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Technology Toolkit for Start-up Nonprofits: Part Two

Lori Halley 26 March 2010 5 comments

So your nonprofit has decided to take advantage of social networking opportunities, but you’re not sure where to start?  In A Technology Toolkit for Start-up Nonprofits: Part One, guest writer Minal Bopaiah reviewed ten core web-based tools to put in your nonprofit’s “toolkit.”  Today, she suggests next steps and offers a sample step-by-step plan you can adapt to meet your own organization’s social media mission:

Using your Technology Toolkit

Now, of these 10 technology tools, the first three are critical and must-haves. I can’t emphasize enough that if you don’t have a professional e-mail address, a systemized way to contact supporters, and a systemized way to collect donations and issue receipts for tax-deductible purposes, you are an amateur running a nonprofit out of your mom’s basement. At least that’s how the outside world is going to see you.

Also, social networking tools are a media platform, NOT a marketing plan. There’s a legendary story about a man who claimed that his donation button didn’t work, and the sales rep was very apologetic, only to find that the button linked to the right page but by the man’s admission “No one clicked on it.” Just having the first three tools, or even the whole lot, CANNOT replace the time and effort you need to put into a solid, savvy marketing concept.

If you’re interested in how to develop your marketing concept (also referred to as a creative concept, which may be more palatable to nonprofits), check out Mal Warwick’s website. He also conducts some free Webinars, and while some of his information is dated and meant for the days of direct mail campaigns, his ideas about effective fundraising are golden given his number of years of experience in the field.

So, after you have your website, e-mail address, e-mail campaign management system and donation management system, how do you decide which other social networking tools to use in your toolkit?

Well, what are your goals?

If your goals are to build your base, start with a Facebook Page with a Causes.com link.

If your goals are to increase the number of visitors to your site, make sure you e-newsletter links to the correct page and install Google Analytics. Then work on improving your newsletter and using Twitter to reach more people. And make sure supporters can “share” everything with their friends.

If your goals are to engage supporters more and advertise events, Facebook Fan Pages are your best bet. LinkedIn is also a good option is you’re looking to target a certain professional community for an event.

If your goals are to increase donations, invest in honing the copy on your donation page and e-newsletter appeals. Then help your message go viral with a Twitter campaign like what One Week for Water did — it asked people to let the organization link to their Twitter and Facebook profiles and then posted via those profiles for one week to raise awareness about water security. Pretty ingenious.

If you simply want more brand recognition and word of mouth, start a blog and engage readers by offering helpful information that they find useful (Wild Apricot is doing this well). Also, a good YouTube video can get you viral exposure. Remember the dancing bridal party that raised money for domestic violence? Pretty powerful stuff. It even got an indirect mention on The Office. Videos using graphics are also a good idea for illustrating a complex topic simply and in an engaging manner (Doctors Without Borders did this well when they explained why drug patents are critical for reducing HIV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8PtWW6mSjQ).

Of course, you can mix and match according to your exact mission and goals, and I’d be happy to help! Here’s a copy of the plan I developed for a nonprofit news agency dedicated to reporting on development issues around the world. Their stated goal was to increase giving and eventually receive a foundation grant, so I came up with a step-by-step plan to conduct a fundraising campaign only using free Web-based tools. The only expense was the establishment of a donation management system (they already had an e-mail campaign management system, but I was able to find them a cheaper alternative).

A Sample Social Networking Plan for Nonprofits

  1. Optimize Website for e-mail campaigns and donation management.
    This includes:
    1. Unique e-mail identities for staff and correspondents.
    2. Get Web developer to install RSS feeds so that new content is automatically posted to Facebook and Twitter
    3. Being CAN-SPAM compliant with e-newsletter and e-appeals
    4. A donation page that not only employs savvy marketing, but can handle recurring donations (20% of donations are recurring and this can provide us with a steady revenue stream)
    5. An autorespond feature by which donors will automatically receive a thank you and tax receipt for their donation.
  2. Establish metrics for measuring social media and fundraising goals
    1. How many unique visitors/reader do we have to the site?
    2. How many newsletter subscribers do we have?
    3. How many donors online?
    4. What is the median donation amount?
    5. How many recurring donors?
    6. How many offline donors?
  3. Cultivate relationships with possible board members
    1. Per the advice of Ellen Buchwalter, VP of International Philanthropic Development at Sesame Workshop, while a nonprofit can apply for a grant cold, your chances are significantly improved when there is a connection through board members and the targeted foundation.
    2. Once a solid board is in place, we can begin to take the numbers we get from our successful Web-based fundraising campaign and Google Analytics to approach foundations (à la Obama’s election campaign)
  4. Augment social media tools currently in use (Twitter and Facebook)
    1. Numbers needed from Google Analytics and executive director to measure progress and establish fundraising goals:
      1. Current number of unique visitors
      2. Current number of e-newsletter subscribers
      3. Current click-through rate
      4. Current number of donors
      5. Current median donation.
    2. Establish Facebook Causes page and have fans opt-in to “Support independent, nonprofit journalism,” “Support development journalism,” or “Support development around the world.” (May be wise to test all three messages and see which one is most popular.)
    3. E-appeals to all subscribers: See E-mail checklist, but two things are critical:
      1. make sure Donate button lands on page unique to e-mail appeal (not generic donation page)
      2. get third-party endorsement from someone in development about organization’s services.
  5. Evaluate social media plan and add following initiatives over 3-6 month period:
    1. Cultivate relationships with bloggers in our field so that they can post on our behalf
    2. Establish presence on niche networking sites like Kabissa.org.
    3. Create comments section on website below each article. After 4 weeks, evaluate quality of comments and whether we want to keep feature.
    4. If comments are of poor quality, establish Editor’s Blog, which will serve as Op-ed page where guest bloggers from various development agencies can post. Also helps us get third-party endorsements, which are key to increasing fundraising.
    5. Create viral video to post on YouTube highlighting the importance of development news.
  6. Prep for Fall fundraiser
    1. Learn from Google Analytics and stats from Spring Fundraiser
    2. Plan for more effective Fall Fundraiser with more concrete goals and 50% increase in donations
  7. Once Board of Advisors is in place (Summer and Fall 2010)
    1. Become familiar with board’s connections and cultivate relationships with a select number of foundations (5 at most!)
    2. Use data from Spring fundraiser and Google Analytics to apply for targeted grants.
  8. Develop Technology Plan (Early 2011)
    1. Explore possible uses of mobile phone, iPhone apps, and iPad/Kindle compatibility.
    2. Create paid Technology Coordinator position
    3. Re-evaluate current use of social media tools, ways to streamline, and new tools on market that we could use.

brevity-wit2 Minal Bopaiah
Writer | Editor | Media Consultant
Brevity & Wit (www.brevityandwit.com)


Could a social networking plan like this help your own organization to reach its goals online? Or what might you choose to do differently? And if you're already using social media, what's been working well for you, so far?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments!


Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 26 March 2010 at 8:44 PM


  • Julie said:

    Friday, 26 March 2010 at 1:55 PM

    Great toolkit. I work with several nonprofits and they don't always understand how important these tools are. Thanks for being a respected third-party source I can send them to.

  • Sara said:

    Monday, 29 March 2010 at 6:25 AM

    Nice article and I like the goals-based approach. Speaking of which -- how did the fundraising campaign that you developed turn out?

  • Minal Bopaiah said:

    Monday, 29 March 2010 at 6:46 AM

    Dear Sara,

    Thanks for your question!

    The fundraising campaign is set to begin next week, so I don't have any numbers for you yet. But I have every intention of posting an update with results. So stay tuned!



  • Angel  said:

    Saturday, 17 July 2010 at 4:22 PM

    Can someone tell me how I can find a diagnostic tool to identify social purpose organization technology needs?! I was thinking that before one develops a technology plan it is important to identify the needs first. Or any suggestions on how I can go about developing one!

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Thursday, 22 July 2010 at 11:17 AM

    Angel, I'm not aware of a specific diagnostic tool for the purpose (and so much depends on the nature of the organization and its needs, I'm not sure how one would go about developing one!) but you might find Wild Apricot's free guide to software selection https://www.wildapricot.com/guide/ of some help in suggesting areas to take into consideration as you move toward a technology plan.  

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