The Tech Savvy Nonprofit

By Gretchen DeVault

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The Tech Savvy Nonprofit podcast explores digital communications in the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors. We’re tech-savvy marketers with deep roots in the charitable sector. As a nonprofit or a foundation, your mission is to serve others. We’re here to explore and share ways technology and digital marketing can help your organization have greater impact.

Episode Date
EP8: Ask Zane - Updating Those Pesky WordPress Plugins

In this episode, we're talking with Zane DeVault, lead developer at co-founder of Tiny Blue Sky about updating WordPress plugins. Zane explains why plugins need to be updated regularly on WordPress websites, what to do if something goes wrong during the update, the importance of backing up your website and some overall website maintenance best practices.

What is a WordPress plugin?

If you currently have a WordPress site, you might know that some of its functionality is made possible by plugins. A plugin is a bit of software that can be added to your site to do a thing that your site couldn't do before. For instance, let's say you want to have an online store but your current site doesn't include ecommerce. A plugin can be added to your site, and voila, you're in business.

How to choose a plugin?

There are currently 54,737 plugins available to extend your website experience. And that number is growing all the time. So how do you know which one to chose?

Zane recommends starting within your current site. On your WordPress Dashboard, hover over Plugins and select Add New. The plugins here have been vetted by WordPress. From there, look for Plugins that have been installed on lots of other sites and check for high ratings.

Updating plugins: when, why and how

Like most software, plugins require updates from time-to-time to keep them secure and working as they were intended. You should update your plugins—it's a good thing.

Before you update, back up your site and your database. Not sure how? Check with your host (Zane recommends WPEngine and Flywheel. At Tiny Blue Sky, we use WPEngine and love that it automatically backs up our site daily). If your host doesn't make backing up easy for you, there are plugins that can help. Zane references Backup Buddy, Updraft, VaultPress and Duplicator.

Once your site is backed up, update the plugins and then give your site a quick once over to ensure everything is in working order. If for some reason something isn't working properly, pat yourself on the back for having a back up. Contact your host or developer and ask them to help you restore your site.

Zane recommends updating your plugins every week. This ensures you won't miss a security update, unintentionally making your site vulnerable to an attack. 

What happens if you don’t update your plugins?

There's a chance that nothing will happen. That said, you're also leaving your site open to the possibility of an attack. If you're hacked you're site could go down or become associated spam activity, which will negatively impact your Google search results.

Have something to ask Zane?

If you have a question for Zane. let us know. We may use it in a future episode of the Tech Savvy Nonprofit Podcast. Send your question to

Mar 20, 2019
EP7: House Party Fundraising with Christie Perdue

In this episode, we're joined by special guest Christie Perdue the powerhouse behind CP Consulting, a fundraising, marketing, and strategic development firm based in Michigan. Christie shares with us one of her favorite donor development tools—a house party! While this is a high-touch activity, we also explore the ways technology and digital marketing can help get the party started and keep it going.

What is a donor house party?

As Christie describes, a donor house party is an intimate gathering of current and prospective donors held in a home setting. This is a volunteer driven activity, meaning the host will lead decisions and manage the details including invitation list, food and beverage menu, and invitations and RSVPs. Guests are typically close friends of the host. Ideally, there will be 10-20 party attendees.

Guests attend the house party to learn more about the nonprofit organization, its future goals, and ultimately they are asked to support the organization by making a gift. The event should last 2 hours or less with a brief "presentation" from the nonprofit lasting 15 to 30 minutes. It's mostly a time for mingling, having fun and asking questions about the cause.

5 tips for a successful house party

(1) Find a passionate host. Not everyone immediately thinks of themselves as a possible host, so try and plant the idea with a current donor, board or committee member who might be a stellar candidate (well connected, has already given, not afraid to open their home, etc).

(2) Be really thoughtful with the invite list. Work with the host to create a list of people who know each other, might want to know each other, sprinkle in a current donor or two and include good prospects.

(3) Be clear that there will be an ask. This is a fundraising activity, so don’t shy away from this on the invite or even when planning with the host. Make it clear that the goal is to inform and ask for support.

(4) Follow up. Send thank yous from the host and the organization. The organization should send follow up communications a gift or pledge card included.

(5) Allow past hosts to help recruit new hosts. Many hosts are super excited about their event and the results. They are eager to share the experience and can be great mentors for your next house party host.

How can technology support your house party?

  • Depending on the guests, print invitations may not be necessary. An email invitation (note: NOT a Facebook event invitation) can be used instead.
  • Build excitement and curiosity by sharing photos from the event on social media.
  • Send follow up emails.
  • Need help with quick graphics? Try Canva.


CP House Party Toolkit

Download the CP House Party Toolkit

Mar 14, 2019
EP6: Using an Editorial Calendar for Thoughtful Content Planning (plus editorial calendar templates)

In this episode, we make the case for using an editorial calendar for content planning. It might take a little time on the front end, but it will be well worth your efforts. Having an editorial calendar will allow you to manage your communication flow, help you feel organized and most importantly, it will produce results.

Being an effective communicator requires good planning. No one wants to work in constant reaction mode. It's exhausting and it also leaves too much room for error and missing strategic opportunities.

What is an Editorial Calendar?

An editorial calendar is a planning document that lays out what you will communicate, when, where, and how. It can also include who is in charge of creating content to keep you and your team organized.

As you begin to fill in your editorial calendar, you will begin to see months that are heavy with content and months that are lighter. You can use this info to make adjustments to ensure consistency in your communication. You don't want to bombard people one month and then go silent for the entire next quarter. Rather you want to plan even and consistent touch points that increase awareness and strengthen relationships. 

Build Your Editorial Calendar on a Good Foundation

You should build your editorial calendar on a strong foundation. Before you begin, be sure to have clearly identified and defined:

  • Your target audiences—All this content you're creating and organizing...who is it for? Identify all of your target audiences so you can be sure you are creating the content they need on a regular basis.
  • Your communication goals and objectives—Why are you creating content in the first place? What is it meant to accomplish? Are you growing awareness? Changing attitudes? Inspiring action? Get clear on this so your content works for you.
  • Upcoming dates, events and holidays relevant to your organization—When is your organization's annual meeting or key fundraising event? Are you making a splash for Giving Tuesday this year? Are their other national holidays that relate to your work where you can contribute to the regional and national conversation? You don't want to be a community foundation that misses the opportunity to celebrate Community Foundation Week or National Philanthropy Day

Create the Right Editorial Calendar for Your Organization

An editorial calendar is not a one size fits all tool. It really depends on your needs and the size of your team. Begin by considering the level of detail that will be most useful to you as you implement the content on the calendar. There are a range of options—from a few columns on a spreadsheet to something quite robust with multiple tabs or sheets for each communication channel you use.

We are all about helpful tools that make your life easier. We've provided access to two templates below to get you started.

What Might Be Included on Your Editorial Calendar

For a basic editorial calendar you will likely include the following elements:

  • Publish date
  • Medium/communication channel (blog, podcast, email, social, etc.)
  • Topic
  • Audience
  • Assets (photos, videos, logos)
  • Related links
  • Call to action
  • Lead
  • Keywords
  • Hashtags
  • Status/completed checkboxes
  • Notes

You can add extra value by adding columns for your results right in this spreadsheet. Tracking takes time, but it also allows you to see what’s working and report your successes to your leadership and board more easily.

Items you might track include:

  • Press results with links
  • Email opens and clicks on links
  • Number of social likes, shares, comments

We like to add a separate tab or sheet for additional content topics. You can do a brain dump on this sheet of all the potential topics, ideas, donor/grantee/client stories you might want to share during the year. This acts as a holding place until they are scheduled. It’s always nice to have some evergreen stories you can use during slow times.

If you have a team dedicated to creating and managing content, you may need a more robust editorial calendar that provides separate tabs or sheets for each medium with a greater level of detail. These can all feed into a content overview sheet to help you manage activity.

Tools We Recommend for Editorial Calendars

  • Airtable (our templates use Airtable)
  • Google Sheets
  • Excel


Check out our templates to get started today: Basic Editorial Calendar for Nonprofits & Foundations or Complete Editorial Calendar for Nonprofits & Foundations.

Have a question or need help getting started? Let's talk!

Mar 06, 2019
EP5: Unlocking the Mystery of SEO

In this episode we unpack what SEO is and how you can use SEO efforts to drive more traffic (and more of the right traffic) to your nonprofit or foundation website! What is this mysterious SEO and why does it matter for nonprofit organizations and foundations? SEO feels a little like the great and powerful Wizard of Oz -- everything happens behind the curtain and the Wizard claims he can somehow get your website to show up first on Google. And just like the Wizard of Oz, when you pull back the curtain, you’ll find the Wizard isn’t who you thought he was. And in the end, with time, a commitment and ongoing efforts, your organization can find its own way into getting more organic traffic from SEO efforts.

Because many businesses and nonprofits got duped by shady SEO companies who happily took their monthly checks but didn’t ever share what SEO efforts they were actually doing each month, many organizations are now rightfully hesitant when it comes to SEO. But here’s the thing, optimizing for SEO does not have to be so mysterious.  

What is SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimization.” Basically, SEO is the process of getting traffic to your website from the “free” search results on search engines like Google and Bing.  Obviously, every nonprofit organization, foundation and business wants to be found easily on search (if not at the top of the first page). But there is alot of competition, so search engines like Google have to figure out which websites show up at the top. At the end of the day, Google’s reputation is based on quality search results so their algorithm that defines who shows up in what order is all about quality. So, if everyone wants their website to show up first, how do you get to the top?

Why does SEO matter for nonprofits or foundations?

  • Nonprofits and foundations generally rely on organic search for the bulk of their website traffic
  • It’s important for organizations to make sure they are driving traffic (and the right traffic) to their site
  • Organizations need to make it easy for search engines like Google to crawl their sites and find the right keywords
  • Meta Descriptions should be written in a way that includes the right keywords BUT also gets the audience to click on the link to your website.

How websites are ranked:

  • You’ve probably heard the term algorithm when talking about Google. Basically Google figures out rankings based on a complex mathematical model which is called an Algorithm. This algorithm takes into account hundreds of factors when determining the ranking for any keyword. Google does not share what goes into the algorithm, but the practice of SEO has helped us make an educated guess on what many of those factors are:
    • Content that matches a search (keywords)
    • Content that is optimized on the site (keywords and meta descriptions created for each page) - keyword should be in the page name and headlines as well as within the content itself.
    • A site that generates content on a regular basis (blogging)
    • Secure site (does your site have an SSL)
    • A fast loading website (check your page speed including mobile)
    • Mobile-first site
    • Domain age and domain authority (Moz score between 1-100)
    • User experience
      • Click through rate on Google
      • Bounce rate - if people are leaving your site at a high rate it could affect your rankings
      • How long people stay on your site
    • Links (particularly on other sites that link to yours but also on your site)
    • Business listings on search engines (Google business page, Bing, Yahoo, etc.)
    • Social signals - shares on social media

How to improve your SEO efforts

  • YOAST - First of all, if you have a WordPress website, if you don’t already have it, download the Yoast plugin. There is a free one and a paid version.
  • MOZ - If you have it in the budget, we’d recommend tracking your rankings in Moz. Your report also gives you insights each week for improving your site’s performance which effects your ranking.
  • Check your site speed!
  • Make sure all of your pages have designated keywords, and more importantly well-written meta descriptions. You really need to understand how your audience is looking for you.
  • Make sure your H1s, H2s, H3s etc are set up based on hierarchy of content not just for design purposes!
  • Here’s one that is all too often overlooked! The “alt tags” in your images should include keywords (needs to be authentic).
  • Create relevant content on an ongoing basis (especially using keywords) - think blog posts and resources here!

Resources - Beginner’s Guide to SEO - Yoast Must Reads for SEO

Google’s page speed test:

Find your domain authority:

Feb 16, 2019
EP4: Google Analytics for Nonprofits

On this episode we talk about how you can use your Google Analytics to inform your decision making and improve your nonprofit or foundation website.

About Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that can help you analyze your nonprofit's website traffic. First of all, you’re going to want to see if you have Google Analytics set up on your website. Does your current site have a Google Analytics installed? See resources below for tools to check your site if you’re not sure.

Overview data you should be tracking (Audience > Overview)

  • Traffic (how many visitors per month)
  • How long do they stay on your site?
  • How high is your bounce rate?
  • How many pages do they visit?

More info about your audience

  • You can see if the traffic you are getting is from the geographic area that your nonprofit or foundation is serving (Audience > Geo > Location)
  • Languages your audience is using (Audience > Geo > Language)
  • Whether your audience is using mobile versus desktop versus table. If your audience is primarily coming to you via mobile, how friendly is your mobile experience? (Audiences > Mobile > Overview)

How are your visitors getting to your site? (Acquisition > Overview)

  • Organic - they find you from search (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc)
  • Referral - they get to your site from a link on another website
  • Direct traffic - they type in the URL or have bookmarked a page (or their computer browser remembers the page)
  • Social media traffic - coming from social media
  • Email traffic - coming from email marketing
  • Your traffic should be a nice mix. This is an area you can work on each month to increase certain areas.

Content!! (Behavior > Site Content)

  • What content on your site gets the most visits? In order to see trends, you’ll need to have pages broken down by individual types of content. For example, if you list all of your programs on one page, you won’t be able to see what programs are getting the most interest. This is where having built a site with data in mind helps immensely
  • Are there trends? Can you create additional content around these trends that provide additional valuable information to your audiences.
  • Are there any opportunities to add resources or types of programming to your site?

Take Action:

  • Make sure Google Analytics is installed on your site and if not, do so immediately.
  • Pull Google Analytics reports on a monthly basis and take the time to review the data
  • Look for patterns and start making incremental improvements to your nonprofit’s website


SEOSite Test

Monster Insights - Google Analytics

Getting Started with Google Analytics

Feb 16, 2019
EP3: Making the Case for Email Marketing for Nonprofits and Foundations

On this episode, we make the case for email marketing for nonprofits and foundations. Email marketing is one of the best ways to connect directly with your audience. It’s extremely cost effective and it’s measurable! Forget the print newsletters or print event invitations (except in some cases, of course) and consider email marketing!

Email marketing is a direct line to your audience

  • Social media is less effective
  • Direct mail gets thrown in the trash

Email marketing is more cost effective

  • Is print worth the money?
    • Print: design + writing + printing + mailing service + postage = how much in donations?
    • Email: initial design template + writing = how much in donations?
  • Easy to segment your lists
  • Easy to update your email template (versus print changes)

Email marketing provides valuable analytics

  • There is so much you can track in email including:
    • Open rate
    • Clicks through
    • Time of day
    • Who exactly opened it
    • Number of unsubscribes and who unsubscribed
  • Use this data to make decisions about what content works and how often to send. This is an ongoing process.

Email marketing helps build a case for support

Think of your email efforts as building a case for support for your nonprofit or foundation on an ongoing basis. Think of email as starting a dialogue.


Cadence + Consistency

  • Create a cadence for email content
    • Example: Story > Program > Ask > Story
    • Keep your emails short. Do not make me scroll. Think one topic per email. IMAGE > A COUPLE PARAGRAPHS > CALL TO ACTION. This way you can test the content of the email too.
    • If you do go the route of email newsletter, it needs to be professionally designed, otherwise it can be visually overwhelming.
  • Create an editorial calendar
    • Process is everything. Planning and managing your content will help you run like a well-oiled machine.
  • Be consistent and get those emails out on a regular basis
  • Figure out how many emails per month you should send out. There is a fine line between engaging and overwhelming. You may need to test out frequency.

Grow Your List

Collect emails at events, on your website, wherever your nonprofit organization or foundation is represented.

Tool Recommendations:

Feb 12, 2019
EP2: Online tools your nonprofit or foundation should be using

In this episode of the Tech Savvy Nonprofit, we dive into digital marketing and online tools that nonprofits and foundations should be using.  


Most nonprofits at the very least have a website. But the big piece that’s often lacking here is a good website OR not utilizing your website as a tool on an ongoing basis rather than as a brochure.

Tool Recommendations:

  • WordPress or SquareSpace
  • Yoast for SEO if you have WordPress
  • Google Analytics


The platform(s) depends on your organization. Social media is the place where you can build more community with your cheerleaders. It’s probably not where you’ll find donors, but it is where you can get people to share info about your org.

Tool Recommendations:

  • Sprout Social / Buffer / HootSuite


Email marketing is one of the best ways to connect directly with your audience. It is extremely cost effective and it’s measurable!

Tool Recommendations:

  • MailChimp
  • ActiveCampaign or
  • Should be managing this in AirTable and Asana


As you initiate relationships with people online, you need a place to store and organize that information. Many donor systems integrate with your website, which is great for online giving. They also give donors and other the ability to keep their contact information with you up-to-date.


Process is everything. It really is. You need to plan and manage your content. Don’t just let it happen haphazardly.

Tool Recommendations:

  • AirTable or Google Docs Spreadsheet
  • Asana for project management

The Tech Savvy Nonprofit Podcast is brought to you by Tiny Blue Sky.

Dec 18, 2018
EP1: 5 Musts for Great Nonprofit and Foundation Websites

In this episode, we discuss five essential things that should be part of every nonprofit or foundation’s website.


  • Good Bones


  • Ability to update the site (easy-to-use CMS)
  • Runs smooth and is fast
  • Built mobile-first
  • Google Analytics
  • Optimized for search
  • Security
  1.  The Right Messaging
  • Positioning. Clear and concise (rather than we do a bunch of programs).
  • Avoid the internal jargon.
  • Know your audiences and speak to them
  • What is your story? Make us love you more.
  1. Navigation That is Easy to Follow
  • Don’t overwhelm your audience
  • If you have to direct people as to where to find things on your website, you have a navigation issue.
  • Don’t structure your menu like you structure your organization. Your audience doesn’t think in the terms you do.
  • Think like your audience!! How would they be looking for content?
  1.  Professional Design that Reflects Your Organization
  • Just because you are a nonprofit doesn’t mean your site should look outdate.
  • Part of design should be user experience.
  • Hire a professional.
  • Does the website reflect the experience a client/volunteer/member/potential donor has in person? It should!
  1. Grows your impact
  • Websites are often forgotten about, but they are working for your org 24/7
  • Your website is not a flyer or business card
  • What organizational goals do you have tied to your website?
  • The content (messaging and imagery) makes the audience want to engage with your organization, whether it is via volunteering, donating or spreading the word
  • How are you making the case for your organization on an on-going basis?

The Tech Savvy Nonprofit is brought to you by Tiny Blue Sky.

Dec 18, 2018