We live in a world of tight deadlines and endless responsibilities. Every day, there are dozens of big tasks vying for your attention. In the nonprofit world, those problems are compounded by the fact that everyone wears multiple hats. “Doing a good job” in this field means developing a feel for which things absolutely have to get done, and which things you can let slide for a while.
At least, that’s how it used to be.
Over the last few years, tech companies have developed innovative solutions for these nagging problems. In this piece, we’ll show you six ways to make everyday tasks simpler with the help of these cutting-edge products and services.
(1.) Make Website Edits Simple With WordPress or Squarespace
Your website is the most important part of your nonprofit’s public image. For many people, it will be the first place that they hear about you and the work you’re doing. It’s where you can keep your volunteers updated and raise money from your supporters. And it’s the first place the press will turn for information when writing a story on your organization.
If you’re still using an old-fashioned, hard-coded website, you already know that it’s time to upgrade to something better. Site builders like Wix and Weebly allow you to make a good-looking website quickly. The problem is that it’s also easy to mess things up. Doing something as simple as editing a text box or adding an image might upset the entire design of the page, forcing you to make time-consuming edits to get things back to how they were.
The better, easier way to create a website is to use a content management system (CMS). CMSes manage all of the content that goes into your site — like text, pictures, and videos. They make it easy for multiple people in your organization to make edits. You can style the front end of your site with theme files. They sit on top of your content, meaning that you can change the design of your site without having to manually re-style each and every page.
Our favorite CMS by far is WordPress. It’s also the most popular platform, used to power over 25% of all websites. WordPress is easy to learn and use, but powerful enough to host large, high-traffic sites. WordPress users have access to a rich selection of paid and free plugins and themes, as well as a supportive community if you need help with something.
As a nonprofit, you have two basic options: set up a site yourself or hire a WordPress developer / consultant to do it for you. If you’re comfortable with the DIY approach, we recommend following the great set-up guide at NonprofitWP. Consider obtaining your own hosting instead of going through Automattic’s WordPress.com service — you will have access to a wider selection of plugins that can help you accept donations, manage events, and collect information.
Working with a WordPress developer or consultant means you can get a website that fits your exact needs. A designer can create a custom, one-of-a-kind theme for your site. You’ll also have a real human being that you can talk to if you run into any problems.
If you want the simplest possible solution — and want to skip the setup that comes with WordPress — have a look at Squarespace ($5 – 18 / mo). Squarespace gives you everything you need to get your website off the ground, including hosting, a domain name, e-mail, and a theme that will look great on tablets and smartphones. You’ll also get access to website metrics reports, which show you information about how people are using your site, and the ability so sell up to 25 products on an e-commerce section of your site.
As for which is best, a consultant or a developer can help you make the best choice based on your needs and level of technical skill.
(2.) Use IFTTT and Zapier to Automate Things You Do Frequently
Each day, we perform hundreds of little, repetitive tasks. On their own, they only take seconds or minutes to perform. But added up over the course of a day, they can eat up hours of time. Now, there’s a way of automating them.
IFTTT and Zapier are two tools that allow you to create your own mini “programs.” These services work by detecting a “trigger” (like a particular time of day, a keyword in an e-mail you sent, or a new picture on your phone) and activating a “response” (like sending out an e-mail newsletter, adding a donor to a database, or uploading a photo to Twitter). The concept is simple, but these apps can greatly simplify your daily workflow.
IFTTT (If This, Then That) is designed to be simple. You don’t need much in the way of technical skills to get it up and running. It’s also free to use. IFTTT works best to automate everyday things using common websites and apps. For example:
- Automatically send meeting reminders to people a day beforehand.
- Organize your reimbursable receipts in Evernote using your mobile phone.
- Tweet thank-yous to people who follow you on Twitter.
- Notify you if your organization is mentioned
Zapier is a little more advanced. There is a free plan, as well as several paid options. It works with many more apps than IFTTT does, and it integrates with them in a more fundamental way. For example, you can:
- Add people to a mailing list when they place an online donation.
- Automatically e-mail a set of forms to a new client when you add them to your database.
- Send mass text message notifications to people who signed up when you cancel an event on your calendar.
- Mail a handwritten thank-you card (yes, we said “handwritten”) when you receive a donation over a certain dollar amount.
The beauty of both IFTT and Zapier is that they take products and services that you already use and allow you to do much, much more with them. Both services have excellent documentation that explains how to create “recipes” and “Zaps” with little or no coding knowledge.
(3.) Schedule Your Social Media Posts in Advance
When everyone in your organization is busy, it’s usually your social media feeds that suffer. Posting updates takes time; posting great updates takes a lot of thought, too.
When you let your nonprofit’s Facebook and Twitter accounts fall by the wayside, though, it can create a lot of problems. Your supporters will start to wonder what you’re doing. People will be less likely to volunteer. Reporters and community leaders won’t hear about the good things you are accomplishing. And if your accounts have been inactive for a year or more, most folks will assume you have closed your doors.
Our favorite tool for this is Hootsuite (Pro plan w/nonprofit discount = $ 7.50 / mo). It has grown from a simple Twitter scheduling tool into a full-featured social media management suite. You can schedule updates for your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts from a central dashboard. Hootsuite works with Instagram, too: Just install their app on your phone, and Hootsuite will remind you when it’s time to post.
Frequent, consistent posting is what gets you more likes and followers. Hootsuite’s auto scheduling function makes it easy to time your posts for maximum impact. Just pick the days and the time ranges in which you want to post, choose the maximum number of posts per day (we find 3-4 is manageable), and Hootsuite will space out your updates throughout the day.
Run out of ideas for posts? Hootsuite can suggest content based on your organization’s interests. Like most good social media schedulers, Hootsuite also lets you add team members to your account, so you aren’t constantly sharing e-mail addresses and passwords for all of your different social profiles.
(4.) Simplify Your Paperwork With Typeform and HelloSign
Nonprofits are always trying to be socially-conscious, but let’s face it: we end up killing a lot of trees. While many businesses are going 100% digital to save on paper and toner, comparably-sized nonprofits still have giant filing rooms. Whether it’s for legal compliance, grant purposes, or your own records, everything has to be documented. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could spend less time filling out forms (and spend more time saving the world)?
Typeform (multiple plans) lets you build digital forms with a simple drag-and-drop interface. We’ve already covered using Typeform for surveys, but did you know that it can simplify your office forms, too?
Digital forms come in handy no matter what kind of nonprofit you’re with. You can use digital forms to sign up new clients and volunteers, conduct research, and even accept donations. Social service agencies — whose clients may not have access to the internet — will find digital forms useful for behind-the-scenes documentation.
Concerned about the security of the data you collect? Typeform features 128-bit SSL encryption (the same kind that many banks and credit card processors require) and stores their data on Amazon’s proven cloud storage network. Typeform is also fully HIPAA compliant; you can request a Business Associate Agreement for an additional fee.
What about forms that require a signature? HelloSign (multiple plans) lets you take any pen-and-paper form and send it out for digital signatures. HelloSign generates a record of when each form is viewed and signed, so that the digital signatures are legally-binding (just like physical ones would be).
You can extend the power of Typeform and HelloSign by using services like IFTTT and Zapier. Using one such Zapier “Zap”, you can automatically send completed Typeforms out for signatures using HelloSign. With Zapier’s WebMerge integration, you can turn Typeform results into printable copies that match the existing forms that your organization already uses.
(5.) Keep Track of Supporters With a Donor Management System
Excel spreadsheets and handwritten lists work fine for tiny organizations, but if you’re growing, you need a way of systematically tracking your donor relationships.
Good donor management software does far more than just assembling lists. It keeps track of how much — and how often — each donor is contributing. It tracks your contacts with them, and alerts you if you’ve gone too long without a personal phone call or an e-mail. Most importantly, it keeps all of your organization’s income information in one place, which saves a lot of hassle when it comes time to file your 990 or 990-EZ.
Fundly CRM ($55 / mo “Easy Launch” plan) gives you all of the essential features you’ll need to start managing your donor relationships. You can organize donations, pledges, and grants; process recurring donations; issue receipts; generate reports; set up standalone donation pages for specific fundraisers; and much more. Fundly is billed as an all-in-one solution that can grow with your organization.
Blackbaud’s recently revamped eTapestry ($199 – $399 / mo) is a great product for midsize organizations. It includes integrated payment processing, a social media tracker that helps you locate your donors, access to a national change-of-address database, event and membership management, and even a mobile app for viewing your information on-the-go.
(6.) Easily Manage Events with Eventbrite and Meetup
Most small nonprofits use Facebook’s events system or a simple e-mail chain to handle event registration. The problems are obvious: Facebook Events is limited to Facebook users, and e-mails can get deleted or misfiled. Neither of these systems give you a good, reliable way to tell how many people will be attending, or if anyone has backed out. And what if you need to cancel?
Between booking a venue, putting up decorations, arranging food, and organizing speakers, you have enough to worry about. But when communication breaks down, events can quickly turn into nightmares. You’re left scrambling to piece things together at the last minute.
Thankfully, there’s a better way.
Eventbrite is a site that lets you create, manage, promote, and sell tickets for events. It’s free to use if your event is also free; otherwise, it’s 2.0% + $0.99 per ticket (capped at $7.95 per ticket for nonprofits).
Eventbrite generates a self-contained page for your next fundraiser or gathering. You can upload an event image and add a map, a description, and an FAQ section. The ticketing system allows you to create multiple ticket types (for example, $25 regular admission and $100 VIP ticket levels) and set the quantity of tickets available.
Want to plan a less-than-public event for your best donors, or an appreciation day for your longtime volunteers? Eventbrite allows you to create private events. You can make an event invite-only, and choose whether people can share the event page on Facebook and Twitter.
For recurring events — like workshops, volunteer days, and community meetings — Meetup is the way to go. Meetup allows you to create a full-fledged community, complete with a message board, mailing list, and a photo album. Whereas Eventbrite is geared towards one-off events, Meetup is a hub that lets you create and manage multiple events for your organization.
Beyond Eventbrite and Meetup, there are a bunch of great WordPress plugins that can manage your organization’s events. The Events Calendar by Modern Tribe is a powerful solution that can be customized to match the look and feel of your existing website. If you’re more comfortable using Facebook’s events interface, you’ll be happy to know that The Events Calendar has a premium add-on ($49) that lets you import them directly into your site — no need to enter information in two places. If you sell tickets, the Event Tickets Plus add-on ($89) processes payments, e-mails printable tickets to users, and lets you check in guests manually or with a scannable QR code.
Get the advice you need
Like these ideas, but don’t know where to start? Working with a consultant is a great way to make sure that you’re getting the best solution for your particular needs. Glaance can help your organization run more efficiently. We can set up any of the services outlined in this article, and train your team on how to use them. Let us know what your nonprofit needs help with and we’ll be happy to assist!