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November 17, 2011
4 Must-Have Marketing Tools for Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit Marketing ToolsDo you remember dial-up Internet? Can you remember how, at that time, it seemed incredible that we could connect, surf the net, and chat with people from around the world - all at the amazingly fast rate of 24 or 56k. We didn’t feel frustrated that we had to wait while the phone dialed and eventually connected to get on-line. It was just exciting that we had a new toy to play with and a new tool to use to promote our organization.

Can you imagine having to connect at that rate now? How would it impact your daily operations? Do you think you could be a healthy, viable organization if you tried to run your organization with a 24k connection? I’m guessing for most organizations, it would change everything. That’s because “You can’t expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday’s tools and expect to be in business tomorrow” (Anonymous).

There are tools that we, as nonprofits, must use if we expect to “be in business tomorrow”. They help us engage our communities, stay in touch with our donors, and advocate for our clients and causes.


1. DONOR DEVELOPMENT SOFTWARE - There are a variety of tools that can be used to track and manage donor relationships. I’ve worked with organizations that use Excel for this process and others that use the coveted Raiser’s Edge. There is a huge difference in capabilities for each of these options. There is also a huge difference in price tags. I suggest that before you make any purchases, you spend some time considering the following questions:

  • What features or functionality do we need/want?

  • What type of training is required to use the system?
  • Will staff be able to use the system easily?

  • Can this system grow as we grow and meet our needs in 2 years? 5 years?

  • How much can we invest in a system at this time?
2. WEBSITE - Though websites are no longer considered new tools, the way they are being used has changed over the years. It used to be that websites served as sort of an online billboard. Organizations created a site, posted content, and then rarely made updates. This approach is no longer sufficient. People visiting your site expect it to be updated regularly. They expect the opportunity to interact with the organization, and they expect it to look nice.

There are many companies that provide great websites at low prices for nonprofit organizations. We, at Applegate Consulting, provide websites through Nonprofit Sites. Other options include Homestead, Weebly, CrownPeak, WordPress, and Grassroots.org. This is in no way an exhaustive list. If you have others you would recommend, or like to give feedback on, please do so in the comments section below. 

3. SOCIAL MEDIA - Social media continues to increase in popularity and though many nonprofits have signed up for various accounts, but seem to struggle to find strategic or effective ways to use them. they may not always being used effectively. In fact, I’ve talked with many organizations that have several accounts many of which are inactive.

Regardless of the social media channels you use, keeping fresh content flowing is critical to maintain relationships. This requires developing a plan and dedicating resources or otherwise updates get overlooked. Social media is not a fad, but is one of those tools that nonprofit leaders need to harness in order to be in business tomorrow. Chad Norman from Blackbaud provided 50 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits that you may find helpful. 

4. OUTCOMES TRACKING - In past articles we have discussed at length the need to track and report program outcomes rather than outputs. However, many organizations are still fuzzy about what outcomes are and which ones are important to funders. Kevin Monroe, a strategic partner of Applegate Consulting, addresses some of these issues in a recent article, Three High-Impact Outcomes - Change You Can Believe In.

There are other organizations that understand why they should focus on outputs, but they are unsure how to track the information. There are a variety of options - again some that are simple and low-cost and others that are more sophisticated and as a result, expensive. Some low cost options include adding specific questions to your intake/outtake forms or keeping in contact with program participants through surveys or phone call to gather status information. A more sophisticated option is Social Solutions - ETO, an amazing system that has the potential to track all kinds of information. TechSoup has provided some great recommendations for choosing the outcomes tracking tool that is right for you.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the community engagement tools available to nonprofit organizations. However, it does highlight a few key areas that we should focus on in order to be in business tomorrow. 

Please share any additional tools, software, etc. that you are using that have helped your organization.

 Nonprofit Resources50 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits

Three High-Impact Outcomes - Change You Can Believe In

TechSoup: Recommendations for Outcomes Tracking Systems


Posted by Tiffany Applegate on November 17, 2011 at 2:50 PM
Categories: Marketing
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