Around a year ago I shared a blog post titled, 3 Tools Our For Profit Company Uses That Your Nonprofit Should Too. The post has since received close to 1,000 views — thank you!
With so many people reading that post, it made me realize that there must be a lot of nonprofit professionals looking to learn what cutting-edge tools and softwares their for-profit peers use to make their lives easier. Since our company, MarketSmart, has grown substantially in the past year, and we’re using many new tools to help with internal processes, I thought now was the time to refresh our list.
It’s important to remember that there are A LOT of tools, apps, and softwares out there. Sometimes the process of trying to identify which one to use to solve a certain problem can be a big old distraction. Websites with cool graphics, snappy user interfaces, and fun mascots are not always the best solution… It could be that you don’t need a fancy new software to solve a problem, simply a piece of paper and a pencil can get the job done. However, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of what is available to you.
There are myriad review websites in existence (Capterra, G2 Crowd, etc.). Each strive to identify the best resources amongst particular categories and help folks like ourselves utilize them, but even they skip over some quality tools and can’t stay on top of everything.
In our sector we have TechSoup which tries to provide a similar construct (recommendations of best tools, deals, etc.), but they focus their attention on resources that have nonprofit specific discounts or rates. This is good and well, but ultimately doesn’t include some worthy applications.
For our sake we’re going to discuss tools that are marketed towards for-profit businesses, but could just as easily be leveraged at a nonprofit. TechSoup unfortunately doesn’t provide much guidance in this realm, and review sites are a little too crowded with vendors paying for “top spots” to get a clear picture of which are worth it.
Instead, today let’s discuss apps, tools and other resources you could (and should) be using at your development shop to save time and reduce inefficiencies. Also keep in mind that these are apps we use at our company. I’m only recommending the resources that provide us the most value.
It boggles my mind that I was not using Evernote a year ago. How did I keep track of anything? Oh, I remember, I looked at my chicken-scratch notes in my notebook!
Evernote is your online, super smart, super sophisticated (but also super simple) notebook. After realizing that notes in my notebook never actually got organized (even when I told myself I would take all of my notes home on the weekend to do just that), I knew I needed something different.
Google Docs were a worthy temporary replacement, but it was impossible to organize them and searching for related notes was infuriatingly difficult (the number of “notes” I had with the title “Untitled document” was embarrassing).
How then, and more importantly, why did Evernote come into the fold?
Evernote is a cloud based software that stores files. Are you familiar with Google Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox? It’s essentially that. What makes it special then? It’s user interface and built in features.
Unlike it’s storage focused peers, Evernote is built to help you organize your life (I am serious). Through a construct of notebooks, tags, and notes you are able to write, record, and organize your thoughts seamlessly throughout the day.
Notes are what they sound like, they’re essentially a Microsoft Word document — a blank page with a title and then content. Tags are text that you associate with a note, and notebooks are a group of notes. Simple, right?
The power of Evernote is that you can group notes together. Take for example this use case…
At MarketSmart I meet with our team quarterly to discuss goal-setting. These are intimate, one-to-one meetings where someone on the team shares with me their personal vision, how they want to grow, and what type of responsibilities they’d like to take on. It’s my duty to then internalize this information and help create a path for this person to achieve those milestones.
In the past I would jot down these notes in my notebook or a Google Doc. We’d make progress on some goals and not much on others. A few months would go by and we’d regroup on this person’s goals and go through the motions again.
Since I’ve adopted Evernote however the process has become much more transparent and enhanced. In Evernote I have a tag called, “what,” and within that tag I have a sub-tag called, “goals,” and within that I have a sub-tag called, “staff goals.” I then have a section of tags called, “who,” and within that I have the names of everyone on the MarketSmart team.
When I have a goals meeting with Jeff for example, I tag the note “staff goals” and “Jeff.” Then, three months later when Jeff and I meet again I can easily reference our old notes, discuss key points from that previous discussion, and log new notes, all organized with the same tags.
Essentially Evernote provides me with the structure to organize my thoughts, and, if you’re anything like me, you have a lot of those everyday!
Here are a few really powerful and useful articles on how to setup Evernote effectively:
Oh, and the best part is, the free version of Evernote is great. I highly recommend you give it a try.
The only app to make it on this list two years in a row is Slack. At our office, Slack replaces email, improves collaboration, and streamlines communication.
It’s foolish to think that email is entirely replaceable (it’s too ingrained in our day-to-day lives to simply vanish overnight), but it’s shortsighted not to acknowledge its shortcomings. With our team we use Slack to reduce the number of emails we send and the clutter that creates in our inboxes. If you’re anything like me, you’ve experienced getting lost on an email chain, being included on a mass message that wasn’t quite intended for you, and being unsure if the person sending you a message was tracking your “opens” and “clicks.”
Slack is team communication for the 21st century. There are channels for conversations, direct messages for when you need to communicate directly with one person, and even phone and video calling for remote meetings. Better yet, Slack has great sharing features and an extensive list of other apps that integrate directly with it.
At Fundraising Report Card we use Slack extensively. We’ve directly integrated Slack with Fundraising Report Card (and dozens of other apps), so that anytime a user gets an error on the website we get notified. Take a look at this screenshot for example, our channel looks like this:
And when an error occurs we all get this message:
Slack helps keep everything in one place. And for our team that is a huge time saver.
Slack also increases our organizational visibility. That sounds jargon-ey, but it’s true. With Slack collaboration happens organically and naturally. Frequently members of our team see a post in a channel and jump in to help. Even when you aren’t “tagged” on a message you can see it in a channel and contribute. This has been huge for our team considering how interconnected we all are.
Here are a few useful resources on how to use Slack effectively:
Evernote organizes my notes, Slack improves my team communication, and Hubspot helps make me look good with sales prospects and existing clients. HubSpot is inbound marketing and sales software that helps organizations attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Why then is it on my list of resources that nonprofits should use? Because it’s incredibly powerful and useful.
For our team at MarketSmart we use Hubspot to keep track of all engagements we have with our website visitors, sales prospects, and existing customers. Every note, every touch-point, everything is tracked in Hubspot.
What makes Hubspot powerful (and potentially too tricky to adopt for most nonprofit organizations) is how extendable, customizable, and open-ended it is. I’ve heard too many horror stories from nonprofit professionals who used SalesForce (a close Hubspot competitor) and hated it because it was too challenging to set up. This is why nonprofit specific donor management systems exist, but it’s at least worth exploring some of Hubspot’s free features and tools if you’re up for the learning curve.
For example I use Hubspot’s “meeting” feature nearly everyday. I talk with a lot of nonprofit professionals (last time I checked I’ve had over 300 meetings with nonprofit pros so far this year!) and scheduling those meetings can be tricky. With Hubspot I simply share a link with someone and they can view a calendar and choose a time to meet with me.
Hubspot syncs with my Google Calendar (it also works with Outlook) to determine when I have availability and then it allows someone else to book those available times. It’s simple, effective, and the best part is, it keeps track of everything on that person’s Hubspot profile.
Here are a few useful resources on how to use Hubspot effectively:
How to apply this to your shop
I try not to push readers into doing what we do here at MarketSmart. It’s far more useful for you to figure out what works for your organization, and focus on that.
But in this case, each of these resources has not only had a huge impact on our business, but I’ve seen them have a great impact on pretty much everyone I’ve shared them with.
There’s no such thing as a “for profit” only tool. Each of these resources listed above are not marketed towards nonprofits, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful. Getting started with any of these tools should take an afternoon or less. Identify if one of the above seems useful and give it a try. Be sure to let me know how it goes.