WordPress for Nonprofits | The Right CMS for a Nonprofit


When ArcStone discusses a potential website redesign, we mainly recommend WordPress for nonprofits. I wanted to understand why this is and what makes this content management system beneficial to many website developers and marketing managers. To do so, I spoke with web developers Chris and Erin who underlined their favorite aspects of the software. I’ll point to how this works for nonprofits specifically as well.

* We recently partnered with Idealware to publish “The Landscape of WordPress for Nonprofits: A Report on the Current Marketplace for Plugins” – download it now!

It’s popular for a reason…

Many nonprofits use WordPress, indicating that it’s received good reviews and people find it satisfactory. Chris pointed to how it takes up a majority of the marketshare. For all sites, 59% of the market share (WPKube). 48% of Technorati’s top 100 blogs are managed with WordPress and 74.6 million sites use WordPress (ManageWP Blog).

In fact, some of our favorite nonprofit websites we’ve referenced in the past use it:

Invisible Children Homepage
charity: water Blog
Grist Website

It was made for storytelling, which is fundamental to your nonprofit’s success

Since its start, WordPress has been a go-to platform for content creation. It was launched as a blogging platform and then grew with additional features from there to make it what it is today. Considering that nonprofits have many a story to tell – about those in need, their cause, and success stories – it sounds like a match made in heaven to me.

Easy for any layperson to use…

If your nonprofit has a smaller team, it’s likely you have people wearing many hats. To increase efficiency, you need an easy way to plug in new content with recent updates to your fundraisers and success stories. WordPress has been viewed as an easy-to-use tool. Chris pointed to how it’s a less intimidating interface and our clients mostly find its UX commendable.

The amount of plugins available (29,000 according to the Manage WP Blog) and its easy integration with several tools (Hubspot, Mailchimp and Gravity Forms to name a few) also increases its ease of use. You can customize it in a way that makes it as efficient as possible for your specific needs.

“There is practically no limit to what someone can do using WordPress” (digital web success)

WordPress Dashboard

If your nonprofit would like to talk about switching over to WordPress or having ArcStone host your WordPress site, contact ArcStone and you’ll work with experts like Chris and Erin. For more on Nonprofit-specific WordPress use, review “WordPress for Non-Profit.”

The Right Social Media Networks for Your Nonprofit

The options for social media platforms these days seem endless, but there is probably only a handful of them that really fit your nonprofit and your target audience. The best advice our marketing manager Joli has is to pick only a few. Let’s review her description of the top social platforms. Then we’ll point to some resources that will help you pick the right social media networks for your nonprofit.


With this table as a reference, consider your audience and which platforms suit them best. From there, focus on one or two of these as you get started. Once you feel you’ve gotten a handle on those, you can consider trying others. Set up a documented content marketing strategy so you can study how these are performing. Lastly, do NOT forget to monitor – read about the importance of this in ArcStone’s blog, “A Huge Social Media Yikes.”

If you are just getting started with understanding your audience or generating content around these personas, we recommend you read our ebook, “A Nonprofit’s Guide to Audience Persona Development.”


How to Configure List Segmentation for Email Marketing


With its high ROI, email marketing continues to be one of the most effective tools in an inbound marketer’s toolkit. However, we’ve all clicked unsubscribe and seem to be doing so more frequently. What’s a nonprofit to do to maintain the contact list for which it’s worked so hard?

As discussed in a recent post interviewing ArcStone’s marketing manager Joli, the key to maintaining and increasing your subscribers is to focus on list-segmentation-for-email-marketing. According to Joli, in the next year,

“users will get pickier about what shows up in their inboxes, and they won’t be afraid to click unsubscribe.”

Let’s walk through 3 ways to segment your list effectively.

1. By audience.

The first part is fairly simple. As a nonprofit you have donors, volunteers, users of your service, and the general community. When donors are curious about how much has been raised, volunteers want to know how to sign up for the next event. Determine your audience personas by walking through this guide, and then cater your emails to each audience.


Similarly, you can think of your audience in terms of how long they’ve been connected to your nonprofit. Are they long-time contacts who even rally support for your cause from their friends? Or a contact that recently gave you their email in an online form? Just like with any communication, it all depends on how familiar people are with one another. Keep the tone appropriate according to the connection you have with each contact.

2. By activity frequency. 

Consider how often this donor or volunteer visits your site, interacts with you on social media or asks for more information. We use a CRM Hubspot (read about using this for nonprofits here) which tracks each contact’s activity and history – we can track if they’ve opened an email, downloaded an ebook, read a blog, etc. From there, we can build an email list including people who have read a certain blog or those who came to a recent event.


Keep in mind how connected contacts are with your nonprofit before sending out frequent emails. In general, if they’ve come to an event or made a large donation, it’s more likely that they want to hear from you and you aren’t being a nuisance. If they are a one-time donor, reach out right after they donate but don’t pester them so much that they unsubscribe immediately and you lose the connection.

3. By interest.

Pay attention to what that particular contact is most interested in. Have they mostly contributed to your fundraising campaigns that discuss statistics and facts or are they more moved by stories? Do they volunteer at events with children or the elderly? Send them information regarding the types of issues they care most about. You can also ask them via online forms or if you talk to them in person, which issues they’d like to stay updated on.

An example? Amazon.com. I spent an hour or so looking at men’s watches and they sent me this:


It wasn’t just an add regarding all their latest deals, but rather something I cared about. Granted Amazon has a HUGE marketing budget to work with and many systems in place to automate this, but we can still do some of this through list segmentation.


All in all, email marketing isn’t easy. Just because it has an ROI does not mean you can skip the difficult part of really studying your audience. Make sure to think about what they want to hear, when they want to hear it, rather than using email blasts to all your contacts. The more you meet their needs, the more likely they’ll stay subscribed.

For more read, “How to Use Email Segmentation to Increase Your Conversion Rate” and “10 Ways to Segment Your Donors to Improve Fundraising Effectiveness.”

Determining If a Text-to-Give Campaign Fits Your Fundraiser


We’ve all heard of a text-to-give campaign and how it can be hugely beneficial for your nonprofit. However, before committing to a mobile fundraiser, we recommend fully hashing out the details to determine if this method is the right fit. We’ve listed some pros and cons for you to consider.

Be sure to download the MobileCause infographic, “Text to Everything,” if you’d like additional insightful stats and tips.


Benefit to donor: They don’t need to enter a credit card number, fill out a form, or remember to send a check – the charge is placed on their cell phone bill.

Benefit to nonprofit: Since the donor doesn’t have as many steps to go through, they might take action more quickly. In this way, the nonprofit doesn’t have to invest as much energy in to getting in front of them and leading them through the donation process.

  • With the great majority of adults owning a phone and using it to text, this platform has a wide reach.

In the last 20 years text messaging has become the most popular form of communication in the world. Unlike voicemails, emails, and social media posts, text messages guarantee that your message is seen. – MobileCause

– Benefit to donor: Although some might feel annoyed when they receive a text message, at least it’s not another email or voicemail which are both still more common for sales people than text. In fact, 3 out of 4 NPO supporters actually appreciate the text messaging (MobileCause). They can also easily unsubscribe without even clicking on a link – they simply have to reply with something like “STOP.”

Benefit to nonprofit: Less of the marketing budget is spent on managing email campaigns, promoting a fundraiser on social media, or even planning big galas and large-scale fundraisers.

Photo Credit: MobileCause


  • Delay: There can be a delay between payment and the processing, up to 90 days.
  • Cost: Depending on the service, there can be large transaction fees, up to 5-10% of the donation.
  • Small Amount: With this method, you’re limited to smaller donation amounts, so it might not be a good fit if you’re hoping to reign in large-scale donations
  • Lack of follow-up: Unlike online or mail-in donations, when a donor has to give their contact information over in order to complete a donation, with mobile all your nonprofit has for contact info is a cell phone number. Also, the text doesn’t leave as much room for them to take a next step as there would be on a landing page. It’s harder to get them to continue to check in online and become a regular donor or volunteer.

The pros and cons show that for certain fundraisers this could be a near perfect fit, while for others, it won’t suffice. Take time to determine your goals and figure out which negatives are worth it for all the benefits. For more ideas on how to improve your text-to-give campaigns, download the infographic below.

Text to Everything Infographic


6 Chrome Extensions For Nonprofit Marketers


In a recent blog, a few of the marketers at ArcStone pointed out some of their favorite tools to help build content, improve analytics and increase lead generation. Now let’s take a look at how free Chrome Extensions that help nonprofits can work for you and your marketing goals.

For content creation – Buzzsumo

  • how it works: Shows you what sort of “buzz” online content is getting (social shares, likes, etc.), helping you understand what content is trending so your marketing team can create blogs and social media posts that you know people will like.
    • drives traffic to your site
    • helps you become a thought leader for nonprofits if you can stay on top of the latest news

For content promotion – Buffer

  • how it works: Keeps all your social media accounts under one profile so you can share across several platforms at once
    • makes your content promotion game a lot more efficient as you don’t have to login to each account each time you want to share on multiple platforms
    • automates post for designated time periods so you don’t have to constantly go back and republish posts
    • provides you with a place to store your content for future posts

For Google Site Tools – Tag Assistant

  • how it works: Goes through your site to uncover any mistakes in your Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google Tag Manager and more.
    • shows you which tags you should fix
    • assesses user’s flow through your site to help you improve your analytics

For Prospecting or Finding Client’s Contact Info – Email Hunter

  • how it works: Uses LinkedIn profiles to uncover work emails for your clients in case you need to get in touch after donation, volunteer events or the like
    • helps you with follow-up, providing a way to reconnect via email

Color Picker

  • how it works: You select the tool and then graze over a color on any web page. It records the color’s data so you can copy and paste it into your design tool.
    • aids in design – especially if you’re obsessed with a color and can’t seem to figure out what it is
    • boosts your site’s and social media post’s originality as you can add more original colors in your color scheme, fonts and imagery.

Industry Knowledge/ Research – Pocket

  • how it works: Saves content for future reading with just one click
    • allows you to come back to interesting articles later on
    • saves you time when you want to quickly put something on the back-burner while you’re in the middle of something else

It’s always wonderful to uncover free tools for nonprofits. For more, take a look at Google Apps for nonprofits and Five Affordable and Necessary Nonprofit Tech Tools.

2016 Design Trends for Nonprofits – 3 Changes to Consider

The trends in web design are ever-evolving and it can be a challenge to keep up with the best. Yet the importance of an appealing website is ever-growing. This is especially true as a nonprofit that is trying to draw in a vast audience – the donors, volunteers, those in need – and since that audience can choose from so many great nonprofits. That is why we picked the brain of ArcStone web designer, Kathryn, to gather 2016 design trends for nonprofits before the year begins. Consider replacing the old with the new with these three tips.

Hero Image instead of Sliders

Kathryn points out how many people use slider images as the main image on their homepage because they can’t commit to just one photo that says it all. The problem with this is that people don’t often look through the sliders. A better idea for 2016? The Hero Image.

The Hero Image is the photo, illustration, or video that covers the entire width of the page. Due to its size, quality, and focused-purpose, this choice commands attention and viewers tend to stay on the site longer. For more on using video for your homepage, read “Homepage Video: Say More with Less.”

website: Acumen

Material Design rather than Flat Design

A more complex version of flat design, material design takes on more details in its icons and illustrations so that the imagery can guide the user through the site. The shadows and seams aid in our understanding of where to look, what to click on, and overall, what the symbol indicates. This is especially important to consider for guiding donors to give, volunteers to register, and users to contact you.

Photo by Accrinet

The Hamburger Menu over a traditional one

The hamburger icon menu was originally designed for mobile, as it creates a drop down menu that fits the mobile screen easily. Now it has been incorporated for desktop sites for a greater use of space. This way, your nonprofit can use the homepage for clearer calls-to-action and a stronger hero image and the engaged visitor can click on the menu to learn more.

website: Possible

For more on these trends and tips from Kathryn, read a more detailed version of her interview. If you want to consult with a designer or get a free quote before your nonprofit’s site design, contact ArcStone.

Nonprofits Using Google Analytics – Get Tracking with the Right Metrics

As a nonprofit with many different types of users on your site (donors, volunteers, users, communities), knowing who is on your site, where they came from, and what their behavior on your site looks like is essential. Nonprofits using Google Analytics are one step closer to understanding these aspects, but some fail to look at the most informative numbers.

The road to fixing this can be quite short, as long as you pay attention to the right pieces of this vast tool. Here are four of our go-to’s for tracking our site’s analytics:


= Helps in seeing where users are coming from, and thus, which areas are drawing in traffic and are worth the most energy. Do people come to your nonprofit from organic searches / good use of SEO, or are they coming through social media / effective social posts?

  • Click on “Acquisition” along the left-hand sidebar, below that select “All Traffic,” and specify “Channels.”
  • Review the four buckets:
    • organic – if this number is low, you’ll want to focus on your SEO. For more on this read “Setting Up a Keyword Strategy” and “Get Visitors to Stay on Your Site
    • direct – this type of traffic is all about users knowing your nonprofit and seeking it out themselves. To increase this, you’ll want to make sure your working on your branding and knowing how to speak to each of your audiences. Read “Audience Persona Development
    • social – staying active on your social channels will help with your visibility, but make sure you’re guiding people to click through to your site. It helps if you promote blogs or content offers in social media posts that will then direct people to a landing page. Review “Is Your Nonprofit Blogging?” and “Getting Started with a Documented Content Marketing Strategy
    • email – the most effective way to get more traffic through email is with a newsletter. Getting this started can be the tricky part. There are tricks to increasing your newsletter contact list – consider using SumoMe to get emails, creating an ebook or infographic that asks people for their email before downloading, or taking in emails from your event’s guest lists.
Landing Pages

= Similar to Channels, this landing page section can show you which pages users first landed on when coming to your site. This is especially helpful if you’re trying to decide which pages to remove or repurpose in future site edits or if you should continue promoting certain blogs on social media.

  • On the left-hand side column, go under “Behavior,” specify “Site Content” and open up “landing pages”
  • You can see the numbers of users that have seen each page, the average time they’ve spent on that page, and the percentage of users that exit the page
Site Pages

= The overall site pages review reveals where users are spending time when they are on your site. Is there one area that receives more attention than others? This can be insightful for planning blog posts – for example, if users spend time on your Q&A section, maybe you can plan out a more full explanation of your answers in a series of posts. Also pay attention to the time spent on your pages: is your content useful enough to have people spend time reading through it or do they land on the page and then jump off?

  • Follow the same first two steps as you did for landing pages, but open up “site pages” instead.
  • Pay close attention to your top-ranked pages. If you’re promoting a new event, consider posting it on one of these to ensure it is seen.

We’ve just skimmed the surface of how to optimize your analytics. Dive deeper with Essential Analytics: Event Tracking & Virtual Page Views and Google Analytics Setup & Best Practices.

If you want help analyzing your site, ask for a site audit at ArcStone.

Would YOU Read Your Newsletter? Best Practices for Nonprofit Email Marketing


For nonprofits marketers, creating a newsletter takes time and doesn’t seem to deliver much value. Recipients don’t always appreciate the newsletter because either they never opted in to receive it or the content isn’t relevant to them.

However, I firmly believe that email marketing is one of the most underutilized marketing channels for nonprofits. Not because many organizations aren’t doing it, but rather most people aren’t doing it effectively. We all have databases full of email addresses and great things to say, but most of our emails are lacking personalization and the emotional connection.

So how do we create that connection, resulting in more email engagement and results?

It comes down to focusing on the audience and people you serve rather than your nonprofit.

In this post I will help you answer some of the big questions and provide best practices to help make your newsletter worth it – for both your nonprofit and the recipients.

Before you start…

Are you considering your audience?

Obviously you want to get one newsletter dialed in before committing to others, however, I strongly encourage you to consider multiple newsletters for each audience. What donors want to hear is very different from that of general subscribers, volunteers or board members. By creating multiple newsletters with content relevant to each audience, you will see better engagement and also be more efficient with your time in writing it. Define those audiences and segment your database accordingly. Read more about defining each audience in our Audience Development Guide.

If multiple newsletters is just not an option logistically, consider creating a newsletter that is grouped by topic to allow readers to easily scan and find the content that is most relevant to them.

What’s your (newsletter’s) purpose?

Every month you write a newsletter, but was is the purpose? What are you hoping to get out of it? And keeping your audience updated on what’s going on at your nonprofit isn’t a great answer. Ideally your newsletter does more than just inform – it drives users to your website, gets them to sign up for your annual gala or shows them the impact their donation has made on the community.

Write down and share your newsletter’s purpose with any team members who help contribute. Use this statement to help ensure your newsletter stays focused.

Once You’ve Started…

Are your subject lines working?

No, seriously, write a great subject line!

If they don’t even open your email, what’s inside doesn’t matter. Analyzing your open rates is a great way to determine if your subject line was effective. Here are a few unique subject line examples.

Make it personal by inserting their name, “We could use your help this month {{firstname}}

Ask a question, “Which nonprofit should you volunteer for?”

How-to, “How do you turn your social impact ideas into action?” or one of our recent email subjects, “Do you make your bed?”

Stat, “430 young people graduated this year thanks to YOU”

Is your newsletter resonating with audiences?

Instead of touting your organization’s accomplishments or promoting an event, tell a story that might resonate with the reader. Pulling them in with a story will keep them engaged rather than scanning. Check out paragraph 1 of an email from ArcStone CEO,

“This is an issue that has touched my family personally.

I have two teenaged sons that love to play basketball at our neighborhood park in Uptown.

Sadly, several of the kids they’ve met at the park have been pushed out of their homes to fend for themselves on the street.

It has happened twice within the last six months. First with a thirteen year-old who, with tears in his eyes, begged me to “let him sleep over” because he was locked out and couldn’t reach his mom…”

The story goes on but you get the point. Making an emotional connection with this story actually helped to raise thousands of dollars for a local nonprofit we are involved with.

As you continue…

Are you keeping it simple?

I’m a big believer in simple, clean emails (this blog agrees). You don’t need an overly designed email template. Here are a few examples that are both clean and lightly branded – one is image driven while the other uses text to feel more like a personal email.


Are you monitoring?

Without tracking your newsletter metrics, it’s hard to stay motivated to write a great newsletter. Be sure that for every newsletter you track:

  • Open rate – the time of day and subject line can influence this
  • Click – was it interesting enough to click through to your site
  • Link tracking – which links in the newsletter were clicked

Compare these results month to month and test.

As you reflect / reassess…

What do your readers think?

Send a survey or include a quick question in the email asking for feedback. What information is most interesting? Do they even read the newsletter? Do they get excited when it arrives in their inbox?

Would YOU read your newsletter?

If the answer isn’t yes, you have some work to do. If you need help on any of the above tips, consider consulting a digital agency (like ArcStone!).

How To Handle Negative Reviews Online, as a Nonprofit Organization


Who would have thought that someone could say something bad about a well-intentioned organization? It happens – especially since nonprofits support causes that can be controversial and especially since social media is an easy platform to use for negative speech. No matter our surprise, nonprofits have to deal with the comment so it doesn’t escalate further and a positive reputation can be maintained. Let’s walk through how to handle negative reviews online.

The questions we all ask…

1. Should we handle this with aggression or simply respond with only nice things? 

Our answer? Neither. Let’s start by reviewing a few of our favorite answers from a nonprofit forum on Nonprofit Marketing Guide,

“My preference is to respond directly to those comments. In my experience, a well-crafted PR statement can inform and draw in support; a defensively written statement brings up more concern and worry.” – LK

“I would start publicly so people see that you are responsive and open to all feedback – I typically invite them as a part of my response, to give us a call directly to share/discuss their concerns further at their convenience.” – AH

In the end, we find that a direct response that treats each negative comment as an unhappy client that you would like to make happy, can be the best approach. Start by responding on the social media platform, sticking to facts about your nonprofit and avoiding opinions. Then, ask them if they’d like to talk through this on the phone. This way you show the public you care and that the comment was incorrect, but it leaves a window to talk through the details with the instigator. If the instigator doesn’t respond, it discredits them as it shows they aren’t really willing to engage.

However, there are cases where comments violate Terms of Service, and those are a different case. Before taking the above actions, make sure they haven’t:

– used hate speech, harassment or the like

– publicized other’s personal information without permission (includes photo & video)

– wrote about information / viewpoints that aren’t relevant to your nonprofit’s services

2. Should we ignore the comment? 

We have found that when a comment is not addressed, it can often increase the commenter’s frustration. Even if they don’t continue to pester you online, you don’t know what further actions they will take offline. Be sure to promptly respond to the comment – all your social platforms should be monitored frequently so the comment isn’t out there for more than a day without your nonprofit’s eye on it. Read more in “A Huge Social Media Yikes!

If you are able to resolve the issue, feel free to ask the person to remove the comment or even replace it with an update on the issue. If the instigator never responds, you can post an update stating that you attempted to resolve the conflict, but the person never responded. Assert that you’d like to talk through the issue so people know your nonprofit cares what everyone has to say.

3. How can we balance the negative review with positive ones? 

It’s often the case that people pay more attention to the one negative comment than the 10 positive reviews – it stands out. A way to highlight the good that your nonprofit does is to not only produce a lot of positive content on recent events, but also post feedback from your happy volunteers, donors and receivers of services. You can do this by asking clients if you can use a quote they said as a testimonial, including links to your social profiles in your email signature, or coordinating a poll on your site. Keep in mind that asking for reviews upfront does not comply with TOS.

Everything your nonprofit does online contributes to your nonprofit’s image as a whole. Make sure you’re avidly monitoring your social accounts and treating everyone’s opinion as worthy of a response.

Getting Started with a Documented Content Marketing Strategy


A recent report from Blackbaud and the Nonprofit Content Marketing Institute reveals that only 25% of nonprofit professionals have a documented content strategy.

Why do we find this problematic?

– Success with inbound marketing drops with the nonprofits who don’t document their content strategy –

“52% of those with a documented content strategy rate themselves highly in terms of effectiveness, compared with 14% of those without a documented strategy” (John Haydon).

– What is more, marketers that have their strategy mapped out have more numbers to point to when they need budget approval (or to apply for a grant) for future content marketing success (Content Marketing Institute).

– Marketers that don’t write out what they’ve done don’t have much to refer back to to understand what’s worked and what hasn’t. Without studying your past, how are you supposed to go forward with greater effectiveness? What happens if you hire a new employee and they don’t have anything to refer to?

How can we fix this? Start documenting your content marketing now!

1. Start with one channel, then go from there.

– Joe Pulizzi of The Content Marketing Institute states, “For nonprofits without many resources for #contentmarketing, focus on delivering consistent content by owning just one channel. Be the go-to resource!” 

Essentially, he suggests that rather than trying to be everywhere at once, start strong somewhere and then move to the next channel once you’re grounded with the first.

But how do you decide where to start? Think about your audience personas and determine where they might be online (check out Sprout Social or Pew Research Center). Pick one of these channels and then use the endless resources out there that focus on instructing you to maximize each channel.

– Then, with this single channel, determine your goals – how many followers do you want to add each month? How many interactions would you have with followers? How many posts each day will help with this? Do you simply want more followers or do you also want to increase traffic from your social accounts to your site?

2. Use an app or system that will help you map out each piece of content & more easily post it.

– Nonprofit marketing master, John Haydon, recommends IFTTT as well as Zappier. Both are free tools that connect different social networks together. IFTTT even allows you to click and drag posts into other social platforms.

– At ArcStone, we work with Trello to plan content ideas, assign them to different team members, and drag them across the stages (planning, writing, reviewing, sharing and completed)


– We also use Hubspot, allowing us to schedule posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn & Google+ in just a few clicks. Read more on this software in Nonprofit Marketing Automation Software.

3. Set a time to monitor how you’re doing. 

– It’s no surprise that the most important aspect of a documented content marketing strategy is actually documenting the success. Set up Google Analytics reports to compare activity from week-to-week, month-to-month etc. Take time each week or month to write down what’s working and what’s not. You can even send yourself an email from Analytics at a set time each week to ensure you don’t forget to look.


– At ArcStone, besides looking at what’s working almost daily, we take time to write down trends we see from week to week on a spreadsheet. From there, we can repeat what received the most attention, rework what didn’t, and a/b test new ideas.

If you want help determining your first steps, or reviewing your previous ones, contact ArcStone and we’ll walk you through a way to keep up with and continually improve your content. Or, we can simply manage it for you.