10 Technology Best Practices for Nonprofits: Social Media, Blogging, CRMs, CMS, Web 2.0

Technology / Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

2 part series.  1-5 Listed below. also see the 6-10 best practices for nonprofits

Leverage these tech tools and resources to bring higher social impact to your organization.  This is a very basic starting point, later we will be diving into more detail.  

Your organization is only as good as the work you do.  Using technology will help you better manage your time and get more things done but ultimately it comes down to execution and hard work.  Also, don’t fall into the temptation of signing up for EVERYTHING listed below.  

The purpose of this article is to expose you to the different websites and services that are available. It will take significant strategic planning and dedication to get your organization up and running with any new change whether that be a new software, tweaked messaging, communication strategy, etc.


1.  Document Management

How do you keep track of all of your documents, press releases, reports, marketing materials, images, publications, newsletters, and all the content that your organization produces?  

Bad practice: Staff and volunteers use hard copy versions or store documents on their own computers and share documents via e-mails.

Good practice: All staff and volunteers use a central repository that is secure, accessible, and easy to use so they can stay up-to-date with the most recent version.

The most important thing is that everyone is on the same page and buys into the same system.  Solutions range from cheap, small, and simple to robust, complex, and expensive.  

(The traditional “small business network” would not be recommended as it is costly to maintain and you miss out on the many benefits of cloud computing.  But if you have already invested in hardware and software to run your own network, here’s how to get everything working.)

The Websites:  Google DriveDropBox, Microsoft SkyDrive, Apple iCloud

Note: Please read this entire article before diving into any one of these services!  You don’t want to choose services that will not all work nicely together.

2.  Project Management

Depending on the size and nature of your organization this may be a very critical piece.  For example, if your organization hosts many events, works with many volunteers, clients, agencies, contacts, and/or produces a lot of articles, press releases, or research, then you need a way to keep track of these projects.  It could be as simple as a task list or a calendar but make sure you have a system that works.

Playing around with different project management tools can be a lot of fun.  At the end of the day, you need to pick one and stick with it. 

Bad practice: Everyone has their own system and nobody knows what a certain staff member or volunteer is working on.  What do you do when someone is out sick or goes on vacation ifyou don’t know what important deadlines they have coming up?

Good practice: Managers can delegate and assign tasks to staff and volunteers.  Everyone is on the same page and has a plan for what to do in case of “[insert employee name here] gets hit by a bus scenario”.

There is nothing wrong with using Microsoft Outlook Tasks or Google Tasks.  Be sure that other people can access them though, and that can be tricky if you don’t want to share passwords.

Some of my favorite tools: Asana, Kanban Tools, Todoist

Or check out these similar apps:  Salesforce, Wrike, MavenLink

It can be tricky to give staff the freedom to work the way they work best while keeping them accountable and integrated into one project management system.


3. E-mail

Okay, while I assume that everyone has their own e-mail and knows how to use this, it is important that your organization uses email properly and does not fall victim to traps that can happen as we are constantly bombarded by e-mail and different forms of online communication.

  • Clear out your inbox!  This will change your life.  It is a very simple concept yet when put into practice, you will reduce stress, increase productivity, and free up your time, and learn more.
  • CC, BCC, Reply-To-All, Forwarding   Each time you receive an e-mail, always notice how it was delivered.  If your address was in the Blind Carbon Copied (BCC), the person who sent it to you wanted you to be included on the communication update but you most likely do not need to respond.  Don’t reply to the person the email was sent it to if they have never been introduced to you!  If you have been Carbon Copied (CC), you are included in the discussion and are expected to participate in the conversation and include all the other recipients by using the “reply to all” so that all people are filled in.  Only directly reply if your message is specific to the one person.  Forwards can be tricky.  Read 10+ email best practices for more information.
  • Manage only 1 e-mail account.  Nothing is more confusing than having 3-4 different email accounts for one person at a company.  If you have an [email protected] have it auto-forward to the proper point of contact.  That way when you reply to someone, that person will have your work e-mail instead of a generic account.

4. Organization Web Site

Absolutely every organization no matter how big or small must have a website.  It is affordable and there are no excuses for not having something online.  Yes it is true that you should also have a good website, and this topic merits several blog posts, but for now let’s talk about the best practices for getting online.

Use a Content Management System.  Key benefits: easy to make content changes, no knowledge of HTML required, search engine optimized, affordable, and there’s a great community of support.

The top 3 free and open source CMS: Drupal, WordPress, Joomla!

Some alternatives: Wix, Weebly, 1and1

5. Social Media

No blog post about technology best practices can be complete without mentioning social media.  Communication has changed.  Whether you want to or not, it is important to engage with people in the ways they communicate.  

Your organization needs to embrace social media, but this is not a one size fits all environment.  You need to carefully plan and think about how these communication tools will or will not work well for your mission, messaging, and goals.  

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Youtube, Vimeo, Wikipedia, First Giving, Craigslist, Google Places, Bing Local

Google Alerts and Social Mention are tools that will help you stay informed of new conversations and posts that you care about.

Want to learn more about social media for nonprofits?  Check out this article

Please comment below if you think I’ve missed any great tools or topics in these categories!