Net neutrality. What this means for you as a nonprofit (and a general internet user)

Net neutrality is a topic many of us have overlooked. This needs to end now. We’ll explain what this hot button issue is all about and what you can do to prevent the negative impact some big companies are attempting to have on the internet.

If you already understand the impact and are ready to act, join the fight here »

First, what is net neutrality?

Net Neutrality:  the idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination – Merriam Webster

Basically, net neutrality ensures that all the content on the internet is available to you on an equal basis. This means that some pieces content won’t be prioritized over others just because bigger companies are paying more. This regulation is what has allowed the Internet to function as it currently does—providing us all with equal opportunity to publish and promote what we want as well as to find it.

Now, what’s happening with net neutrality?

With a new chief at the FCC as well as the ongoing lobbying by big companies like Verizon and Comcast, this regulation is threatened. They want companies to have the ability to pay for higher priorities. They want the chance to make money. And it’s getting close to actually happening.

How does this impact your nonprofit?

Imagine a world where other websites could pay internet service providers so that their site works faster than yours. As TechCrunch put it, removing net neutrality regulations means, “any organization without deep enough pockets to pay an ISP’s ransom will load much slower than those with ties to ISPs” (full article).  It would create yet another space where it’s too expensive for the little man to keep up and money gets you much further ahead.

What can you do?

First, send your note to the FCC, saying you’d like to preserve net neutrality and Title 2. Then spread this message. Make sure your nonprofit knows the impact removing this regulation could have on all of you, your communities and the world at large.

Here are some additional resources to help you understand and share the gravity of this situation:

Join the Battle for the Net

Join the Speak up & sign your name »

3 Website performance metrics your nonprofit may be misunderstanding

As someone trying to get traffic to a nonprofit website, you have to admit it can be thrilling to quickly log in to Google Analytics, look for nice stats and then peace out. On the flip side, you might notice some dips in traffic or high bounce rates and panic, wondering if you need a drastic change in strategy. Either way, the data you’re taking in isn’t telling the full story. In fact, it might be telling you the wrong story.

Before we get into that, if you’re not even checking your website metrics, we need to talk. I know you don’t have a lot of spare time, but numbers matter. If you can understand your site data, you can understand what website content interests users or why they don’t convert on your donate now form. To fully understand how vital these numbers are, read why and how to do more with Google Analytics for nonprofits.

Now, let’s reassess how you’re viewing and interpreting your website performance metrics and how you can ensure you’re taking the right action based on these numbers.

3 website performance metrics to reexamine

Pages per visit

*What is "pages per visit?" The number of pieces of content—or web pages—on your site a user views before exiting the site
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To find this stat, go to the Audience or Behavior tabs

This stat gets marketers excited as it can highlight information regarding the user experience on your site. Some marketers interpret it as users enjoying your content and site flow enough to look at more than one page.

However, it’s not that simple. This could also indicate that people are landing on your site and not finding what they want. They have to click through several pages to get to the volunteer information for which they originally came to the site.

To understand if people are finding and enjoying your content, first come up with a hypothesis. Then use a combination of metrics and tools—such as the User Explorer Report—to see if this hypothesis is supported.

Time on page

*What is "time on page?" The length of time—in minutes—a user spends on a web page before moving to another page on your site or exiting completely.
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To find this stat, go to the Behavior tab

Similar to pages per session, a higher time on site can indicate that people aren’t finding the content they want fast enough.

To better understand this metric, combine it with other stats. For example, bounce rate: if your time on page is high and so is your bounce rate, it could indicate people searched all over the page but left when their search didn’t bring up what they wanted.

Besides that, you can consider the page you’re looking at. You should be able to tell if it’s clean vs. cluttered. If it’s clean and strategically laid out, a corresponding high time on page could very well mean success.

Bounce rate

*What is "bounce rate?" The percentage of visitors that after landing on the web page from an outside source, leave the web page without visiting other site pages. 
website-performance-metrics
To find this stat, look under the Audience or Behavior tabs

A high bounce rate often freaks us out. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people don’t like your content.

For one, it could be Google’s fault. Or rather, the user typed in a search, Google brought up your nonprofit’s content in search results, but when the user came to your site the content wasn’t a fit. Not your fault, just a mismatch between query and result. To help Google avoid this, be picky with the content you put on your site.

A high bounce rate could also indicate that your blog post was what the user wanted, but it didn’t lead them to take action. This isn’t necessarily bad, as they would appreciate you delivered an answer and then return for more later. However, if you want to take advantage of that content, include calls to action or other related content.


In the end, we want to point out that these high and low metrics are not equivalent to failure. Be weary of looking at just one metric at a time and always pay attention to context.

For help on setting up your Google Analytics, receiving a monthly report or simply understanding what you see, contact our team of experts at ArcStone.

Google for Nonprofits – Free tools your nonprofit shouldn’t miss

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It can be thrilling to click through on all the “2017 predictions” or “what to do this New Year” headlines, but hold off for a minute! Before you do so, did you take a look at what Google has offered your nonprofit? Google just took a step back to recap 3 ways they sought to help nonprofits in 2016, which could show you free tools of which your nonprofit has yet to take advantage.

First, a compliment from Google:

2016 was a year where you continued your work to change the world; to bring the world a little closer to finding common ground amongst peace, progress, and innovation.

Now, to the free tools your nonprofit may have missed –

1. “Introducing new donation tool on YouTube benefiting nonprofits

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Google’s new donation tool, donation cards. Image source: Google blog

In short, Google points out how almost one-third of all internet users are on YouTube. That’s why Google’s nonprofit-exclusive tool “donation cards” have tremendous potential.

Basically, donation cards allow you to donate directly from your YouTube video to your organization. Also, with zero processing fees (it’s on Google).

Similarly awesome, other YouTube channels can use their video to raise money and directly donate to a nonprofit of their choice. And that nonprofit would receive 100% of the money donated.

Find out more in this video by Google:

Get started with donation cards:

It doesn’t stop there. They also get your nonprofit started with an outreach toolkit. If you know of a YouTube channel that would be willing to support your nonprofit, point them to this help page for using and managing donation cards.

2. From LA to Tokyo: YouTube Spaces opens production studios to nonprofits free of charge

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YouTube Spaces. Image source: Google blog

Google recognizes that though YouTube is an incredibly powerful tool for nonprofits, many nonprofits don’t have the resources to create a high quality video. Now, YouTube for Nonprofits is providing state-of-the-art production spaces all around the world for FREE to qualitifying nonprofits, called YouTube Spaces. Beyond that, they created a community that will help nonprofits learn the necessary skills for using this equipment – YouTube Creator Academy.

Learn about the deets and qualifications here »

3. “Unlocking your nonprofit’s data insights: Linking Ad Grants and Google Analytics”

Many nonprofits miss out on what might be the best free resource from Google: Google Ad Grants. Read more about getting your $10,000 from Google with our experts here before you learn what more this free money can do below.

If you are using your Google Ad Grant, you may have ran into a common predicament: How can you determine if your Ad Grant is causing increased conversions and actions vs. if it’s something else?

Well for starters, you can watch a three minute video.

The link between Google Analytics & AdWords will help you:

  • “Track website performance data
  • Import Goals & Transactions into AdWords
  • View website engagement data in AdWords
  • Create remarketing lists
  • View AdWords data in Google Analytics account”

Learn more about how this works in Google’s post »

4. “Four ways to keep your nonprofit safe & secure online”

In 2016, Google for Nonprofits partnered with Google’s User Advocacy Group to share 4 tips for keeping your nonprofit safe and secure online. Rather than just providing you with a ton of free resources (which is pretty amazing in itself) they tell you how to use them in a secure manner.

There tips in a nutshell?

1. Secure your passwords

2. Take the security checkup

3. Understand privacy settings

4. Switch between personal and business accounts


Now continue on with your work to change the world! Just be sure to get your much-deserved free help from your Google friends.

A New Way for Nonprofits to Connect: AskJelly.com & Thoughts from Our Digital Marketing Strategist

What is AskJelly you ask? And why should your nonprofit care?

Our digital marketing strategist, Jenna, was recently on the beta version of this new search engine. It was developed by the founder of Medium and Twitter, which leads us to believe it could be hugely successful. With her review, I got to thinking, how could AskJelly.com be useful for nonprofits?

How AskJelly works:

The platform is set up so any user can post a question and an informed person will then post an answer in return – similar to Quora. How it differs from Quora is it combines attributes of Google; it performs as a search engine, using an algorithm to find the most suitable answer for you.

Keep in mind, you can sign up as an individual user, but not as an organization. Also keep in mind, it’s not to get your nonprofit on another social media network of sorts, but rather is to be used as a tool to gather information.

On the beta version, Jenna actually got an answer from the founder himself. This may help clarify what AskJelly is, but also show how effectively it works:

askjelly-for-nonprofits
Jenna’s AskJelly question answered by founder, Biz Stone.

How your nonprofit could connect through AskJelly:

Since the product was recently launched, it’s still gaining regular users and may take a little time to be hugely useful for nonprofits. However, we recommend trying it out now to help build up this community. It can serve as a resource for when you want the opinion or answer of a real person and will become more and more effective the more the nonprofit community uses it.

For example, I recently posed the question, “should a nonprofit DIY or hire an agency for their web design?” Here’s what I got in return:

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Not bad, but if a few more nonprofits got looped in, I’m sure they’d have their own stories to tell and the answers would be helpful for us all.

Share your knowledge or ask your question – go to AskJelly.com and try it out now.

2016’s Minnesota Nonprofit Tech and Communications Conference – A Quick Recap

Lisa (ArcStone’s VP of Marketing), Jenna (our digital marketing strategist) and I (Chloe!) attended the MN Nonprofit Tech and Communications Conference this week and are feeling quite inspired.

The event covered several topics, with a main focus on guiding nonprofits to make the best technology, database management and online strategy decisions possible. This helped both nonprofits who were just starting to transition to more technology-based solutions as well as those who just wanted to gain more best practices and strategy.

There were numerous speakers and sessions, a great showing of vendors and sponsors, and countless meaningful conversations between the 700+ attendees. Here are some of our favorite moments from the conference and a quick note on what we plan to do next.

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Photo from MN Council of Nonprofits

Keynote inspiration: The keynote speaker, Perla Ni talked about storytelling and how essential it is to your nonprofit. However, she didn’t just talk about this in theory, she discussed concrete plans of action. She was also quoted saying, “Coming to Minnesota is like coming to the nonprofit holy land.” Pretty awesome to hear as a local nonprofit!

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A flowchart written by Cary Lenore Walski and shared after the event on Twitter. Thanks Cary!

Social Media advice: Some tidbits: “Take it offline.” “Never say ‘no comment.'”

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Data resource: A few people pointed to Minnesota Compass as a great way to gather more info on your donors, volunteers and community members.

Our Podcast: Throughout the whole event, we had several great visitors drop by our booth. Among those, we were able to interview 11 for our upcoming podcast. These lovely folks offered various perspectives; their roles cover communications and development, database management, and IT. The nonprofits they represented were both big and small and from all over Minnesota.

Stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter – we’ll be sure to send the podcast your way plus our once-monthly summary of nonprofit news.

Thanks MN Council of Nonprofits for making this all possible!

Our Picks of Email Marketing Software for Nonprofits

Over the last several years, ArcStone has tried dozens of email marketing software services. Now we’ve sought out to compare three of the best viable options for our clients. Review the infographic below and then check out our advice regarding email marketing software for nonprofits specifically.

View full size PDF here

mailchimp-vs-constant_contact-vs-emma-infographic


Which email marketing software fits your nonprofit?

For a nonprofit just starting out, MailChimp may be your best bet. The basic plan will help you experiment with building email marketing campaigns, without a dent in your budget. What’s more, if you decide to go for a more advanced service, as a nonprofit you can receive a 15% discount from MailChimp. Since MailChimp functionalities tend to be some of the most advanced, you’re getting a good deal for great service.

If you already have a member of your team with strong design or technical experience, Constant Contact becomes a more affordable option. With a person to manage the accounts, the custom features give you plenty of functionality but at a better price than MailChimp or Emma. I would say a majority of the nonprofits that we connect with are using Constant Contact.

Lastly, if your audience depends largely on visuals/design quality, Emma may be worth the higher cost. They have the most customizable templates and a great team of friendly people to help!


 

To sign up for any of the above through ArcStone, or to simply gather some advice, reach out to our team.

For more on improving your email marketing, read both “How to Configure List Segmentation for Email Marketing” and “Would YOU Read Your Nonprofit Newsletter? Best Practices for Email Marketing.”

WordPress for Nonprofits | The Right CMS for a Nonprofit

wordpress-for-nonprofits

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:

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Invisible Children Homepage
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charity: water Blog
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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)

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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.”

6 Chrome Extensions For Nonprofit Marketers

chrome-extensions-that-help-nonprofits

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.

A Review of Great WordPress Plugins for Nonprofits

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Using a WordPress platform for your nonprofit’s website often makes for a more user-friendly experience for all of us non-techie website administrators out there (to read about the benefits of WordPress check out WordPress Infographic). WordPress plugins for nonprofits can help in several website functionalities such as gathering information about website users, boosting SEO, and linking to other social sites. However all these options (plus the numerous ways to use each) can result in WordPress feeling quite overwhelming.

So how do you know which WordPress Plugins will help your site’s functionality and which once could hinder it?

Thankfully, the website developers at ArcStone can help. They’ve reviewed three WordPress plugins that are frequently used by ArcStone. Read on to learn the basics of Gravity Forms, Yoast SEO and Simple Share Buttons Plus, and discover how you can optimize each for your nonprofit.

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

gravity forms

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You may be aware that forms (in the form of an email subscription, quiz or survey) can be a great way to both gather information about your web visitors and to interact with them online. Gravity Forms is a WordPress plugin that helps you build out and manage such forms. You can…

1. Customize the title and description people see on the form, the information you want to gather from each visitor, and the message they receive after they’ve filled out the form. The information you can gather includes visitor attributes like their name, address, email address, website URL, pricing information, and file uploads.

How can your nonprofit use this information? Overall, forms help you get to know your nonprofit’s new potential supporters. This may help in determining whether someone is interested in donating, volunteering, or receiving your nonprofit’s services. It can also help you gather emails and addresses to send out information promoting your next fundraiser or big event. With the visitors’ permission, you could even add them to your nonprofit’s newsletter contact list, in hopes that as they get to know you, they would go from stranger to a friend of your nonprofit.

2. Connect to your email and Mailchimp account to more easily manage any marketing campaigns you run. You simply link a MailChimp list to your Gravity form and any new contacts will automatically be added to your MailChimp list. Another benefit of connecting your email is so you can receive email alerts once the forms are filled out and then quickly reach out to new visitors.

3. Get specific with each marketing campaign by limiting the form’s use according to a designated time range. In this way, you can collect emails during a certain donation period. You can also limit the amount of people that can fill out the form, just in case you have enough contacts already, such as with an event that can only take a certain amount of guests.

Cost? $39/year for use on a single site (no access to add-ons) or $99/year to use on three sites (includes access to add-ons).

Yoast SEO

We run into many nonprofits who understand the necessity of quality SEO, but do not have the time or budget to closely monitor it. If you fall in this category or you simply want to make SEO easier, Yoast SEO may be your favorite new plugin.

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1. Craft your blog posts around SEO by using the Yoast meta box. This allows you to enter the keyword phrase you are writing your posts or other content about. Then it helps you to craft your page title, descriptions, alt. tags and the like in order to fully optimize your rankings.

2. Get a visual of the search results page by using the preview section as seen in the image above. The “snippet preview” helps you see what gets bolded in your title and meta description text on the search results page when your blog matches a searcher’s query.

3. Easily access other technical features behind SEO as it automatically keeps XML sitemap up to date and allows you to edit robots.txt and .htaccess files.

Cost? Free. Unless you want to get extra tricky with the paid version – ArcStone hasn’t found the need to.

Simple Share Buttons Plus

It can be challenging to get people on your nonprofit’s site in the first place so once they are there, you want to make it easy for them to share your content. To add these icons, we’d recommend Simple Share Buttons Plus.

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1. Create social sharing buttons that allow visitors to share your content on their social media pages. This is especially useful for nonprofits who have blog posts regarding recaps of fundraisers and events or that show the successes of donations; people typically like to promote the blog posts to show how they contributed to a good cause.

2. Design these icons around the existing style attributes on your site so that the icons appear more natural next to everything else.

3. Monitor the number of times your blogs are shared to study how much your website visitors like your site’s content. This can also help you to understand your visitors’ social media preferences – for example, you can see if they use Facebook vs. Twitter more for sharing and then determine which channel might be most useful for you to focus your social media efforts on.

Cost? $10 / year for use on one site. License keys need to be renewed after a year but you get 25% off the second time around.

If you need help designing a WordPress site, setting up your plugins, or even just choosing the right options for your nonprofit, reach out to ArcStone and we will connect you with our developers and designers.

Review of Google Apps for Nonprofits – Free Tools for Nonprofits

Google can aid in numerous ways, especially with its free tools for nonprofits. Below we attached some blogs to point you to all the ways Google works for nonprofits as well as how you can get your accounts set up, following best practices.

1. Google Apps: Google Apps for Nonprofits

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2. Google Ad Grants –  Not Fully Utilizing your Google Grant? Your Nonprofit is Missing Out

3. Google AdWords – Nonprofits AdWords Case Study and Google AdWords for Nonprofits: Best Practices

4. Google Analytics – Setup & Best Practices

5. YouTube – YouTube for Nonprofits – What Makes Video a Marketing Must

Our recent post, Google for Nonprofits is Here: Setup Guide also walks you through setting up an account with perks exclusive to your nonprofit. There are so many free tools for nonprofits, don’t miss out!