Tools for Nonprofit teams to collaborate remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a number of impacts on non-profit organizations, perhaps most notably, forcing organizations to rapidly adapt to a “digital-first” environment. For organizations that have operated primarily in-person for years, this rapid shift has caused a lot of disruption, and for many organizations, the shift is still ongoing. Thankfully, there are many tools that organizations can leverage to help their employees work more effectively remotely.

Here are three tools that can help your team collaborate more effectively remotely. These tools are flexible, affordable, and highly scalable for teams of any size:

Notion describes itself as an all-in-one workspace for notes, tasks, wikis, and databases. This description is not an exaggeration, as Notion is almost endlessly flexible. For organizations that don’t have the benefit of a cloud-based platform like Office 365, or an intranet, this can become a great tool for sharing resources and managing projects. Coda is another company that provides a very similar solution, and both products have a free version.

Airtable has become one of our most recommended tools for organizations looking for an affordable project management solution. I often describe Airtable as “excel on steroids”. Airtable allows customers to create flexible databases, and is a loaded with features to adjust to your needs and working style. Functionally, this looks like combining a kanban board, calendar, gantt chart, spreadsheet, and image gallery. Notion and Coda offer similar features, and Smartsheet is a fairly robust database tool, but Airtable is truly in a category on its own.

At this stage in the pandemic, email fatigue is a real risk and may be impacting the productivity of teams. Team communication solutions like Slack offer an affordable (free) way for teams to reduce inbox clutter and stay connected. The tool is a messaging service, that allows you to create rooms for teams, message team members individually, collaborate on documents, and search through the history of messages to find what you need. It functions very similarly to Microsoft Teams, but without having to integrate into the full office ecosystem, which may appeal to some organizations.

With any tool, there is going to be an onboarding period and some growing pains. Adoption of a new way of doing things is never easy. However, if organizations position themselves with the most current technology, and learn to take advantage of these advances, they will be better equipped to weather massive disruptions, and transition more smoothly.

Effectively engaging on LinkedIn for Nonprofit Leaders

Like any social media platform, LinkedIn provides the opportunity to connect with hundreds of millions of users, eager to make meaningful connections, and discover new things. . What sets LinkedIn apart is its audience, which is almost exclusively made up of  professionals looking for relevant content and networking opportunities related to their field. For community organizations, this key element of LinkedIn provides an opportunity to connect with potential collaborators, volunteers, employees (current and future) and organizations in the sector.

Here are 3 tips  for leaders of community organizations looking to maximize their reach and make meaningful connections on LinkedIn.

Join Groups

Not all content on your home feed is going to be interesting or relevant, and so with LinkedIn the first key step in building a strong network is to find your tribe. A great way to do this is by joining LinkedIn groups that are affiliated with issues, events, and sectors aligned with your organization’s strategic plan. And of course, get involved!

Comment on members’ posts, join conversations, and even create your own content relevant to both the group and your organization’s offerings. Just remember, the key here is not the quantity of your digital audience, but the quality.

Promote Your Organization’s Culture

One of the key elements to LinkedIn that draws users in is, the ability to connect job seekers with prospective employers. As the leader of a community organization you can leverage this by creating a social presence on LinkedIn that communicates what it’s like to work for and be a part of your organization. This can be done through posts highlighting employee accomplishments, celebrating the organization’s important milestones, and creating general blog-style pieces of content that align with the organization’s culture and values. In doing so, nonprofit organizations build brand awareness and increase engagement by creating content which resonates with prospective job seekers’ likes and interests.

Utilize LinkedIn Analytics

Now that you’ve taken the first steps towards making your organization standout through your profile on LinkedIn, it’s time to make sure that all of your hard work is really paying off. This is where careful monitoring through LinkedIn’s profile dashboard can be helpful. The dashboard provides a quick snapshot on the number of people who have viewed your profile, views on articles that you’ve publIshed, and how many times you’ve appeared in search results. This can provide great perspective on new people to connect with, and what content is resonating with your audience.. For instance, if you notice that 75% of your traffic and engagement comes from employee highlight posts, you should definitely consider prioritizing this type of content in the future!

For non-profit organizations and the leaders of non-profit organizations, where to invest time is just as critical as where to invest money. For that reason, wasting time on the wrong social media channels can have a negative impact. These small tips can help to ensure that your investment of time is worthwhile.

Non-profit Communication in a Post-COVID world…

COVID-19 has had a considerable impact on the non-profit landscape, and those impacts will ripple well into the future. It has changed how many organizations deliver programming, impacted how organizations fundraise, and has increased the necessity for organizations to communicate consistently through digital channels. Research conducted by Imagine Canada in July 2020, revealed that 54% of charities transitioned their in-person programs online since the beginning of the pandemic. Considering lockdown restrictions are still in place in much of the country, the number has undoubtedly increased.

In many ways, it could be argued that the transition to online delivery of programming, and a work from homeculture was inevitable. With access to internet having been declared a human right in Canada, organizations could have been far more proactive in developing strategies for remote program delivery. For that reason, I would suggest that COVID-19 simply exposed the weaknesses that were already present within organizations, and increased the urgency to respond. 

The mission of Trotman Communications is to help nonprofits to build healthier, thriving communities–we believe that effective communications is a cornerstone of that goal. In that spirit, here are three tips for non-profit organizations operating in a post-covid world, to help you communicate more effectively with your clients, funders, and other key stakeholders:

1. Create a plan

Man writing a planning document
A man that does not plan far ahead will find trouble at his door – Confuscious
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that there is no substitute for a well thought out plan.  And, regardless of the circumstances, a good plan contains a few key elements.
 

Goals

What is the result that you’re looking to achieve?
A goal is meant to be somewhat aspirational. It will describe the end that you are trying to achieve, and serve as a guiding star for all of the actions that you intend to take. Think big.

Objectives

How will you track your progress towards that result?

Whereas your goal is the end that you’re trying to meet, effective measures allow you to evaluate your progress along the way. These should be specific, measurable, action oriented, relevant, and timely. Effective objectives will allow you to take a big, audacious goal (like managing a pandemic response), and break it into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Tactics

What actions are you taking to achieve your goal?

Your tactics could be any number of tools, strategies or techniques that you are using to achieve your goal. From a communications perspective, this could include social media campaigns, media relations, ad buys, or events. 

Timelines / Milestones

How long are you giving yourself to achieve that result?

Timelines provide a roadmap, for when you will implement your tactics, and milestone describe major events that will influence the plan. This could include launch dates, end dates, or any days that are relevant to your organization (e.g. awareness days).

Stakeholders

Who do you need to be in contact with to achieve that result?
You’re not in this alone!  There are a variety of stakeholders that will influence the development of your communications plan. This could include staff members, clients, government officials, or the media. Develop a list of stakeholders that are relevant to your project–this may even support the creation of new tactics that you can apply.
 
These are only a few elements to consider, but even a basic communications plan is better than no plan at all.

2. Know your audience and where they “live”

 

Mobile Phone

 

For some organizations it makes sense to be on every social media channel, and for others, even having just a LinkedIn page for potential applicants may suffice. Organizations need to know where their audience “live”–this includes clients, employees, partner organizations, and other relevant stakeholders. 

Knowing where your audience lives means that you can speak to them when the time is right, but also allows you to listen in on the conversation. Both speaking and listening are key to being a proactive organization.

3. Find points of collaboration

Puzzle pieces

COVID-19 has fundamentally shifted how some organizations deliver programming.

By bringing programming online, it has in some ways eliminated the geographic borders that once dictated who an organization delivered programming to. Individuals that may not have had the opportunity to attend programs in the past, may no longer have that barrier! 

This has also opened the opportunity for diversifying programming through cross-collaboration. Similar organizations with complementary clients can share content online, and amplify the benefit. 

Have you considered allowing a partner organization to share your content?

It’s unclear when these COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted, and what life will look like afterwards. However, it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve entered a new age, and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever be able to completely return to the “normal” way of doing things. 

In this age where in-person interactions are limited, people are online more than ever, and habits have fundamentally shifted, organizations need to get comfortable with communicating their value, and potentially introducing themselves to a whole new group of people.