How to find your university’s alumni on Facebook

Western Washington University (WWU) uses Facebook to reach and connect with alumni living across the globe. Their team works hard to identify and tag those who engage with their Facebook posts so that they can track their engagement and build relationships. From there they can target alumni about fundraising and events that support WWU.


WWU Alumni Association’s mission is to strengthen WWU by building strong and caring relationships among their students, alumni, friends and the greater University community. Through these relationships WWU is able to raise money, host events that connect students with alumni and foster a community that changes student’s lives and help them reach their full potential.


The goals of WWU Alumni Association are:

  • Reach and identify WWU alumni on Facebook in order to grow their alumni network
  • Engage alumni with compelling content to remind them how much they love WWU
  • Bring them into the alumni fold and build productive relationships that benefit the university
  • Tap the alumni network to meet ongoing fundraising goals


  • Reached nearly 10,000 people with a single shared trending post in 24 hours. (For context their Facebook page has just over 6,000 page likes!)
  • Identified over 60 new alums they didn’t have in their records yet from a single post!
  • Boosted posts for as little as $20 each, and reach nearly 28,000 people in 22 countries


ActionSprout’s Inspiration feature empowers Facebook page managers to take back control of their reach. Instead of spending time guessing what audiences might enjoy, the tool tells you! You’re provided with daily trending content that is proven to reach and engage people on Facebook today.

The WWU Alumni Association follows over 200 Facebook pages through the tool. These pages are related to their work and local university community and share a similar audience. Inspiration then shows them only the top trending Facebook posts from these pages. Their staff can then browse through the content and choose which posts to share on their own Facebook page.

alumni on Facebook

Because this content is already proven to engage similar people on Facebook, there is a good chance it will perform well on WWU’s page too. You can think of it as low “risk” content. This is how WWU reaches and engages tens of thousands of alumnis on Facebook without spending an arm and a leg on Facebook ads!

ActionSprout’s Timeline feature on the other hand, can help you know when to spend money on ads if you have the budget. The best way to find success with Facebook ads is to only boost your top, most engaging posts. Facebook’s news feed and ads feed algorithms are very similar. Therefore if a post is doing well in the news feed, it’s likely to do well as an ad. This means lower cost per result, $1 and under, and reaching more of your target audience!

Using these two content features together, WWU Alumni Association shares content that reaches more alumni without the need for ad spend. And when they do spend their ad dollars, they know they are doing so in the most efficient way possible.

“We use it everyday and I have boosted posts on the stats ActionSprout provides to get immediate results!”

We mentioned at the beginning that WWU Alumni Association was applying alumni tags to the folks who engaged with their posts. By applying these tags, WWU easily tracks who’s who on their Facebook page.

alumni on Facebook

This is especially helpful when replying to comments using Comments Inbox! At a glance, the WWU staff knows if the comment came from an alumni or not and can reply accordingly.

alumni on Facebook

They can also choose to filter their Facebook audience by tag and only take a look at alumnis:

Campaign Creative:

This post alone helped them reach and identify over 60 WWU alumnus! Notice how they frame the article and pose a question to alumni to engage them in the comments.

alumni on Facebook

alumni on Facebook

Campaign lessons and takeaways

1) Lean into sharing other’s trending content.

We know this can be a difficult best practice to wrap your head around, let alone, get your boss on board with, but it really does work! The key is to make sure you’re following related pages that share content that could be shared on your page as well. It’s important to keep in mind that sharing content is one of the biggest functions of social media. Therefore sharing other’s content won’t make your organization look like they’re stealing or being lazy!

2) Include commentary, pose a question and start a conversation.

When sharing other’s trending content, be sure to include your own thoughts and commentary with the post. Why should your audience care? Is this good or bad news for the community? This helps frame the content for your audience and invites them into the conversation. This is how WWU is able to keep identifying “new” alumni not yet recorded in the comments section.

3) Only promote content that is already engaging. Very few have a budget that allows casual, carefree spending on Facebook ads. Instead, most organizations need to squeeze every ounce of value out of their ad dollars. The best way to do so is only spend money to promote posts that engaged more people than average. The Timeline feature inside of ActionSprout clearly shows you which of your page’s posts have engaged more people than average so you know if and when to boost.

Getting Started with ActionSprout

Want to use ActionSprout’s tools to reach and engage your own community on Facebook? Sign up for a Free account and get started today!

This guide will walk you through the steps to set up Inspiration and start sharing trending content. Or learn more about Timeline, and how it can help you analyze your page’s content, here. Using these two hand in hand, like WWU, can have a big impact on the reach and success of your Facebook page.

Leveraging Facebook to Persuade Global Leaders to Invest in Peace

A coalition reached over 300,000 Canadians on Facebook, engaging them in a grassroots effort to oppose increased military spending.

When world powers asked countries to increase their military spending, Canadian NGOs turned to Facebook and ActionSprout to urge their Prime Minister to invest in peace, not further military spending.

On September 4th, 2017, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked into the NATO leaders summit, he knew that 2,400 Canadians were watching. He received their letter urging him to oppose NATO’s 2% military spending and promote Canadian peacebuilding alternatives instead.


Public Response is a digital agency that serves leading nonprofits and unions in online engagement and government relations. Their coalition for this campaign included International Peace Bureau, Rideau Institute, Science for Peace, Conscience Canada, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, Group of 78, and Physicians for Global Survival.

Ahead of the annual NATO leaders summit, the groups contributed to a Facebook advertising campaign promoting their letter through ActionSprout. They reached 10,000 people for every $100 spent on advertising.

Campaign goals:

The coalition needed to use grassroots pressure to persuade Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to oppose NATO’s 2% military spending demand and promote Canadian peacebuilding alternatives instead.

Leveraging Facebook


The campaign used video and an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau to:

  • Reach over 300,000 Canadians on Facebook;
  • Receive 51,000 video views;
  • Gather over 2,400 signatures on an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau opposing military spending increases;
  • Gain national media coverage from Postmedia’s David Pugliese.
  • Improve media coverage on military spending, such as CTV Question Period.


The coalition used a Facebook advertising campaign to promote their video and open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. They gave people a voice promoting peacebuilding over international military spending over ten days. The letter received:

  • 2,434 signatures
  • 26% conversion rate
  • 5,263 shares on Facebook

According to Steve Staples, the president of Public Response:

“The big surprise was how strong the leads generated by the ActionSprout app are! These folks have remained committed to working with us and we continue to cultivate the list and engage with people on this and related issues. This is demonstrated by the open rate and CTR that are roughly DOUBLE what I would have expected.”

How was ActionSprout used?

Public Response used ActionSprout’s Social Actions feature to create the open letter to Trudeau. Social Actions generate leads built around Facebook and mobile device viewing. As Steve states:

“ActionSprout provided us with an effective call-to-action for our Facebook advertising campaign. We sent thousands of messages to the government, and are now connected with an amazing community of people who want to continue to work with us on peace issues.”

Public Response securely stored the names and email addresses in the their ActionSprout account where they could be exported and used anytime.

Campaign creative:

Their Facebook post:

And the full letter after the link was clicked:

Campaign lessons and takeaways

1.The letter used only two sentences to communicate its mission.

If folks don’t get your message immediately, they won’t spend time trying to figure it out. It’s crucial to concisely sum up your topic and call to action. Not only is it important in the post, but also in the action. Keep it short,on topic and easy to understand!

2.The call to action was clear, concise and actionable.

The letter included a single request of the viewer and was an easy lift. From our experience, you can consistently expect folks to complete one action at a time. Focusing on the single most important ask is key to success and high completion rates. You can always follow up later with secondary asks now that you have their email address!

3.The message was shareable. People on Facebook share content because it defines them as an individual, contains useful information and they believe it will make a real difference. Let’s look at those in more detail.

First, people share content that helps them tell a story about themselves. We share things that build up the person we want others to see us as. In this case, I’m someone who desires less military spending, and more investing in peace and people.

Second, by sharing a post, people wish to benefit their friends and family. Whether that is sharing important news and information, or simply helping them to smile or laugh that day.

Lastly, we share content because we genuinely think that by sharing it, we can help spread the word and make real change.

How to Protect Your Facebook Page from Internet Troll Disease

A new study shows that, while some people are born trolls, others contract it. Researchers at Stanford and Cornell found that ordinary people started engaging in troll-like behavior by simply encountering negativity in their online communities. So if negativity creates more trolling, which creates more negativity, could trolling be spreading online like a disease?

According to the report:

“The proportion of flagged posts and proportion of users with flagged posts are rising over time. These upward trends suggest that trolling behavior is becoming more common, and that a growing fraction of users are engaging in such behavior…There may be several explanations for this….but our findings, together with prior work showing that negative norms can be reinforced and that downvoted users go on to downvote others, suggest that negative behavior can persist in and permeate a community when left unchecked.”

The good news is, by understanding what causes and influences trolling behavior, we can work to decrease it over time.

The following are the two key issues they found that increased trolling. Let’s take a look at both and discuss ways we can proactively protect our newsfeeds.

You can read the study in its entirety here.


First, the researchers hypothesized that negative feelings would more likely cause trolling behavior. To test this, they designed activities to put one group in a negative mood, while the other group was encouraged to think positively. Then they had them comment on a post to measure the resulting online behavior.

I bet you can guess what happened. Those in a negative mood were more likely to leave a comment that would be flagged for trolling. However, if they had time to calm down, for even as little as 10 minutes, their likelihood to leave a second trolling post decreased. Meanwhile, among the positive group, trolling comments were far less common.

Thus you can see how the seed of trolling can be planted in a negative environment. It’s also easier to understand why sometimes trolling behavior arises when it seems otherwise unrelated or unprovoked.

“Trolling in a past discussion, as well as participating in a discussion where trolling occurred, can affect whether a user trolls in the future discussion. These results suggest that negative mood can persist and transmit trolling norms and behavior across multiple discussions, where there is no similar context to draw on.”

Context of Discussions

Exposure to trolling can cause that behavior in people who otherwise wouldn’t react in such a way. That’s not too surprising. Humans pay close attention to environment cues to tell us what’s acceptable behavior in different contexts.

“Participants may have an initial negative reaction to reading the article, but are unlikely to bluntly externalize them because of self control or environmental cues. Negative surrounding context provides evidence that others had similar reactions, making it more acceptable to also express them.”

The researches go on to say:

“This suggests that while some users are inherently more likely to troll, the context of a discussion plays a greater role in whether trolling actually occurs…That people can be influenced by environmental factors suggests that trolling could be contagious–a single user’s outburst might lead to multiple users participating in a flame war.”

You may not be able to change the behaviors of a natural troll, but you can direct the context of your posts in a less troll-inducing direction. If you allow trolling behavior to happen on your page, it will keep happening and, as the study shows, risk growing out of control.

Like most diseases, it’s best to catch it early on. It will only become more difficult to treat with time.

How Mood and Context Work Together

The following table shows how mood and context affect community reaction, both as separate influences and when those influences are combined. As you may have guessed, when the commenter has both a negative mood and negative context, the likelihood of trolling behavior doubles.


While it’s hard to control for someone’s mood, you can make it a point to create positive context in your online communities. Unfortunately, positivity typically isn’t as contagious as negativity, but at least you’re moving the ball in the right direction.

This idea is often referred to as the “Broken Windows” hypothesis:

“Untended behavior can lead to the breakdown of a community. As an unfixed broken window may create a perception of unruliness, comments made in poor taste may invite worse comments. If antisocial behavior becomes the norm, this can lead a community to further perpetuate it despite its undesirability.”

Therefore, cleaning your Facebook page of trolls and their posts—and keeping it clean—will lead to a healthier, more productive community over time.

As we explored above, environmental factors clearly affect people’s behavior. By building and maintaining the desired environment, you create a space more immune to the spread of troll disease.

Tips for Troll Protection

As G.I. Joe used to say, “Knowing is half the battle.” Now that you have a better understanding of what creates trolling behavior, it’s time to use that knowledge toward the good of your page.

The following are three key ways you can put these findings into practice, starting today.

  • Set the tone. Quickly hide comments that seem troll-y. As this study shows, previous trolling behavior on the post will encourage additional trolling behavior. Don’t let that snowball get on a roll.

  • Outline your standards ahead of time. Without community rules to guide you, moderating such posts can quickly feel overwhelming. You’ll likely end up hiding comments that simply challenge your position, but are otherwise healthy, constructive comments. Don’t be that Facebook page either. Instead, decide as a team where you draw the line. This will help you act calmly in the moment, not based on hurt feelings.

  • When in doubt, go with your gut. Yes, the last point just said not to be lead by your emotions, but also keep in mind that, though it’s hard to define trolling, we know it when we see it. For certain types of trolls, community rules will never be enough. Trolls can be creative and spin their comments “as following the rules.” Don’t be fooled. If the comment includes flaming, griefing, swearing, personal attacks, or some other intentional attempt to disrupt the conversation, it’s trolling. Sadly, people take pleasure from upsetting others more often than we care to think. No matter how “polite” and “logical” they may want to seem, hurting others for the sake of enjoyment is never okay.

Let’s be honest. There’s no magic cure for trolling, or the internet would’ve taken it already. It’s unpleasant, but it exists and shows no signs of going away. Your best line of defense is understanding how it spreads and creating an environment that makes your community less vulnerable.

Now, get on your page and cultivate some protective positivity!

The Fundraising Best Practices We Learned from #GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday is quickly becoming one of the biggest giving days of the year! It was created just five years ago by the #GivingTuesday organization in response to the popular shopping days that happen at this time of year—Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

2016 was the campaign’s fifth official year and the biggest one yet. According to Blackbaud, online giving was up by 20% since 2015, and 33% more nonprofit organizations received an online donation on #GivingTuesday when compared to 2015.

Let’s look at one nonprofit’s #GivingTuesday Facebook ad campaign and how your organization might recreate their level of success next year.

The Organization

Bob Brown Foundation is an environmental organization that campaigns for the protection of wildlife, marine ecosystems and scenic environments in Tasmania, Australia and across the region.

Campaign Goals

The goals of the campaign:

  • Grow awareness and support to stop the logging and destruction of the Tarkine rainforest.
  • Raise as much money as possible to support the campaign.
  • Raise more in donations than is spent in ad.

The Impact

  • 1,213 new Facebook Page likes

  • Total donations raised: $14,897 over ~24 hours

  • Total spent on Facebook ads: $1,730

  • “Profit”: $13,117

  • Conversion rate: 5.8%

  • Total Facebook shares: 12,404

  • Relevance score: 10/10

  • Cost per engagement: $0.15

These metrics tell us a few things about the Bob Brown Foundation’s #GivingTuesday ad. First, this ad resonated well with supporters. The fact that more than 12,000 Facebook shared The Foundation’s content in 24 hours shows that supporters care deeply about the issue that was spotlighted in the campaign—in fact, they care enough to share it with their own friends and family on Facebook! What’s more, 1,213 of the supporters who engaged cared enough to go on to like The Foundation’s Facebook Page. This is a clear signal that they want to see more content and opportunities to help from the Bob Brown Foundation.

Second, the content had a relevance score of 10/10 and a cost per engagement of 15 cents! If you’re new to Facebook advertising, let me explain how amazing this is. A relevance score of 10 is hard to achieve. As a new Facebook marketer, it can take months of hard work to get to a score of 10. Others will never achieve a 10. In addition, any cost per engagement under $1 is good. At 15 cents, this ad is killing it! Both of these numbers are Facebook’s way of telling you that your ad is excellent for the target audience that you’re serving it to.

Lastly, due to the high quality of the ad, they spent less in ad money than they raised in donations. In other words, they made a “profit”!

Campaign Creative

So what made this donation ad so successful and compelling to the supporters of the Bob Brown Foundation? Here is the donation appeal as it appeared on Facebook on #GivingTuesday:


Notice the vivid image of forest destruction and the urgent call to action. Notice too that the ad is very clear and to the point. Skimming the ad, we immediately know what’s at stake and why we should click and learn more. This is especially important in the Facebook News Feed, as you only get one chance to grab your supporters’ attention and make them want to click!

Now let’s take a look at the donation landing page behind the ad.

First and foremost, the call to action and donation buttons are prominent at the top of the page.


As we scroll down, we see more dramatic images of forest destruction and some easy-to-skim bullet points about what’s at stake. At the bottom of the page, we wrap up with a statement and image of what will happen to this rainforest if nothing is done. Talk about compelling!


As a bonus, the donation form is fully mobile-optimized and takes advantage of Stripe’s fast and painless payment form:


Lessons and Takeaways

  1. First, understand what resonates with your supporters. Using the language, images and stories that most connect with them will greatly increase the reach and success of your campaign. Furthermore, it will lower your advertising costs on Facebook. If you’re not yet sure what resonates with your supporters the most, start tracking your successes and what they have in common. Soon enough, you should have a working framework on how best to communicate important issues to supporters.

  2. Create urgency. I don’t have to tell you that Facebook is a fast-moving platform! The problem with this is that if you don’t capture someone’s intention to help on the first try, then you won’t get a second chance. Therefore, it’s paramount that you express the need for immediate action clearly and up front. This headline is a perfect example of that: “Only 8 weeks to stop Tarkine rainforest destruction.”

  3. Create a clear, concise call to action. Don’t ever make your supporters have to wonder how they can help or what exactly you’re asking them to do. If possible, summarize your call to action in one or two sentences. If you cannot be this concise, you may need to rethink what you’re asking folks to do; you might be asking too much, or the action is too vague and requires too much of an explanation.

  4. Paint a clear picture of what’s at stake. Why should potential donors care or consider giving? In our example, both language and images are used to communicate what’s at stake. We see images of what the forest will become and the consequences of this: “If we don’t act now, this will be the last summer the eagles, owls, freshwater crayfish and other creatures spend in this rainforest home.” Give your donors something tangible to hang on to.

  5. Be mobile-friendly! If your donation forms are not mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on as much as half of your potential donors. This is especially true if you’re promoting your donation appeal on Facebook, as these days, the majority of Facebook browsing happens on a mobile device.

What we learned from #GivingTuesday 2016

All too often, smaller to medium-sized nonprofits don’t feel that they can participate in GivingTuesday in a meaningful way. They feel underprepared and out-resourced next to the larger national and international organizations that put out flashy GivingTuesday ad campaigns. Today, we’ll challenge that perception!

GivingTuesday isn’t just a day for large-scale nonprofits. Nor does it need to be solely about raising donations. Nonprofits, especially smaller one, can also use the day to draw attention to their organization and reach and engage new supporters. In this article, we will take quick look at how one small nonprofit not only had a successful GivingTuesday Facebook ad campaign, but also grew their Facebook Page overall.

The Organization

Epilepsy Education Everywhere (EEE) is on a mission to help people with epilepsy. Their mission is to educate the public about epilepsy — including the proper procedures when a seizure occurs. They also promote the historic progress of people with epilepsy, and encourage people with epilepsy to persevere.

Campaign Goals

Their GivingTuesday goals:

  • Raise at least $1,000.
  • Grow their Facebook Page overall.
  • Increase engagement and awareness for epilepsy.

The Impact

$475 raised through Facebook alone.

So who says you can’t raise money on Facebook as a small or medium nonprofit? Myth busted! The total GivingTuesday donations raised by EEE amounted to around $600. In other words, 79% of their GivingTuesday donations were raised, in some way, through Facebook. Not bad!

Their campaign was shared 2,522 times on Facebook.

This was a huge success. It means that 2,522 people cared enough about EEE’s mission that they felt compelled to share it with their own friends and family. Think about your sharing habits on Facebook: what do you share and why? Chances are, you only share the stuff you care about or that you feel your friends and family should see.

The EEE Facebook Page gained 438 new Facebook likes over the ~24 hours of GivingTuesday.


This was another huge success. To put this in perspective, EEE’s page has received ~25 new Page likes since GivingTuesday. This is much closer to their usual volume of new Page likes. If we do the math, that’s a 1,752% increase in Facebook Page likes due to their GivingTuesday ad campaign.


Again, this shows very real interest and engagement from supporters. The fact that people liked EEE’s page tells us that they wish to start receiving more content about epilepsy and ways to support EEE in the future. When the dust settled, these were the results:


It’s interesting to note that EEE started using ActionSprout in December 2015. Looking at the graph above, we see a sharp increase in Page likes after this month.

Cost of $0.59 per ad result.

This is another big win! A dollar per ad result is a common goal for many Facebook advertisers, but though this is an achievable goal, it still takes some elbow grease and expertise. In this ad campaign, we see a cost per result that is ~40% lower than the norm.

Campaign Creative

So, how did EEE earn results like this? First, let’s take a look at their Facebook ad:


So, from the start, two things stand out right away:

  1. They used an image of a child making eye contact with us. Images of people and animals in which we can see their eyes make us pause and look. Our brains are wired this way!
  2. The headline is attention-grabbing and makes us want to click and learn more. (What do you mean my life could change in 4 minutes?)

Now lets look at the donation landing page:


Notice that the call to action and donation buttons are prominent at the top of the page. Also notice that they introduced to the child in the image and tell us a bit about her story. Storytelling is still the most powerful and effective way to communicate information to one another. We also remember the information shared through storytelling for a longer period of time when compared to other kinds of communications.

But wait… it gets better. We even get a quote from the little girl’s mother—talk about an emotional connection! People are much more likely to take action when they feel something emotionally over strictly logical asks that require intense thought. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t back up your claims with logic and facts; just don’t forget to include the emotional connection as well.

Campaign Lessons & Takeaways

  1. First and foremost, understand what resonates with your supporters. Using the language, images and stories that most connect with them will greatly increase the reach and success of your campaign. Furthermore, it will lower your advertising costs on Facebook because people will share it with friends and help you reach people without spending a dime. If you’re not yet sure about what these things are, start tracking your successes and look for what they have in common. Soon enough, you will have a working framework for how best to communicate important issues to supporters.

  2. Leverage the power of storytelling to better connect with supporters and effectively communicate your mission. Storytelling is still one of the best vehicles to deliver information to people. Plus, they are more likely to remember information conveyed in this way for a longer period time.

  3. Make an emotional connection with supporters. Make them feel something. This will increase your likelihood of success.

  4. Paint a clear picture of what’s at stake. Why should potential donors care or consider giving? In this example, we know that giving will help others like Savannah: “Help us continue to help others like Savannah, along with educating the public about epilepsy with your support on #GivingTuesday.”

What We Learned from the Largest Women Technology Conference in the World

This year, our very own Andrea Frost had the pleasure of attending the Grace Hopper Conference in Houston, Texas. The following is her account of the this year’s conference, key takeaways for women in technology, and why you should attend the 2017 Grace Hopper Conference in Orlando, Florida.

What is the Grace Hopper conference?

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) is the largest gathering of female technologists in the world! It all started when Anita Borg and a small handful of women crossed paths in a bathroom at a systems conference back in the ‘90s. There were so few women in attendance that the women thought perhaps they should meet and talk more after the conference. This led to the creation of the Systers Mail List of women in tech, which today has more than 6,000 members worldwide.

Anita Borg, sadly, died some years ago from cancer, so her best friend Telle Whitney created the Anita Borg Institute, named after her beloved friend. These women were the first drops of water in a waterfall that now carries oceans of women through their careers in tech. This year, the ABI brought 15,000 women technologists (and a few men) together under one roof in Houston.

The panel on caching

“Cache Me If You Can” panel. Speakers: Ashley Jin, Distributed Computing Engineer, Paxata Anna Povzner, Software Engineer, Confluent Alice Yeh, Software Engineer, Eventbrite Vartika Agarwal, Technical Program Manager, Google

Why did you attend this year’s conference?

Last week was my third time attending GHC! Three years ago, Kelly Lyon and I both attended as GHC Scholars back when the conference had only 5,000 attendees. Last year there were 12,000 attendees, this year there were 15,000, and next year they expect 18,000+ in Orlando, Florida!

When I went the first time, I was only a year or so into my computer science major at school and was having a rough time. I wasn’t sure if I belonged or how I would fit into the tech world. I hadn’t met any female role models at my school, and I didn’t yet know about the many cool women in industry in my town and around the globe. There is something very tantalizing about being under the same roof as thousands of other intelligent women technologists. While that might sound intimidating at first, it is quickly understood that the group is incredibly inviting, open, personable, silly, and fiercely dedicated to the cause.

Years later, I too am a fierce warrior for the cause. Kelly and I were the first students from Western Washington University (WWU) to ever attend, and we knew we had to get more people from our school to this incredible conference. By selling t-shirts, I founded a scholarship that has since brought seven students from the WWU Association for Women in Computing (AWC), to GHC. We have also had the pleasure of helping bring awareness to the national scholarships that made it possible for eight more to attend. In total, this year there were 23 students, faculty, and alumni from WWU at GHC!

WWU group photo

WWU group photo

I attended this year so that I could officially pass the torch on to this new group of students, and so that I could meet other female technologists who, like me, are in their early careers in tech. At GHC it doesn’t matter what level you are at, be it student, early-mid-late career, industry or academia, entrepreneur, CEO, researcher, recruiter, or a simple observer. There is truly something for everyone. Where other than GHC could a software engineer from a tiny startup in Bellingham, WA walk and talk casually with the CTO of the United States government?!

Megan Smith and Andrea Frost

Megan Smith and Andrea Frost

What happened this year at Grace Hopper 2016?

Watching the excitement and camaraderie of women from my school at GHC was such a stark contrast to my experience three years ago! I felt proud to have helped create opportunities for such a large group of us to be there together, and it was fun to laugh together and see them encourage one another to apply for jobs, attend talks, introduce themselves to new friends, and explore new areas of technology. (Spoiler: three of them got job offers at the conference!)

The keynotes were fabulous and insightful. Latanya Sweeney, the first black woman to earn a PhD in Computer Science, now professor of government and technology in residence at Harvard University, spoke about bias in software and how data science is saving the world.

Ginni Rometty, President and CEO at IBM, reminded us that “comfort and growth never coexist” and to work on something bigger than yourself.

ABIE Award winner Anna Patterson showed us that women can rise up to all kinds of challenges while being a great leader all along the way.

I have a particular interest in cyber security, so I was excited to attend relevant talks in that arena. From panels on defense against the dark arts to presentations on policy and surveillance (Jennifer Stisa Granick) and new paradigm in cyber tactics (Andrea Limbago), we have much work to do in the cyber space. Women must be involved in these efforts, so be sure to also put the Women in Cyber Security (WiCYS) conference on your radar!

Cyber security panel: Defense Against the Dark Arts -- Protecting Your Product From Bad Actors.  Speakers:  Clara Liu, Software Engineer, Pinterest Jenelle Bray, Team Lead, LinkedIn Ava Zhang, Software Engineer, Twitter, Inc. Jackie Bow, Software Engineer, Facebook, Inc. Angelina Huang, Software Engineer, Airbnb

Cyber security panel: Defense Against the Dark Arts — Protecting Your Product From Bad Actors. Speakers:
Clara Liu, Software Engineer, Pinterest, Jenelle Bray, Team Lead, LinkedIn, Ava Zhang, Software, Engineer, Twitter, Inc., Jackie Bow, Software Engineer, Facebook, Inc., Angelina Huang, Software Engineer, Airbnb

Passing in the hallways offered many opportunities to walk and talk with well-known, important people. At GHC, people take time to get to know one another rather than brushing off time with strangers. Some of my favorite encounters include:

Lisa Seacat DeLuca

Lisa Seacat DeLuca

  • Jamie Chappell at Red Hat – Created the Women in Open Source Award to help bring more recognition to women contributors.

  • Heather Ricciuto and Diane Delaney at IBM – Fabulous women I cross paths with at every conference who inspire all those around them while making important connections.

  • Ambareen Siraj from Tennessee Tech University – Founder of WiCYS who always encourages me to reach beyond.

  • Carol Willing – Director of the Python Software Foundation who also happens to run an OpenHatch table at the GHC Open Source Day each year.

  • Megan Smith – United States Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the Office of Science and Technology Policy and closing keynote speaker. She works with President Obama and I got to meet her!

And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper GHC without closing keynotes and a stellar after party! Closing keynotes included: Megan Smith who brought important attention to the upcoming film Hidden Figures, the silly MC, Nora Denzel, Marc Benioff from Salesforce, and a panel of amazing women from NASA.

Megan Smith with panel of women from NASA

Megan Smith with panel of women from NASA

At the after party, we danced all night with a live DJ and a silent DJ party on the opposite end of the room, spinning gyrospheres, Ms. Pacman, a giant LightBright, Skee Ball, and some pretty awesome photo booths!

Silent DJ at GHC after party

Silent DJ at GHC after party

Favorite piece of swag?

My new custom emoji from Made with Code of course!


What are your top 5 take aways for women in tech?

It’s so hard to narrow it down to just five things! The following is my best effort to do so:

  1. You belong and the world needs you! We must have diverse minds at the table making decisions about the future direction of technology.
  2. Don’t be afraid to explore! There is so much more out there beyond what we can see and imagine, but you have to do the work to put yourself in a position to gain exposure to other ideas and people.
  3. Let connections run deeper. When you meet other women, keep in touch with them via LinkedIn, Facebook, email, user groups, or whatever tools suit your needs. I am still friends today with people from every conference I have been to, and I look forward to following all of our careers as we progress. Those contacts are your lifeline both to share in the good times and in the struggles.
  4. Look for the light. There will probably always be frustrations for women in tech, at least in my lifetime. No matter what you are going through, there is always a lesson to be learned and light at the end of the tunnel. Make sure you are looking for the light.
  5. Say thank you to those who have helped you along your journey. Almost every woman at the Systers luncheon raised their hands to say they would like more recognition for their work and for their accomplishments. It takes a village, and I believe we should acknowledge each other for the work we do. Women have been written out of the history books; it is up to us to make sure we have proper representation in the future.


The winning company and results, from the Top Companies for Women Technologists program was also shared during the conference. This is a national program that recognizes companies committed to building workplaces where women technologists can thrive. This year, an unprecedented 60 organizations across multiple industries participated! That’s a 71 percent increase from 2015.

This graph shows in red how far ahead the winning company was this year.

This graph shows in red, how far ahead the winning company was this year.

Why should you attend GHC next year?

There are so many reasons to attend GHC! Off the top of my head:

  1. If you want to be inspired, go to GHC
  2. If you want to connect with awesome women in tech, go to GHC
  3. If you want to learn about emerging technologies, go to GHC
  4. If you need to find talented women to join your team, go to GHC
  5. If you aren’t quite sure where you fit or what your next job should be, go to GHC
  6. If you want to participate in inclusive open source workshops, go to GHC
  7. If you want to know how to help in this mission, go to GHC

About Andrea Frost:

Andrea is passionate about using technology to make the world a better place. With many years of non-profit experience, she is incredibly excited to build ActionSprout tools that make life easier for non-profits. When not officially at work Andrea volunteers with the Creators & Innovators Club for Girls, Whatcom Hospice, and WWU Association for Women in Computing. She loves getting out in the mountains with her dog from Alaska. She is currently an engineer at ActionSprout.

The keys to successful campaigns on Facebook

Nathan Mackenzie Brown, founder of Really American, shows how running petitions with donation upsells can have a huge impact on Facebook, for organizations large and small. Learn how to see success in your own campaigns on Facebook.

Meet Really American

Really American helps concerned citizens defend truth, democracy, social justice and the environment against the corruption, fraud and lies that Bernie Sanders exposed to the American public during the 2016 presidential election.

Campaign goals:

The goals of this campaign were three part:

  1. Grow Really American’s email list of supporters
  2. Use a donation upsell immediately after the petition to raise money to cover the ad costs required to push out the campaigns.
  3. Try to make more in donations than was needed to put back into ads.


From April 1st to July 25th, Brown worked hard to meet the goals above. The results blew us away. In the end he:

  • Built an email list of over 49,000 supporters
  • Acquired over 500 donors
  • Made $2,722.57 in donations after what he spent on ads

According to Brown:

“Typically non-profit organizations and political campaigns will pay $1-$2 to acquire email leads. I actually made about $.06 on average per email address I acquired during this time period. Someone who works in the digital consulting world on political campaigns heard about my results and thought they were impossible until he saw the analytics screenshots from my Facebook ad account. I’d say accomplishing results that are so good as to be considered impossible is reason to be happy!”

Results like that are something to be happy about!


During the project, Brown launched over 80 different petitions, coupled with donation up sells. What do we mean by “donation up sells”? Any supporter who clicked on his petition would first be asked to sign and support the cause. Then, on the following thank you page, they had the opportunity to pitch in a few dollars as well.

“I ran upsells right after people signed the petition where I asked people to donate money to help get more people to sign the petitions. I chose this method because I saw doing this on their petitions and I have seen doing it as well. I figured it probably would work well given that these large organizations use a similar approach. It tooks some testing on wording, but once I got it right it worked effectively to cover more than the ad spend on petitions that were really hot.”

Brown found up sells engaged his supporters better than a straight donation action. Up sells follow the same principles of Micro-Commitments, laid out here. In other words, if someone takes a small action for you, like signing a petition or pledging their support, they are much more likely to take action again. Brown agreed:

“One of the most interesting things I saw pretty consistently was the lower the acquisition cost on email signatures, the higher the percentage of people who gave donations, and the more money I made per donation. I think this indicates that when a petition resonated for people at a high level, it was because people thought it might really help the situation, and so it was worth donating to as well as signing.”

Through this process Brown used his page to prove what worked and what didn’t, giving him the ability to fine tune his work and focus his energy where it mattered most. But how does one come up with that many petitions and ideas to test? According to Brown:

“What I found worked best for me was to find articles on topics that I thought could make good petitions. I posted those to my page to see how my audience responded. When something got a lot more engagement, I focused on making a petition about it. Obviously this required having enough followers that I could get some reasonable engagement on my posts. If one doesn’t have a big enough following, then you might want to test the articles with a small ad spend to your desired target audience to see if they respond before making the petitions.”

Through this method, he was able to find the formula for successful petitions:

“Find something people are really upset about, which is trending and ties into your cause. Identify a bad actor that is involved in the situation. Identify a third party that people believe would actually do something about the situation if enough people sign a petition about the issue.”

Campaign creative:

During this time, Brown launched over 80 different petitions and upsells! We’ll just dig into his top three:

Action number one: Sign If You Want Every Vote Counted In California!

What the post did well:

  • Makes use of hashtags, exposing the cause to a wider audience
  • Made use of clear, concise language that demonstrated why supporters should click, and what’s at stake.

What the petition did well:

  • The petition made use of urgent language and a clear, concise call to action for maximum completions
  • It takes advantage of a “strength in numbers” mentality. Brown asked folks to add their names to the growing list of supporters just like them, not solve the problem by themselves.

The results:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 3.15.28 PM

Action number two: Sign Petition: Investigate CA & NY Voter Suppression!

What the post did well:

  • Clear call to action that sets the stage
  • Large, engaging image of Bernie Sanders that grabs attention and makes you want to stop scrolling and check it out

What the petition did well:

  • The petition itself made use of clear, urgent language
  • Uses a concise call to action for maximum completions

The results:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 3.17.10 PM

Action number three: Add Your Name To Punish Voter Suppression!

What the post did well:

  • Uses a clear call to action that sets the stage up front
  • Includes a large, engaging image of Bernie Sanders that grabs attention and makes you want to stop scrolling and check it out.

What the petition did well:

  • Made use of clear, urgent language
  • Uses a clear, concise call to action for maximum completions

The results:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 3.18.24 PM

Overall, these top three petitions enjoyed an average conversion rate of 53% and 84,142 Facebook shares!

Campaign lessons and takeaways

So how can your nonprofit enjoy this same level of success?

  • Post and test as much as you can! Brown created and promoted over 80 different petitions to learn what resonated the best with his supporters.
  • Use the trending stories and topics folks are currently talking about as inspiration for new petition ideas. This will help create enough petitions to run a test of this size.
  • If you can, spend a little money on Facebook ads to get the ball rolling.
  • Double down on what works and leave the rest behind. Your supporters are the experts on what engages them, not you 🙂
  • Be as clear and concise as possible when framing your issue and call to action.

About Nathan Mackenzie Brown and Really American: Brown is currently running similar campaigns now for a Mayor’s race in California and for a bike advocacy organization in California in partnership with AHG. They are interested in finding 1-2 more clients to work with on this sort of basis. In addition, they are in the early stages of seeking seed money from large donors to scale the activities of Really American’s email list building and fundraising activities. You can reach Brown by direct messaging the Really American Facebook page.

How to: Collect signatures and grow your Facebook page

How one nonprofit collected hundreds of thousands of signatures and greatly grew their Facebook page through consistent daily posting, social actions and lots of hard work.

1,000 Days

Meet 1,000 Days, the leading nonprofit organization working in the U.S. and around the world to improve nutrition and ensure women and children have the healthiest first 1,000 days after childbirth.

Campaign Goals

The 1,000 Days team wanted to create strong support around a new national paid family leave policy and the U.S. Government’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program. To accomplish this, they created social actions through ActionSprout that informed and mobilized their Facebook supporters to take action. In the process, they were able to influence public policy and grow a group of supporters passionate about the issues.


  • Roughly a quarter million signatures raised through ActionSprout social actions
  • A jump in Facebook page fans from 3,000 to 85,000 in four months
  • 684,354 Facebook shares
  • 799,114 petition views
  • 34% petition completion rate


How did they gain such staggering success?

  • By consistently making 2 to 3 posts a day their team ensured supporters were always engaged and that 1,000 was at the front of their minds.
  • 1,000 Days maintained careful audience targeting to reach the “right” people, who were most likely to engage and further the campaign.
  • Sharp, clear, petitions that communicated what was at stake, what needed to change, and how.
  • Sharing personal accounts, shocking figures, and real family stories of hardship and impact to emotionally connect with current and potential supporters.

Campaign Creative

Let’s take a look at a few of their campaign Facebook posts.

Facebook posts:

Campaign Lessons and Takeaways

How you can apply this same success to your own cause:

  • To perform well on Facebook your campaigns must be socially optimized. Follow this check list to make sure your next campaign is social:
    • Is your campaign sharable? Will supporters want to be seen sharing it with friends and family?
    • Is your campaign targeted? What are you asking supporters to do? Is it clear and tangible?
    • Does your campaign have an emotional aspect? People are more likely to take action when you speak to their emotions, rather than their logic.
    • Is it personal? How will this effect your supporters’ lives or the lives of those they know?
    • Is there urgency? If your supporters feel like they can come back and deal with this later you have lost them.
    • Is your campaign possible? Is what you’re asking for reasonable?

Facebook polls can increase engagement and collect supporter email

Facebook is a powerful platform for communities and the sharing of ideas. Here’s how one nonprofit tapped into that power through the use of a poll campaign, while collecting supporters’ names and email addresses.

Start Empathy

Meet Start Empathy! An initiative of Ashoka, Start Empathy is a community of individuals and institutions dedicated to building a future in which every child masters empathy. Recently, they launched a campaign on Facebook to ask folks in the business field if it was necessary to prioritize skills like empathy in a 21st-century workplace.

Campaign Goals

Start Empathy wanted to understand how many people felt that it is necessary for schools and workplaces to prioritize new skills such as empathy, leadership and innovative thinking. Was the way people saw the 21st-century workplace changing? Were people seeing the need for a new set of skills to be prioritized and practiced in schools? To answer these questions and more, they launched the #StartEmpathy campaign in October 2015 to raise awareness about the importance of empathy in education.


“It was relatively successful in terms of comments. Many people commented and shared their thoughts on what are important skills, so we do see it as a success.”

  • One Facebook post
  • 2,778 shares on Facebook
  • 10,760 total views
  • 381 total poll completions


The campaign was targeted toward educators and parents who live in the United States. As part of the campaign, they also targeted business leaders and social entrepreneurs. The poll was posted to Facebook and boosted using Facebook advertising. Particularly successful posts were learned from and repurposed.

Campaign Creative

The following is a breakdown of the Facebook post and poll used on Facebook. Each includes why the asset led to a successful campaign overall.

The Facebook post:

  • Takes advantage of appropriate hashtags for further organic reach and engagement on Facebook.
  • Includes a clear request for feedback.
  • The organization can be seen engaging supporters in the comments and taking part in the larger conversation.

The poll:

  • The poll itself was Facebook and mobile-optimized, making it fast and easy to complete the poll from any device.
  • The description that was provided on the poll landing page clearly communicated the issue using the “problem, solution, action” format:
  1. Problem: The modern workplace is evolving but our students are not prepared to enter it.
  2. Solution (in the form of a hypothesis): If workplaces hired differently, would schools impart education differently?
  3. Action: As someone in the field weighs in and help us reach this solution.

Campaign Lessons and Takeaways

“I think what we would have done differently is changed the target audience for this poll. We targeted education influencers but not enough people in the business field. I think that would have helped in getting an idea of the trend.”

  1. Asking questions and soliciting feedback has been a long-held best practice in fostering engagement and community on Facebook.
  2. Learn from your past Facebook posts and reuse what works. This is the best way to increase your organic reach and engagement.
  3. Make sure that your polls are Facebook and mobile-optimized. Through the use of an ActionSprout poll action, Start Empathy made weighing in from any device fast and easy.
  4. Putting a little ad money behind a campaign can lead to great success on Facebook.

Local nonprofit finds success in Facebook fundraising

Facebook can be a powerful platform for fundraising and social good. Here’s how one local nonprofit ran a successful fundraising campaign on Facebook — and found a puppy a new family!

Lifeline Puppy Rescue

Meet Lifeline Puppy Rescue, a Colorado no-kill puppy rescue that saves puppies under 12 weeks old from shelters or other rescuers that are not adequately prepared to care for or find proper homes for puppies. Recently, they launched a donation campaign on Facebook to help pay for the rescue and care of Charley the puppy.

Campaign Goals

Charley, the puppy, was transferred into Lifeline’s care with two hip fractures. They launched a campaign to help cover Charley’s medical expenses, which totaled $1,200. Lifeline’s secondary campaign goal was to find Charley a new family.

Key Campaign Stats

“Overall the campaign was successful! Not only did we reach our goal in under 24 hours, but as soon as Charley went up for adoption he found a new family! The biggest donation to the campaign came from a volunteer who ended up fostering Charley. As soon as the campaign launched on Facebook, they immediately donated $300.”

  • Two Facebook posts asking for donations
  • 7745 people reached
  • 169 post shares
  • 254 clickthroughs to the donation action
  • 24 donations ($1,145) raised through ActionSprout
  • $250 raised elsewhere


Before Lifeline launched the campaign on Facebook, Charley had been in their care for about a week. During this time, many of their closest contributors, staff members, and volunteers had met little Charley. They started by promoting his story to this “inner circle” of their most engaged friends, in hopes that they would see the post on Facebook and be more inclined to share/help as they had a personal connection with Charley.

Lifeline originally had a different plan to promote this campaign on Facebook; however, the initial surge of donations exceeded their expectations and caused them to change plans. Instead, they only posted twice asking for donations: once the night before he went into surgery, and an update after he came out of surgery, which asked for donations.

“We were strategic about the time and content of our post. We originally planned on posting six times over the course of two weeks to reach our $1,200 goal. Since we reached our goal in under 24 hours, we decided to switch the focus and begin thanking contributors and looking for a family for Charley. He spent two more weeks recovering, and we posted two more times about him. These two posts were about his progress, thanking everyone, and letting people know when he would go up for adoption. The final post was letting everyone know he found a new home!”

Campaign Creative

“Charley was a very rambunctious puppy, and we wish we could’ve gotten a better photo of him!”

Here’s a detailed look at all of the campaign creative elements:

Charley’s pre-surgery post

  • Sets a clear, realistic goal
  • Asks for a small, manageable gift of $10
  • Cute, engaging image of Charley’s face makes supporters stop scrolling and pay attention
  • Includes a large, clear call to action: “Will you help Charley?”
  • Connects readers to the cause through the power of storytelling

Charley’s post-surgery post

  • Includes progress towards goal
  • Uses optimistic and uplifting language
  • Cute, engaging image of Charley’s face makes supporters stop scrolling and pay attention
  • Includes a large, clear call to action: “Will you help Charley”
  • Asks for a small, manageable gift of $10

Charley’s donation page

  • Goal bar to show progress against their goal
  • Stripe integration offers a quick, mobile-optimized donation experience
  • Connects readers to the cause through the power of storytelling

Campaign Lessons and Takeaways

“We were very happy with the tools that ActionSprout offered. Our contributors love to see how many people have helped, how much more help is still needed, and then able to contribute themselves quickly… We learned not to directly asked for donations, however; it’s better to start out in a more subtle way of explaining the story and at the end ask for a small donation or help.”

  • Take advantage of engaging images and storytelling to pull potential supporters in.
  • Be clear with supporters about your goal for the campaign and tie it to concrete results.
  • Keep supporters in the loop as the campaign progresses.
  • Make sure that your donation pages are optimized for Facebook and mobile devices. Through the use of an ActionSprout donation action and Stripe payments, Lifeline made giving fast and easy from any device.

Learn more about fundraising on Facebook.