The coronavirus and the unprecedented shutdown has turned the nonprofit world upside down. Employees and employers are exploring the realities of operating remotely — some for the first time.
Nonprofits arguably have the greatest need to keep their employees and their constituencies connected at this time. Both local residents who depend on health and human services nonprofits to thrive — and arts and culture organizations who depend on in-person participation just to survive — need a way for operations to continue in this new socially distant world. How do we help nonprofits go on?
The answer: virtual community building. We are fortunate enough to live in a world where technology can help us stay connected. Digital tools can help nonprofits keep external stakeholders engaged and maintain internal productivity. You can even use them to set a baseline for what they need and are looking for – before anything else. Here’s a great list of remote engagement and collaboration tools and strategies from Connect The Dots — pages 4-6 has a breakdown. But what do you do next to serve the people in your nonprofit program (and fund it)? That is the focus of this post.
Three ways to build and sustain your nonprofit’s community members — whether they are participants, volunteers, or donors — are to enlist, engage, and evaluate. In a perfect world, these stages have in-person components. But in today’s world, there are tools at our disposal to continue the cycle of community building.
1. Enlist: Find the helpers.
What do nonprofits need most? People and money. Especially now, all across the Greater Philadelphia region, people are seeking opportunities to support their neighbors — you just have to know where to find them. Whether you are building a community virtually or otherwise, it’s simple: in order to find people, go to where they are. We know they’re in their homes (where you can’t go), but we also know they’re in front of their phones and laptops. This is a blessing in disguise, since our digital footprint says so much about us. Tools designed to target a specific demographic can help find your next big donor or your base of volunteers.
From our Partners
Digital Fundraising tools:
- During this challenging time, boodleAI announced their NET 180 offer: any nonprofit that raises less than $10 million a year can use boodleAI for six months before any payment is due. Read more about this offer here
- Blackbaud has put together this toolkit with strategies for online fundraising during COVID-19
- DonorPerfect as 4 email templates you can borrow for donation requests
2. Engage, part one: Keep in touch.
The engage step means communicating with everyone in your ecosystem — program participants, volunteers, members, and donors. And nothing captures hearts and minds like a good story. Especially in this era of virtual community building, digital tools like videos and smart graphic design are incredibly effective, and don’t have to be expensive. Your team can easily create multimedia that will keep your community engaged.
Tools I like: Vyond (animated video making platform), Penji (graphic design platform with free options for NPOs), YouTube channels (video sharing platform), LeadQuizzes (DIY online quiz generator), Intercom (chat and customer support tool for websites)
3. Engage, part two: Organize activity.
When there is no one to supervise activity in person, it’s hard to track program participants — and when your team is apart, tracking volunteers, donors, and sign-ups can be tricky. Having all of that information in one place, accessible to all of your team members, will help everyone stay on the same page, even as they’re staying at least sixfeet apart.
Tools I like (duh): MilkCrate (customizable program engagement apps specifically for NPOs)
4. Evaluate: Figure out what’s working — and what’s not.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s there to hear it … you know the rest. You can put your program out there virtually, but you need to know if you’re reaching people. That’s why you need a platform that will give you instantly tracked engagement data in easy to understand charts and graphs. In the quarantine, that’s preferably a site that will give you a comprehensive dashboard reporting on all of your digital platforms.
Although no one was prepared for this pandemic, in many ways, the nonprofit community is more prepared than most, having to continually adapt to its surroundings. Luckily, those surroundings include a whole host of digital tools that will keep us connected as we navigate the uncertainty in the days to come.
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