Focusing your nonprofit’s social media efforts [Podcast + Worksheet]


What are your greatest priorities when it comes to digital marketing? And what are some of the biggest obstacles your nonprofit faces as you pursue these goals? These are some of the questions we asked to the nonprofit marketing, tech and communications teams at the Nonprofit Tech and Communications Conference this past spring.

If you missed it, take 10 minutes to listen to part 1 of the series, “Why I chose nonprofit work” and to gain context into this series and get inspired by these wonderful nonprofit workers.

Now, in part 2, we will focus in on the common priority (and obstacle) of most nonprofits: social media. David and Lisa attempt to answer the question, “Which social media networks should my nonprofit be on?” and walk you through an exercise for optimizing your social media efforts. Through this you can better allocate your limited time and budget to the places that fit most with your nonprofit audience and mission.

Listen up on Stitcher, Soundcloud, iTunes, or this page. Then download the guide below to make some real improvements to your strategy.

[Click on the image to see the full pdf version]



Content management tools for nonprofits


Our marketing manager Joli is juggling quite a bit of content. Not only does she help with our ArcStone blog (most notably with her Tuesday Tidbit), but she also works with 10+ clients helping to strategize their website content, blog posts, social media and beyond. If her content was just floating around in her head or even just on a notepad, she’d be lost. But she isn’t. She’s found a way to document and manage just about any client’s (including our nonprofit client’s) content strategy. This is facilitated with a few of her favorite tools, depending on the need of the client.

If you haven’t already, read about the importance of setting up your content marketing strategy, before reading the deeper-dive tips below.

First, to set up your nonprofit content strategy, she suggests…

  1. Meeting as a team, with everyone that will be contributing to website content, to fully flush out what writing style you’re going for and determine the overall strategy.
  2. Assigning content to the most appropriate person on your team, depending on the subject. This person is referred to as the subject matter expert (SME).
  3. Specifying due dates on each piece of content.
  4. Determining a process for content review before it goes live on the site or social pages.
  5. Setting up a process for uploading other content – optimized images, video, etc.
  6. Crafting a post-publishing plan – i.e. when posts will go out on social media, and any other methods in how you will get people to your site.

Then, Joli offers insight into some tools your nonprofit has to manage your content strategy…

1. Trello

On this tool, each piece of content gets placed on a card. Then these cards can be dragged across the columns, depending on which part of the process they are in (i.e. “to do,” “doing,” “done). The collaboration comes in as your team can join a Trello board, see each of these cards and where they’re at in the process, assign cards to team members depending on responsibility, upload files to the cards so Trello can serve as a filer, and comment on cards to discuss the content. ArcStone  and The Nerdy Nonprofit use Trello constantly.

2. CoSchedule

What’s great about CoSchedule is it has many of the same collaborative features as Trello, but it also connects to your website and your social media pages. This helps smooth the transition from strategy and management to content creation to promotion. Joli also loves the calendar view.

3. Buffer


If you’re feeling fairly confident about your content management, but simply need a tool to help with promotion, Buffer is a good fit for you. This tool is great for scheduling out your content more automatically, and then analyzing how this is working.

Need help creating and documenting your content strategy? We’d love to help. Contact our digital marketing team at ArcStone.

How the University of St. Thomas uses Snapchat to tell its story and reinforce its brand

While reviewing branding and social media strategies for nonprofits, I came across the University of St. Thomas, a nonprofit university in Minnesota, and was immediately struck by their work. Their branding is clear and student engagement is high – if I were applying to schools or visiting my alma matter and saw this digital community, I would be thrilled to be a part of it. Read how St. Thomas’ digital content strategist, Kate Metzger, describes their transition to Snapchat and walks us through how this became such a success. 


The University of St. Thomas has always placed a high value on storytelling. Our award-winning magazine, multimedia news website and robust social media presence allow us to communicate an authentic and meaningful story to the people we care about most.

But as many higher ed communicators know, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to reach our students and prospective students with our story.

Our challenge: Communicate the university’s mission and personality to our young, technology savvy audience.

Our solution: Adding Snapchat to our social media strategy.

Put a ghost on it

How we got our students to start using our snapchat

We began integrating Snapchat into our social media strategy in 2015. Our first step was finding followers. We know from previous years that Welcome Week (the first week of the semester, starting when freshmen move into residence halls) is a time that our students are most-engaged with our social media profiles, and also the time of year where we see the largest gains in followers.

During Welcome Week, we placed our snapcode in some of the most visible places on campus:

  • Prior to a screening of “Inside Out” on our football field, the snapcode was displayed on the jumbotron.
  • Our student center has a large digital display in its main atrium, which featured the snapcode throughout Welcome Week.
  • We shared the snapcode on our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles.
  • To help get students in a snapping mood, our admissions staff handed out T-shirts with “University of St. Thomas Selfie Shirt” – printed in reverse so it would show up the correctly when taken in Snapchat selfie mode.



Taking advantage of Snapchat’s “Add by snapcode” function, we made it as easy as possible for our students to find us. They simply used Snapchat to scan our highly visible code with their mobile devices and we were instantly connected.

For those who already knew us on social media, we used UofStThomasMN as our username – something we have kept consistent across all our primary social channels.

In addition, our admissions staff included Snapchat in its communication planning with prospective students. Our username and snapcode are included in the packages that go out to our accepted students, as well as promoted at all admissions events.

Our best ambassadors

How we grew engagement on our snapchat

Now that people knew where to find us, it was important that we post engaging content that resonated with our audience.

We enlisted a group of student interns to come up with content ideas. After coaching them on how to best represent the university and providing them with a set of guidelines, we set them loose on campus and beyond.

One of the first and most successful ideas they implemented was the “Tommie Takeover” where one student would take over the account for a day and post snippets of his or her life as a Tommie. Takeovers represented a broad range of students with diverse backgrounds, majors and experiences – from biology to business to Catholic Studies.

In addition, we had students share stories from their time studying abroad, with stories from Poland to Thailand to Guatemala – in fact the entire month of January, when we have the most students studying abroad, was dedicated to takeovers from other countries.

Some of our most engaging examples include:

  • Students studying at our campus in Rome sharing a day-in-the-life in the Eternal City
  • The swimming and diving team manager covering the NCAA national swim meet, where one of our women swimmers won three national titles
  • The Tommie dance team member who took over during the team’s trip to UDA College Dance Team Nationals, where the Tommies won their 10th national dance title
  • The launch party for the university’s new logo, brand and tagline
  • The final seconds of the Tommie men’s basketball national title championship game
  • Students from our Student Diversity and Inclusion Services office taking over to promote Black History Month and other heritage celebrations

Allowing our students to serve as Snapchat ambassadors for the activities they care about most enabled us to tell an authentic story that helps define the personality of our university.

As a result, in less than a year we went from zero to averaging more than 1,800 views per story.

You were there? Prove it!

Using Snapchat to engage the community at large

In addition to using Snapchat to tell our story, we also use it as a vehicle to extend the reach of our brand. Snapchat users who visit our St. Paul campus can share with their friends that they visited St. Thomas by using one of our branded geofilters.


The filters are available automatically for users who are standing on the geographic footprint of our campus. We have plans to add more filters this year that incorporate our newly launched tagline, “All for the Common Good.”

New social networks are popping up every day. At St. Thomas, we carefully consider each one before making the investment required to support them. In the case of Snapchat, we are happy with the results we have seen so far and are excited to continue to tell our story.

Review or follow St. Thomas’ other social media sites –

Read more on incorporating your audience personas into your college or university’s marketing efforts.

How are visitors using your nonprofit’s website? Gain insights with the User Explorer Report in Google Analytics


People are confusing: Why we behave the way we do can be totally unpredictable. However, there are often patterns in our behavior to be found, especially when it comes to using a website – you just have to know where to look. Enter: Google Analytics, and more specifically, the User Explorer Report.

In order for you nonprofit to really take advantage of its website, you have to be sure to know what’s working for your audience and what isn’t. Sometimes looking at overviews isn’t insightful enough for that. Luckily, Google Analytics came up with the User Explorer Report so you can see exactly how an individual user flows through your site, draw comparisons and be more aware of what your users want.

Step 1: Go to the Audience tab and click on “User Explorer”


Step 2: Review overall users


Those long strands of numbers are actually just visitors to your site. Each visitor gets a number when they first land on your site, and Google Analytics then keeps track of their subsequent visits. Visitor number one in the example above visited 9 times, stayed on for a little over 3 minutes on average, and had a low bounce rate of 22%.

Step 3: Study each user to get a deeper understanding of their behavior


The dashboard for each user shows factors like when they first found your site, how long they stay on pages and what device they typically use.

Step 4: Draw conclusions about your users

Ask questions like:

  1. When do users typically leave a site?
  2. Which types of users end up filling out the contact us forms or taking some sort of action on the site?
  3. On the main User Explorer screen, study groups/segments of users. How do users usually behave if they are primarily a desktop user vs. primarily a mobile user? How do people use the site differently if they come in via organic traffic vs. direct or social?

If you want to get a better understanding of your Google Analytics account, consult our Google Analytics Resource Center or contact us at ArcStone to set up a meeting.

Why try nonprofit storytelling via video? Success story from Scholarship America

Every nonprofit has a story, and chances are it’s one that pulls on readers’ heartstrings. Scholarship America caught my attention through their Dreamkeepers video series, which showcases students who used the program’s emergency financial aid grants to stay in school. I reached out to their team and they excitedly shared how they used video for nonprofit storytelling. Review why we encourage nonprofits to invest in video marketing and what you can learn from Scholarship America’s success.


Why is video marketing the best fit for nonprofit storytelling?

There are several reasons we recommend video marketing for clients (see 8 examples in this post), especially nonprofits, but one of the main ones stems from video’s great ability to tell a story.

“We feel that video is one of the most personal and impactful ways to get our scholarship recipients’ and organization’s stories out into the world.”

– Michelle Showalter, Communications Manager at Scholarship America

We gravitate towards stories. With our attention spans decreasing each year, when we search online, we need something that grabs us. A study by Harvard Business Review revealed that “character-driven stories with emotional content result in a better understanding of the key points a speaker wishes to make and enable better recall of these points weeks later” (“Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling“).

In other words, if we can latch onto a character in your nonprofit’s story and then identify with their struggles, chances are we will remember that story above all the other information we took in that day. We will also better understand what your nonprofit does.

We gravitate towards video. Again, with all the noise of the digital space, video is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. Better than just reading a story, viewing it and hearing it is all the more impactful. A slideshare by Adéile Studios showed that video accounted for 1200% more shares than photo or text content and companies that use videos have an average of 41% more traffic to their site.

In other words, if your video catches enough attention, it is likely to perform better than a photo or another piece of content could.

How to tell a story successfully:

We discovered that, in order to motivate a desire to help others, a story must first sustain attention – a scarce resource in the brain – by developing tension during the narrative.

If the story is able to create that tension then it is likely that attentive viewers/listeners will come to share the emotions of the characters in it, and after it ends, likely to continue mimicking the feelings and behaviors of those characters.

Harvard Business Review

As you’ll see by reviewing Scholarship America’s Dreamkeepers series, nonprofits are sitting pretty as far as their video marketing potential. Unlike big-name brands like Apple or Target, you don’t have to make up stories or hire actors and models to grab attention. You can simply interview the people you work with every day and tell their powerful story.

Michelle discussed how they really only had to find the interviewees and pose the questions for the filmmakers to ask. From there, Michelle addressed, “it’s really the filmmakers job to get a person to tell their story in a compelling way. They’re the experts at this!”

Read more in our VP of Marketing’s blog post, The Power of Storytelling, which recaps and extrapolates on a talk by best-selling author, Matthew Taylor.

Erin Weaver:

Janay Corbitt:

Video credit to: Uptop Films

The various channels you can use your videos:

Michelle described how widespread the use of these videos will be. They can use them for their…

  • Website
  • Social media posts
  • Blog content (see Scholarship America’s articulate and optimized blog post here)
  • Events
  • Meetings with prospective partners
  • Conferences

For the first few uses, you’ll want to make sure your video is well-optimized. This usually requires the video to be done professionally, as Scholarship America did, and to be shared on social channels. For sharing, you’ll definitely want to have a strong YouTube page. Read more on how to set this up in YouTube for Nonprofits.

Get started!

If you’re ready to produce a nonprofit marketing video, take a look at the 10 steps we take with each new video.


Best of luck as you pursue your nonprofit video marketing and congrats to Scholarship America for their well-executed project!

When should nonprofits invest in display ads?

As nonprofit marketers, we love free tools. Budgets are tight and we need any productivity and cost-saving hack we can get. That’s why we squeal with excitement over Google Ad Grants (and if you haven’t gotten yours yet, PLEASE do yourself a favor and read this post). However, I want to point you to why ArcStone’s marketing manager, Joli, has suggested a Google Display Network can be worth the expense.


Defining the Google Display Network

While the Google Search Network includes ads in search results, based on keywords, the GDN ad appears on actual websites and is based on topic. Check out the example below:

Google Search Network (Text Ads)


Google Display Network – Display Ads
Clinton campaign running display ads on New York Times


Network for Good display ad on Washington Post

In these last two display ad examples, both nonprofits chose sites with topics that attract audiences similar to their own. That way, they can hopefully grab more attention than they would in a text ad.

Display ads also differ from texts in that you can use text, image, video and interactive ads.

In short, if you’re not getting enough traction through your Ad Grant, it may be worth a try to invest in display ads and reap the benefits of less restrictions to your ads.

Why do you have to pay for a Display Ad?

If you’re familiar with Google Ad Grants, you already know that they limit you to ad texts (more description in our Ad Grant post). If you want to run a display ad, you’ll have to set up a separate campaign with a budget, which you can learn about here. Fear not, display ads can prove to be plenty affordable, especially since display ads tend to be less expensive than text ads.

Why try a Display Ad?

  • You get to design a beautiful image ad which oftentimes gets more attention than text. Read why images work in this infographic.
  • If you have a compelling video, you can place in on sites everywhere and grow your ROI on your awesome nonprofit video
  • You can specify based on related topics, websites and audiences rather than just keywords
  • Since you’re not restricted by your Google Ad Grant, you can get more specific with audience targeting and geo-targeting
  • You may pay less than you would with other forms of advertising

Get help with your Google Ad Grant setup, for free, with ArcStone’s team! Let us know if you’re interested here.

Celebrate the little marketing wins – June Nonprofit Marketing News

As we enter summer, it’s a good time to celebrate achievement! Even with limited resources and staff, nonprofits of all sizes make a great impact. We liked this post from NP Tech for Good that shows you things you ARE doing right – 10 Signs Your Small Nonprofit Excels at Social Media.

If there’s anything you feel you’re missing in your digital strategy, glean some help from the posts below, or feel free to reach out to us!

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – June 2016 – 

Free tools in use: Branding & Event Promotion

by Spina Bifida Association
Read how this nonprofit excelled by using some free tools. 

Web design on a budget: Case Study

with Kids In Need 
Review a before & after shot of ArcStone’s recent, budget-friendly site redesign.

Blog optimization 1014 musts for your blog to try pronto

from SumoMe
Some easy and necessary fixes to get that nonprofit blog to rank in search results.  

Fundraising: 3 Critical Things You Must Know About Fundraising Compliance

from Amy Eisenstein 
Amy sits down with a fundraising expert to discuss tricky rules that some nonprofits neglect when seeking donations. 

Be sure to download our audience persona ebook if you haven’t yet had a chance. It’ll make your summer strategy all the more effective.

Cheers to summer!

Jenna & Chloe


Some easy ways to grow your nonprofit email database

If you’ve witnessed the power of email marketing for your nonprofit already, you know the value of a new contact in your database. You also likely work and work to get that treasured contact info at your events or through signup forms, but did you know that there are some fairly simple ways to grow your nonprofit database through your everyday website visitors? Each time someone comes to your site, there are several methods of capturing their email and enticing them to become a follower of your organization.


How to use apps, forms, landing pages and other tactics to grow your email list:

1. Use SumoMe (or another accredited email collecting app)

At ArcStone and The Nerdy Nonprofit site (as you may have experienced) we use a list building tool called SumoMe. It works with your site as a customizable pop up and then can link with several different email marketing tools to grow your contact lists.


2. Shorten your forms

It’s easy to get carried away with forms. You finally got your site visitor to fork over their email, why not maximize the information you get? It may be tempting, but we don’t recommend it. Oftentimes, people are more willing to give you their email if the form is easy to fill out. Take a look at the examples below and consider what information you really need, versus what you can look up yourself when the need arises.

Example of a long form (we don’t recommend this tactic)
Example of an optimal form. If you ever need more information like a phone number or address, you can always look up their company.

3. Get specific on your form

Another couple tactics we’ve learned regarding forms: People are more willing to fill out contact information if they…

a.  Can specify what information they want to receive back from you

b. Know how often you’ll be sending information

On your form, you can have them check off which information they’re interested in (donor updates, volunteer opportunities?) and how often they prefer to be notified (weekly or monthly?).

As seen with BuzzSumo’s form, you can select which of the 3 types of content you want to receive.

4. Place calls to action on targeted pages

If possible, you should try to have your forms be more targeted. Rather than just having one newsletter sent out to everyone, regarding everything about your nonprofit, consider having a few: one for donors, one for volunteers, and one for users of your service. Instead of placing one form on every page of your site, consider placing the form on relevant pages; have a donor newsletter subscription on the “donate now” page or a volunteer opportunity newsletter on a volunteer success story blog, etc.

Example of the CTA from ArcStone’s general blog. This CTA was included on any blogs we wrote for nonprofits specifically.

5. Be transparent

One of the biggest pieces of advice we can offer you is that people like to know what they will be receiving via email and how exactly it benefits them. Specify how often they’ll be emailed and what type of content it will be. You can even place an example of a previous email newsletter on the subscription landing page.

This is The Nerdy Nonprofit subscription page, which points to exactly what content recipients get and how it looks.

With your CTAs and landing page content, tell your visitor why they should want your emails. Read more in the best CTAs for nonprofits or “Would YOU read your nonprofit newsletter?” to better understand what incentives you could use.

Contact our ArcStone team if you need recommendations on your email marketing campaign or help getting started!

3 Ways A Nonprofit Web Design Became More Affordable – Case Study

Most every nonprofit recognizes the importance of an updated website, but few can afford a redesign. With a client’s tight budget in mind, ArcStone found 3 ways to cut the cost of a nonprofit web design, making it more affordable. In the end, the MN branch of Kids In Need still received a custom WordPress site, but they didn’t get an unwanted bill.

This project wasn’t small by any means. Kids In Need wanted to go through their whole site to clarify calls to action, clean up the navigation, include more high quality imagery and inspire users with their story.

Here are 3 tactics we pursued that you may want to consider:

1. Using WordPress – Carefully

One way to cut costs while using WordPress (read why it’s our go-to CMS in this post) is through cutting down on number of pages. We took the time to analyze all of Kids In Needs previous web content and find the content that was updated least frequently. Then we opted not to integrate these pages to WordPress. This saved room in the budget for building out pages on the site like the blog and staff pages, which will now be easily accessible through their CMS.

2. Optimizing Resources

Kids In Need had a designer on staff, which really helped our design team. Not that every nonprofit needs this specific resource, but it’s good to keep in mind: if you’re approaching a redesign, inventory the skill sets you already have, so your web agency can focus on providing what only they can.

3. Creating Templates

It’s easy to get carried away with page layouts, but this is another area which can cut web design costs. For example, with Kids In Need, we found we could save funds by using the same template for their stories and program pages. This also helps create a better user experience as it lessens the change between pages.

Here’s a before & after view:

After – Homepage


After – Donate & About Us Page

If you’re interested in a quote for your nonprofit website, fill out this form here and our digital marketing strategist can help you configure your budget.