Friday, February 9, 2007

Integratring online tools into your communication program

This article cites the growing acceptance and use of online tools within the non-profit sector:

AFP Blog: Recent News of Note: The State of E-Philanthropy in 2007 :: PNNOnline ::

Web sites, emails and other Internet-based communications are a critical part of any successful company's outreach and engagement efforts. For non-profits, they can become one of the cornerstones of their fundraising program -- but there are several unique barriers that non-profits face to successfully integrating such tools into their portfolio.

First, unlike more traditional communications pieces, these items are dynamic. They require constant oversight, and must be updated regularly to keep pace with donors' expectations as well as the growth/change of the organization. Whereas a newsletter can be built, mailed and forgotten -- a Web site should be a living, breathing extension of the organization's brand.

Second, online programs take a great deal of time to lead effectively. They cannot simply be another responsibility added to someone's job description.

Here, non-profits must balance the scale between barely dipping their toe in the water (i.e. building a Web site and never updating it) and getting sucked away in the river of opportunities (i.e. neglecting their established fundraising programs in order to take advantage of every new online program that is out there).

Finally, non-profits need to understand that there are many things that their online projects must include which private for-profit companies can neglect. Their Web site should be more than an advertising brochure -- it should be a hub of information on the organization's financials, performance measures and plans for growth. In this way, non-profits should look at some of the more robust public companies out there to see how their online efforts speak to both customers as well as shareholders.

Integrating online tools into a comprehensive communications portfolio can help non-profit organizations signficantly expand their capacity for outreach and engagement, but they must make their choices very consciously about what to do and what to avoid. Above all, the most important thing for these organizations to do is to craft a communications strategy that is focused on building their brand and engaging the community in their mission. The right kind of Web sites, emails and Internet tools will grow naturally out of such a strategy.