The Nonprofit Communicator’s Toolbox: The digital revolution


This post is part of a series on How to Create a Nonprofit Communications Strategy.

Writing about the digital nonprofit communicator’s toolbox is difficult–especially it the intent is to provide a post with timeless advice as I did for the traditional tools. The digital revolution of communications means continual rapid change. I like to say about social media that even if you managed to learn everything you needed to know–perhaps even about just one platform like Facebook–that something would change tomorrow that you’d need to learn. That’s a big reason why I belong to NTEN which is a nonprofit with a focus on nonprofit use of technology including for communications,why I attend the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC aka #14NTC) , it’s major annual conference.and why I follow #nptech where people involved with NTEN or interested in nonprofit tech generally share information. Combined these three tools go a long way to helping me to be as current as possible.

A starting point for nonprofit digital tech

My goal here is to provide you with a starting point to explore how to use technology for nonprofit communications. You may also like to consult my post on using digital technology to promote events and the five tools every nonprofit needs.

The big 6

Here’s an overview of the biggest five categories of tools that you’re likely to want to include in your nonprofit communications strategy:


  • the centrepiece of your online communications
  • the only place where you control the content
  • you want to drive people here

See also does your website need a makeover?


  • contacts a large number of people quickly
  • normally one to one communication
  • message arriving in their inbox likely to be viewed

• e-newsletters / e-promotions

  • better than e-mail for newsletter content
  • pushes information out to key audiences
  • permission-based
  • plays a critical role in highlighting new or strategically important information
  • drives people to your website for the complete details
  • cost-effective especially considering benefits (online list management, stats, etc)
  • Some possible vendors: Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, Mad Mimi (Do you have any others to recommend?)

See also how e-newsletters help you get the word out


  • a chance to share information related to your expertise
  • writing could be shared among several staff according to a publication schedule and/or in response to current events
  • the difference between an article and a blog is the ability to comment so try to spark comments
  • having people coming regularly and commenting helps build a community
  • a blog gives people a reason to keep coming back to your website
  • each posts organically adds words to your site that help its search engine optimization (SEO) thus making it easier for people to find.

See also 9 tips to put the power of blogging to work.


  • shares information in a way no other medium can – with a mix of moving images and emotion
  • great source of content to share through your digital media including social media

See also advice on how to use video for storytelling.

Social Media

I have deliberately listed this set of tools last–and collectively. Social media is the go to way for nonprofits to enhance and modernize their communications.But its effectiveness will be limited if your organization fails to also invest resources into most if not all of the other digital communications tools listed above. This point speaks to the importance of using your communications tools strategically so that they all work together to achieve your goals and objectives. I’m listing them collectively because what might seem obvious today may not tomorrow.

Just today for example, I saw an article about how it is difficult for brands (that include nonprofit ones) to share content on Facebook without paying to do so. That leads some organizations to reconsider whether Facebook is worth the resources required. I’m not there yet but it makes the point that you need to stay agile in this space and be where your audience is. Would you have a page on Friendster or MySpace? Probably not. But given attempts to resuscitate the latter, maybe?

Make no mistake about it. Social media is here to stay and it must be a part of your communications mix. So pick at least one social media that you can dedicate enough resources including time to be able to build relationships and and online community.

More digital options for your nonprofit communicator’s toolbox

Here’s a brief list of some more options to consider if you’re working on a communications strategy today.

Whatever you choose, follow the advice of Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingstone in Marketing in the Round:

Crawl. Walk. Run.

 Do you have any other digital tools you recommend? Or any that you recommend avoiding?

This post is part of a series on How to Create a Nonprofit Communications Strategy.

photo credit: VFS Digital Design via photopin cc