Technology Best Practices for Nonprofits (continued)

Technology / Monday, April 1st, 2013


This blog post is a continuation post from the original 1-5 best practices for nonprofits

6. Blog

A well planned and executed blog is one of the most effective things any organization can do to expand its reach. The technology behind a blog is simple and the cost is free. Although it is important that your blog is well designed, do not get distracted by making it look pretty.

Your message is most important

Know your audience and grow your newsletter signups, don’t over promote your organization or write at length about things that people aren’t interested in. Before you begin (or if you haven’t ever done this) be sure and have a solid understanding of the “big picture” of why your organization should even bother with a blog. Read aboutBlogging and online marketing strategies. Once you know WHY you are creating a blog and know WHAT metrics you will use to determine success, you need to understand your organization’s audience.

Bad practice: Blog is rarely and infrequently updated and either contains mostly promotional content or duplicated content from social media. Blog does not have a way to join your newsletter, post comments, or share.

Good practice: Blog posts are relevant, engaging, and interesting written for one specific audience. New entries are posted on a regular basis and include a variety of perspectives and topics that are convincing for the readers to sign up for the newsletter, comment on, and share with their networks.

Online Tools: Tumblr (recommended), WordPress, Blogger.

7. Donor Database

Every nonprofit organizations has to keep track of donations and donors. You will need to be able to manage campaign efficacy and be able to send out mass communication to segmented lists of donors.

Bad practice: No system, paper based systems, or excel spreadsheets. If you are just starting a new organization and you don’t know how you are going to keep track of donors you need to figure this out first and foremost before worrying about any other aspect of running the organization. If your charity have been around for awhile and you really struggle with this aspect, you are not alone, but you must make this a priority.

Good practice: A secure, accessible, and unified software application. Staff works together and can easily articulate organization goals, campaign strategies, and internal and external messaging. Donor information is up-to-date, donors can opt-in and opt-out seamlessly, no duplicates, and correspodence history for each donor is documented.

Excellent donor management is extremely important to the successful operation of a nonprofit organization. Since every organization and every donor is different, it is important to constantly revisit, review, and improve how you are communicating with and managing donor engagement.

Recommended FREE online tools: SalesForce, Google for nonprofits (Google marketplace has many free CRM or Customer Relationship Management databases to choose from), Insightly

8. Online Strategy

There is a lot more to “being online” than having a website, blogging, and posting on social media. Why does your organization exist? What is it that you are trying to accomplish? The goal of an effective online strategy for your organization should be more thanjust expanding your reach with a wider audience and growing your donor and volunteer base: creating evangelists for your cause.

An evangelist is someone who will not only donate their time and money to your cause but will go out and recruit their friends and family to do the same. You never know what kind of relationships and potential partnerships can emerge as the result of a strong support from key individiuals.

We mentioned some resources for social media best practices and blogging but what are some other ways to attract new visitors and engage with and involve your supporters? It is important for nonprofits to think about the process in which someone new gets involved with your particular organization. It can be helpful to think aboutmarketing for charities using pipelines and funnels and also the similarities of cause marketing and online [political] campaigning. Be sure and stay up to date with the latest nonprofit marketing trends of 2013.

The latest buzz word is “Big Data” and we all want to integrate and streamline all of our information to be able recognize patterns of behavior and better market and understand our users, donors, volunteers, supporters, and constituents. We also hear a lot about the importance of metrics. How many facebook fans do you have? How many followers on twitter? How many newsletter subscribers? Don’t get caught up in vanity metrics. What really matters is the quality of the supporters you have. How do you engage with these people and how well do you know them? How can you better serve these people? Be sure you are focused on how to convert prospect donors into key contributors and finally how to utilize volunteers for maximum engagement by empowering your community all-stars.

Online strategies are wide ranging and diverse. Use your creativity and what works for your organization. Once you have planned your course of action, know your goals and have appropriate success critera, then here are some tools to help you execute your strategy:

Email Marketing: MailChimp or ConstantContact

Crowdsourcing: IdeaScale and Crowdspring

7 Social Media Tools

Nonprofit Online Communities: Sparked and Idealist

Wiki Tools: Ning and Wikia

Website Add-ons: GoToWebinar (promotional discount by Techsoup),ShareThis, JotForm, Google Forms

Online Reviews of Charities: GuideStar, Charity Navigator, BBB Accredited Charity Directory

Analytics: Google Analytics, Raventools, SEOmoz

9. Industry Updates

It is sometimes difficult to find the right balance between obsessing over the latest news and keeping up with trends vs being shut off from the outside world and being complacent with the same strategies and approaches. Organizations need to stay current with other players in the field. Are there opportunities to partner and collaborate with other charities? Who is achieving the most success? How are other organizations failing? We can all learn from each other.

Bad practice: Distracted and overwhelmed by information: searching the internet for hours, wasting time on facebook/twitter/pinterest, swamped by hundreds of e-mails. Oblivious to what is going on around you: unreachable by volunteers/donors/other nonprofits/local community, unaware of who is doing what locally, not open to advice, feedback, and criticism by any person, group, or institution.

Good practice: Disciplined approach that works for you to set aside time each day/week to keep up with key influencers and industry news from trusted sources. You find a balance between discovering new challenges, finding inspiration, and learning pratical tips for growth and development.

RSS Readers: Feedly or The Old Reader

Twitter hashtags to follow: Social Media Nonprofit Tweets and 6 Nonprofit #hashtags to follow

10. Devices

If your computer is running anything older than Windows XP get a new one. There’s no reason to waste time on old technology, especially for less than $400 you can buy a very fast and powerful machine

You need a computer! For less than $400 you can purchase a brand-new fast and powerful laptop or desktop computer. Don’t be cheap, invest in technology and it will pay off.

You don’t need your own server anymore. Here’s why.

Dual Monitors. Every workstation should have a big monitor and it’s a good to have multiple screens. Using a second monitor can boost productivity. Technology is very cheap. Why not invest an additional $120 and find out for yourself how much more you can get done each day?

Do you really need a tablet?

Depends. There are some very practical use cases of nonprofits using tablets but for the most part tablets are still probably more fun than functional.

You need a smart phone. Organizations must be able to communicate with their constituents, and that means text messaging. A smart phone can make your life so much easier… taking pictures in the field, sharing updates on social media, recording voice memos from conferences/brain storms, listening to podcasts , text messaging, mobile apps.

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