Digital Transformation of a 110+ Year Civil Rights Organization
NAACP is the largest, most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the United States, with thousands of chapters and hundreds of thousands of members across the country. Its siloed systems and manual processes were limiting its effectiveness, and making it difficult to bring in a new generation of members.
The organization’s leaders took a member-centric approach to digital transformation, migrating their systems onto Salesforce. They implemented Experience Cloud to manage their membership. Next they deployed Marketing Cloud to personalized their communications. Because their digital transformation was already underway, NAACP was able to quickly adapt during the coronavirus pandemic, when social-distancing restrictions required organizers to move much of their get-out-the-vote operation online.
200Kvolunteers moved online
~2xBlack voters went to the polls in 2020 than in 2016
27%improvement in email open rates
Putting Members Front and Center
Founded in 1909, NAACP worked to eradicate lynching, helped to desegregate public schools, and worked to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Its vision of an inclusive community rooted in liberation, where all persons can exercise their civil and human rights without discrimination, continues to mobilize American citizens to fight for justice and equity.
While its relevance hasn’t waned, the organization has faced challenges in maintaining and building its membership, which NAACP President Derrick Johnson calls “the lifeblood of our work.” The national organization has over 2,000 chapters, but up until 2018 it operated with manual processes and siloed systems.
From relying on fax machines and the postal system for some essential processes, NAACP needed to redesign its systems to work cohesively across all chapters. More importantly, it needed to engage and bring in a new generation of members to roll up their sleeves and work together.
There is no going back. Digital advocacy has to be a part of what we do moving forward.” Trovon Williams, Senior Vice President of Marketing & CommunicationsNAACP
Connecting with Supporters Through Personalized Content
NAACP’s leaders took a member-centric approach to digital transformation. The first step was moving their data into the Salesforce CRM, and deploying fundraising and engagement tools that are features of Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP). They added Experience Cloud for more sophisticated member management. This way local chapters manage their own members, and all the data flows into the central CRM, providing a clearer, more robust view of the membership nationally.
Deploying Accounting Subledger keeps the organization’s fundraising data synched to its financial systems.
With the goals of developing their membership and digitizing outreach, the team next deployed Marketing Cloud for personalized communications with their member base. One-to-one conversations with members enabled deeper engagement than “batch-and-blast” email marketing ever could.
A Mission-Critical Pivot
NAACP’s new “intimate yet automated” approach has improved email open rates by 27%. The organization has hit 85% of its member retention goal. With no membership processing backlog and no stacks of papers to get through, automations have freed up many staff hours, allowing the team to more efficiently manage a higher volume of incoming memberships and donations.
2020 was a pivotal year. NAACP was poised to reach as many voters as possible in the months leading up to the presidential election. The leadership’s plans for mobilizing people to vote were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the organization’s digital transformation was already underway. NAACP’s leaders had worked to create a culture shift in which technology was embraced, so they were able to quickly pivot their canvassing online.
NAACP moved 200,000 volunteers entirely online for phone banking and canvassing. Those volunteers sent more than 20 million text messages, 4.5 million pieces of direct mail, and 4 million individual emails; they made 675,000 phone calls to Black voters, urging them to vote and giving them information about how and when to get to the polls. Their work contributed to historic voter turnout. In 2020, 30 million Black voters went to the polls — roughly twice as many as did in 2016.
“Because of the pandemic, we had to think differently and more creatively. And digital advocacy became one of the strongest mechanisms for us to inform and activate our members across the country,” said Trovon Williams, NAACP’s senior vice president of marketing and communications. “We learned very quickly how innovative we can be. There is no going back. Digital advocacy has to be a part of what we do moving forward.”
NAACP is the largest, most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the U.S. Its mission is to achieve equity, political rights, and social inclusion by advancing policies and practices that expand human and civil rights, eliminate discrimination, and accelerate the well-being, education, and economic security of Black people and all persons of color.