the ability to swiftly and effectively mobilize the organization.” Many would say that associations don’t have the ability to produce a “quick mandate” now, so that may not be such a big deal.

Will member retention increase when members are more deeply involved in their association’s strategic decisions and direction? Will volunteering and event participation increase when members feel more invested? Will associations have more leverage in their legislative and regulatory efforts because they have a clear mandate behind them?

Fascinating times…

photo by Jim Larrison/Flickr CC license

Weekend Reading from Votenet: August 29, 2014

August 29, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Some posts that captured our attention this week…

A Red Sox fan developed an app to help fans coordinate cheers and chants. Using the app Gally, fans can join a ‘crowd’ at a sports venue and contribute possible cheers for the crowd to vote on. When a cheer or chant receives more than 20% of a crowd’s vote, the app sends out a 15-second countdown. (Hayden Bird, BostInno)

The Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) asked its members to vote on whether the association should join a legal defense of the state’s new gun control law. A majority of the members voted in the referendum, but the vote was so close — only five votes — that CBA’s president ruled it a tie and decided they wouldn’t participate in the case. One member said “the vote ‘teaches us all a lesson’ about the necessary process for decisions within the CBA.” How involved are your members in major decisions? (Kelly Glista & Edmund H. Mahony, The Courant)

Check out all the ways nonprofits are using crowdsourcing to get more people involved in their cause. How can your organization tweak one of these ideas to get more members involved? (Casey Armstrong, Shareable)

Here’s an infographic about the personal benefits of volunteering. (Utah State University Alumni Association)

personal benefits of volunteering

A study showed that the word “together” can change people’s attitudes and motivate them to work longer and produce better work. How can you use the word “together” in your election marketing materials in the hopes of increasing turnout? (Melissa Dahl, New York Magazine)

Joan Garry explains the purpose of an executive session, when to include and exclude the CEO, and how each side – the board and the CEO – should handle those situations. (Joan Garry)

What should you do when guests attend board meetings? The key is to be prepared for guests so you can manage their expectations and the flow of the meeting. Association consultant Bob Harris, CAE provides suggestions for room set-up, meeting sign-in sheets and guest attendance policy cards. (Multibriefs Exclusive) helps student governments run online voter registration drives. Created by Rock the Vote and the PIRG New Voters Project, the site allows student governments to track how many students register through the site and provides the students’ contact information so they can be sent reminders to vote on Election Day. (Student Government Resource Center)

Crowdsourcing Project of the Week

NASA is asking for your help in identifying cities and towns in night photos of the Earth, most of which were taken from the International Space Station. The goal is to create maps of light pollution that will help governments and local authorities take steps to reduce that pollution.

This Week on Voting 2.0

Don’t miss the last webinar in our Summer Candidate Series where we will dive deeper into this topic — Present Candidates Fairly and Favorably to Voters – on Thursday, September 4 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

We posted a recap of this week’s webinar: Successful Communication with Leadership Candidates & Voters. Learn how to lower barriers that stand in the way of qualified members running for leadership positions, elicit the differences between candidates, educate voters about candidates and increase voter turnout.

As the Ice Bucket Challenge winds down, it’s a good time to identify what made the Ice Bucket campaign a success. We share how you can apply those lessons to your election or voting event marketing campaign.

Enjoy your weekend!

crowd decision-making, membership votes, volunteering, crowdsourcing, election marketing, board meetings and voter registration

photo by NASA Earth Observatory