SF1 for Nonprofits: Highlight on Communications

SF1 for Nonprofits: Highlight on Communications

A few weeks back we talked about Communities, the first pillar of the Salesforce1 (SF1) for Nonprofits strategy: what they are and how to best utilize a communities manager. Today we’re back to dig into the next pillar: Communications. What does communications mean to nonprofits today, and how can your organization start thinking in new ways about your communication strategy, regardless of budget?

As devoted followers of The Connected Cause, you know better than most that “communication” means many things to nonprofits today – it typically hinges on mass email, but marketing automation, CRM integration, and social listening are all features of many email service providers.

Idealist Consulting recently released our 2014 Email Service Providers Comparison Report, reviewing thirteen of the most common email platforms used by nonprofits and socially responsible businesses today. Here were some of our key findings:

  • Database integration has become almost totally ubiquitous. Our report highlights which providers offer Salesforce (and other CRM) integrations and which don’t. Anyone looking into changing ESPs should take this into strong consideration as CRM integration will drastically effect how efficient your communications strategy is.
  • Price varies wildly and it is challenging to compare apples to apples (although we gave this a shot by using 20,000 emails per month as a baseline for our report).
  • The best solution for a small organization is probably not the best for an enterprise-level organization. Your organization’s business process and staff capacity will have a lot of influence over which solution you choose. Not everyone is ready for automated drip campaigns and many of the smaller providers have smart ways of thinking about mass communication, too.

On that last note – let’s zoom in on two of the enterprise-level solutions briefly to see what they look like and how we can all learn from their setup.

Close-up on Exact Target and Pardot

ExactTarget and Pardot are a big focus in the Salesforce world in large part because they were acquired by Salesforce recently. Both aim to be a complete marketing engine for your organization, and offer sophisticated drip campaign, content creation, lead scoring, and workflow options. Enterprise-level solutions like these may be cost-prohibitive for small nonprofits, but there is a lot we can all learn from the way they handle constituent communications.

If you saw the “Helping Gamechangers Change the World” Salesforce1 for Nonprofits webinar presented by the Salesforce Foundation, you might remember an impressive demo of Pencils of Promise showing how they use Salesforce1 for Nonprofits to communicate with their donors throughout the entire lifecycle: from the moment they first opt in to an email list to the thank you note and personalized photos they receive for matching funds. This is an example of the type of functionality in Exact Target or Pardot.

Here are some best practices inspired by this SF1 for Nonprofits strategy regardless of what Email Solution Provider you use:

  • Think through the full constituent experience: Before launching any message or campaign, pretend you are a prospect. At each stage, there is typically a confirmation or “upsell” possible…even if you don’t have marketing automation you can create some simple landing pages or follow-up emails to play around with this idea.
  • Start small with segmentation: Everyone knows a more personalized communication is better. Even if you’re just using a more basic platform like Vertical Response, you can use campaigns to segment lists to suit different audiences. For example, try putting a different main Call to Action in your monthly enewsletter for donors vs. prospects. If you’re just starting off with segmentation, this will likely reveal some tweaks that need to happen in the way you track people in your CRM. Being comfortable with simple segmentation before you adopt a larger ESP is key.
  • Listen to what your constituents are saying: Social listening tools like Radian6 are great, but you can dip your toes into this idea by doing a small experiment: take one week and track all the hashtags your constituents use. Or perhaps what links they share. Pick one data point that you think is interesting, and pay attention, then look back at your messaging and see if you can align it more closely to how your constituents actually communicate.

This is just a glimpse into how your organization can start thinking differently to advance your communications strategy. We’d love to hear what other tactics you’ve tried in comments.

To learn more about some of the most promising email platforms on the market today and evaluate which might be the best fit for your organization, download Idealist Consulting’s free 2014 Email Service Providers Comparison Report here.

About Kirsten Kippen

Kirsten joined Idealist Consulting after 8 years of intercultural communications experience in both the nonprofit and private sectors. She enjoys helping organizations advance their missions through tech solutions and her specialties include training, content marketing, and event management. A lifelong Northwesterner based in Portland, Kirsten enjoys exploring the nearby mountains and local food scene in her spare time.

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