A recent study found that many nonprofit organizations aren’t using social media effectively. While numerous communication tips for nonprofits exist, leaders cite their number one constraint being a lack of time. This is a recurring complaint we hear from organizations when it comes to their communications. Layer on the limited financial and human resources that characterize the social sector, and many nonprofit leaders find it difficult to keep up with their communications at all.
Neglecting communications can be detrimental because nonprofits need a consistent voice to remain relevant in the minds of donors, beneficiaries and strategic partners. But, by making a few smart choices about their communications tools, nonprofit leaders can leverage their limited time and resources to ensure their voice is heard.
Below are four communication tips for nonprofits working with limited resources. The tools we’ve recommended are those we utilize and recommend to clients because they are inexpensive/free, easy to use, and huge time-savers.
1. Build a website you can update at least every 2-3 months
At ConceptLink we love WordPress’s user-friendliness, low cost templates, and seamless integration with other communications and e-commerce platforms (social media, email marketing, Paypal). A few years ago while we were searching for the right web developers for our business, we set up a temporary website ourselves using a WordPress template which cost less than $100. Although the template was limited in terms of design customization, it enabled us to not only create a five page website that explained who we are and what we do, but also to launch our first blog. After a few months of research we hired a professional web design firm based in Cape Town that specializes in WordPress. They built us the custom website you see today, which is incredibly easy to maintain and allows us to gather client information and recruit staff using simple forms. If you’ve been unable to update your website because it was built in complex code that no one on your team understands, a WordPress website may be a good alternative.
2. Schedule your social media updates
The most popular social media platforms are Facebook and Twitter, with 75% of nonprofits using Facebook and 70% Twitter. As mentioned previously, the single biggest problem for nonprofit organizations is finding the time to use social media. At ConceptLink, we find that scheduling posts in advance when we have downtime alleviates some of that pressure.
Thanks to third party Twitter tools, gone are the days of being tied to your computer or smartphone in order to maintain your social media activity and send a tweet at a specific time. TweetDeck and Hootsuite are two of the most popular tools, used by millions of people daily.
TweetDeck is a desktop program that enables users to schedule tweets, monitor mentions and interactions, and track specific hashtags or search terms. Hootsuite is a web-based dashboard that possesses similar features, but there are some important distinctions between the two, well summarized on this blog. At ConceptLink we prefer to use TweetDeck for its user-friendly interface, real-time alerts and because it is 100% free.
Perhaps inspired by tools like TweetDeck and Hootsuite, Facebook introduced a feature earlier this year which allows page administrators to schedule posts. It’s not the most obvious feature, but once you’ve drafted a new post, simply click on the small clock icon in the lower left corner of the window. Facebook will prompt you to sequentially choose the year, month, date, and time you want to post the update.
On average we spend 2-3 hours per week scheduling Tweets and Facebook posts in advance – that’s less than 10% of the work week. These tools should not detract from the importance of posting real time updates (a news story, a major grant, an upcoming event), but they can certainly help busy nonprofit executives maintain a decent baseline for their social media activity.
3. Send bulk emails
We’ve met several nonprofits that still use Outlook to send mass emails. This may work if your mailing list has less than 50 names. But for anything more than that, you could spend several hours dividing up your email list and sending copies of the same email.
Web-based email marketing tools abound, including Constant Contact, Vertical Response, MadMimi and MailChimp, that can help you create sleek, professional newsletters and mass emails. With their wide range of design templates and your uploaded mailing list, these programs enable you to send “one and done”. By using merge tags in your email, you can personalize your message to include each recipient’s name, company, address, or other personal details. Similar to my previous comment about social media, I appreciate that I can use these tools to schedule emails to be sent at an optimal time.
At ConceptLink we prefer to use MailChimp for its ease of use and integration with our web sign-up forms on WordPress. We also like that it is free up to the first 2,000 subscribers; larger databases are priced affordably. Vertical Response is another one of our favorites because emails are free for registered 501c3 nonprofit organizations.
4. Quickly find relevant content
Another common reason nonprofits fail to keep up with their communications is that they are not sure what to Tweet/Facebook/email about. On average it takes our team 10 minutes to conceive, prepare and proofread a worthwhile Facebook post and 4 minutes to prepare an interesting tweet. It takes another 3 hours to prepare our e-newsletter.
One tool that we’ve found helpful in the content development process is Topsy, the only full-scale index of the public social web. Topsy analyzes hundreds of billions of Tweets, blogs and web pages gathered from across the internet and ranks content and trends. It is a valuable tool for discovering the top tweets or articles on a particular topic or person within a specified time period. Combined with automated email notifications through Google or Yahoo alerts, Topsy helps nonprofit leaders save hours in finding content that matters.
What tools does your nonprofit use to manage your communications? Let us know!
Photo credit: fredcavazza.net