How to Choose the Right Online Communications Platforms for A Small Nonprofit

How to Choose the Right Online Communications Platforms for A Small Nonprofit

Julia Claire Campbell Marketing, Nonprofits, Social Media 2 Comments

How to Choose the Right Online Communications Platforms for A Small NonprofitOne of the most frequent problems I see recurring in small nonprofits is this:

With all the online tools out there – websites, blogs, email software, social media sites, review sites – how can a small nonprofit know which ones to prioritize? Where should my nonprofit be online?

The online digital space can be very overwhelming – trust me, I know!

The bad news is that there are news articles, webinars, blog posts, and platforms coming out every single day on these topics.

The good news it that you do not need to be everywhere at once. Less is always more in the online space – quality over quantity!

I am here to help you decide where to focus your nonprofit’s limited time and already-stretched resources.

Start with Goals

It all starts with your goals! Too often nonprofits want to start with the tools – and who can blame them?

A lot of these tools are shiny, sexy, and “free” (I’m looking at you, social media), and on the surface, they are easy to set up and manage.

Well, online communication tools are free like getting a puppy is free.

I can find you a free puppy today, but do you have the time, energy, know how, and resources to manage it, to feed it, to train it, to love it?

You have to be honest with yourself here.

Is your MAIN goal:

  • Raising awareness?
  • Finding new donors?
  • Growing your membership?
  • Getting people to attend events?
  • Advocacy around an issue?

There are different tools available for each of these goals. Sure, you may be looking at this list and saying YES ALL THE GOALS!

However, trying to do everything at once will make you crazy, overwhelmed, stressed, and will not accomplish anything. Multi-tasking is a myth – I firmly believe that.

Choose one overarching goal that you want to achieve with your online communications in the next 3-6 months, and focus there.

If you are a larger organization with a good-size staff, you are allowed to choose more than one goal.

But for the small nonprofits, the start-ups, the bootstrappers, the ones with no paid staff – you are only allowed to pick ONE goal to start.

Move to Strategies

Let’s choose the very common goal of “raising awareness.” You want people to be more aware of your organization.

The theory goes that if they are more aware, they will be more likely to come to your events, to sit on your Board, to volunteer, and to become lifelong donors.

And how do people find out information about issues, causes, organizations, and other things they are interested in? If you said GOOGLE, then you are correct!

To succeed with Google, you need a website. And not just any website – the best one you can possibly create and afford.

#1 Tool Before You Do Anything Else – WEBSITE

I harp on this a lot, because it always strikes me how many organizations want to explore 7 different social media platforms when they have a terrible, horrible, outdated, clumsy website.

Your website is your most important marketing, communications, outreach, and fundraising tool. FULL STOP.

Get your website in order. Include stories and visuals that will speak to your prospects – the people that don’t know about you but you want to bring them into the fold. Take out any information that is not easy to understand.

For ideas and inspiration on creating a fabulous nonprofit website, check out EveryAction’s 100 best nonprofit website designs of 2016.

#2 Tool to Follow the Website – EMAIL

Much ado has been made about email being dead. Yes, boring, spammy, uninteresting email is certainly dead. If it ever lived in the first place!

The kind of email communications I’m talking about are brief, sent out frequently but not so much that they fatigue your audience, and convey your accomplishments and your impact. Short, sweet, to the point.

Email is not designed for YOU. It should be designed and written for your audience – and in the case of nonprofits, email audiences tend to be donors or prospects.

Answer their questions, get to the heart of what makes them support you passionately.

Use email to keep them in the loop with you, to show them what you are building together, not to just spam them incessantly with fundraising appeals and event invitations.

For some good nonprofit email examples, check out Pamela Grow’s What’s In My Inbox.

#3 Tool to Follow Email – BLOG

Yes, blogging. It’s important!

If you don’t think anyone reads blogs anymore, take a look at the results of this research: 77% of Internet users read blogs and companies that blog get 55% more website visitors.

You can’t argue with the statistics. Blogging, when done consistently and done well, attracts website traffic and more engaged members of your online community.

The kind of blog I am talking about is not the wordy diatribe best left to the mommy bloggers.

Nonprofit blogs should function like longer Facebook posts. They should be heavy on visuals and stories, impact and achievements.

What did you do with my money? Answer this question in a blog.

Why should I give you more money, or give you any at all in the first place? Answer these objections and challenges with a fantastic story on your blog.

For more tips about starting and maintaining a nonprofit blog, check out my presentation Make Blogging a Part of Your Social Media Strategy.

Do Not Build Only On Rented Land

You control the content of your website, email, and blog. You do NOT control anything at all on social media sites.

Do not build your house on rented land – invest time in a great website, relevant email communications, and an interesting blog.

If you have time left over, you can explore Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc.

In conclusion, I feel strongly that if your small nonprofit has a great content foundation in place with a website, email, and blog, you can increase awareness of your programs and raise money for your organization.

Have questions or feedback? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Comments 2

  1. Eric Bryant

    Simply put, nonprofits need to choose the communications platforms that work. Don’t rush to get on a platform just because everyone else is on it. Do your research. Find out if your audience is actually on that platform. Be strategic. And be efficient with your time, labor and resources.

    For example, it’s amazing to us that more nonprofits do not see the value of texting/SMS as a communications platform. Texting is so powerful that it’s amazing it’s still so underrated. It’s truly a cinderella technology for nonprofits and social enterprises. Texting is cheap, fast and easy. Has almost zero barrier to entry. And is built into every phone. People in lower-income communities, not just in the U.S. but around the world. have been utilizing SMS to raise funds, increase reach, and increase donor engagement.

    We’ve been helping nonprofits use text messaging to raise funds since 2008. We offer a text to donate service that is affordable and effective.

    Research shows that many nonprofits will raise more overall with an SMS donation program in their marketing mix than they will without one. Learn more

    1. Post
      Julia Claire Campbell

      I would love to see more nonprofits using services like these, but unfortunately, most of them are so small and many don’t even have optimized websites. Mobile fundraising seems unattainable for most. Hopefully affordable services like yours will help break the barrier to entry! Thank you.

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