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Tech Tips: Canva for Nonprofits

Responsible for your organization's communications and marketing? Chances are, you don't have access to expensive design software. Whether you need to design a holiday e-card for your donors, or a social media graphic, Canva, a free online graphic design platform, can help make your job easier. If you haven't heard of Canva, you're missing out! Here are our favorite things about Canva:

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Amazing Raise 2015 Video Contest Winners!

The Amazing Raise is almost underway!  The event was designed to shine a light on the many nonprofit organizations that enhance the quality of life in our region and the role of philanthropy in supporting their important work. Not only is the Amazing Raise a 36-hour online giving event, but many grant prizes are being awarded before and after to nonprofits through various contests, including video contests!  Organizations were encouraged to use viral marketing to promote who they are, what they do, and how individuals can help them achieve their mission through The Amazing Raise 2015.  Liz Lungut, Manager of ConnectVA had the honor of being a judge of the Spirit of Giving Video Prize.

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News from the Community: ConnectVA Feedback on VCU Social Media Projects for Nonprofits

vcu sm presentations twitter

Last week, ConnectVA had the honor of being a guest judge for the VCU Social Media Institute, which combines undergraduate and graduate students from Virginia Commonwealth University with college students from Iraq in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program for a one-of-a-kind social media project.

Over a four-week period, the students develop and implement social media projects for nonprofit organizations in Richmond, Virginia.

We gave feedback on the first round of Social Media Strategy Presentations for the following local nonprofits:

RVA Music School and Outreach
Sabot at Stony Point
GReat Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP)
Youth Life Foundation of Richmond
Dress for Success Central Virginia
Connor’s Heroes Foundation
Beds for Kids, Inc.
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Virginia Center for Health Innovation
College Behavioral and Emotional Health Initiative (COBE)
VCU College of Humanities and Sciences

We saw many great social media strategies in the works – great campaigns with smart hashtags, video projects, new media being incorporated and ways to help the nonprofits get organized when implementing!

(BONUS: we created this handy ConnectVA Guide to Social Media Best Practices 2015 for the students and YOU)

Here are some key takeaways, trends and recommendations we had for the presentations:

1. Get Organized!

No matter how large or small the organization – the biggest challenge for all of the organizations is dedicated staff time for an online presence and social media!  Many nonprofits are enlisting the help of volunteers, fellows, interns and splitting staff responsibilities in preparation for their strategy.  Here are some ways we suggested to get organized when planning your social media strategy:

  • Make decisions for tools, time and priorities based on your Nonprofit’s Social Media Audience
  • Many nonprofits said that they wanted to “engage the community” or wanted awareness through social media, when in-fact they wanted something more concrete, i.e. donations, volunteers or a direct advocacy action – have specific goals when crafting your plan, beyond Facebook “likes” or follows on twitter and create a Social Media ROI Spreadsheet to track and report success.
  • Create an Editorial Calendar for shared responsibility and planning purposes
  • Have a solid action plan and content strategy for your year plan or campaign
  • Create a budget based on your strategy

2. Prioritize Your Website

Make sure your online presence has a solid foundation, starting with your website.

  • The nonprofits were all in different stages in their life cycle; some were just starting out with their web presence – it’s important when planning to prioritize your website and its design first to enable trust in your supporters, funders and volunteers
  • Prioritize a responsively designed website – look at your site on different devices, what’s the experience like?
  • Make sure your donation process is as easy as possible; test it yourself as an outsider would – ON YOUR PHONE OR TABLET!

3. Blogging

  • Most of the nonprofits didn’t have a blog, but have wonderful stories, advice and information to share with the community; blogging is an easy way to:
    • get a refreshed message out
    • increase your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google prioritizes websites with new content
    • create content for your e-newsletter and social media posts

4. E-newsletter

  • Many of the nonprofits needed to reprioritize their e-newsletter in their social media campaigns, as studies show that more online donations are made from a click in an e-newsletter than any other source
  • Because your supporters are more likely to get your message through an e-newsletter, have strong calls to action – i.e. sign a petition or solicit volunteers (also, make sure to leverage the power of HandsOn Greater Richmond when looking for volunteers or board members)
  • Prioritize mobile-friendly e-newsletters; 66% of email is now read on mobile devices
  • Regularly remind your supporters that your nonprofit is doing good work and inspire them to get involved; Focus on 1-5 stories and keep text to a minimum

5. Images

  • Many of the nonprofits reported issues of low engagement on social media sites, particularly on Twitter, and many of them also didn’t use images
  • We suggested that they use compelling images more frequently with free tools like Canva and Picmonkey

Overall, the presentations were great and we are so excited to see these plans come to life!  We put together this Guide based on advice from Nonprofit Tech for Good on creating a solid Social Media Strategy, check it out: ConnectVA Guide to Social Media Best Practices 2015

We will be reporting next week on the students and the nonprofits who win the contest at VCU – so, stay tuned!

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Tech Tips: 6 Social Media & Fundraising Reports


At ConnectVA, we love compiling resources and sharing best practices – simplifying the process and search for you, so you can focus on mission!

Here are 6 great reports from the past year that could help in your decision making in social media and fundraising!  If you’re looking for local agency reports, check out ConnectVA Community Vital Signs or check out our Resource Library, powered by 4Good where you can find recorded webinars, reports and studies on a multitude of nonprofit topics!

1) Giving USA 2015 Highlights Report – the free version of key takeaways from the annual study compiled by The Giving Institute.

2) Diversity in Giving Study – this report released by Blackbaud analyzes the differences in donor priorities, values, and habits across ethnic or racial subgroups. By understanding each group’s giving attitudes and preferences, this study serves as a strong foundation to guide your organization toward a more inclusive—and effective—fundraising approach.

3) 2015 Millennial Impact Report – multiple reports and webinars on Millennials and their desire to do good, reported by the Millennial Impact Project.

4) Nonprofit Benchmarks Study 2015 – the 2015 M+R Benchmarks Study is this year’s guide to nonprofit industry standards for online fundraising, advocacy, and list building.

5) 2015 Donor Engagement Study – this study by Abila studies 1) what matters most to donors? 2) how can nonprofit professionals be better communicators? 3) what makes donors feel involved and engaged?

6) 2015 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report – just as the title states, this report released by Kivi Leroux Miller with nonprofitmarketingguide.com dives into trends for 2015, as reported by nonprofit communicators themselves.


How have you used data and reports to guide and direct your social media and/or fundraising efforts? Let us know!  Sign in and comment below!

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Technology Spotlight: And The Winner Is…..

SeniorNavigator is the WINNER of ConnectVA’s Innovation in Community Impact Award offered in collaboration with RichTech, awarded on May 13th at their 20th annual RichTech Gala. Learn how their Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving partnered with local college students to devise innovative technology solutions to advance caregiver health and wellness!

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Spotlighting Technology: Community Innovation Award

For the second year, in partnership with RichTech, the Richmond Technology Council, ConnectVA will present a dedicated technology impact award at RichTech's 20th Annual Technology Awards Gala on May 15, 2015. The Community Impact Award spotlights a nonprofit or civic organization in Central Virginia that displays the most innovative use(s) of technology to deliver services, advance…

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Find Funding: $500k Robins Foundation Community Innovation Grant

The Robins Foundation announced an unprecedented grant opportunity that challenges Richmond-area nonprofit organizations to devise creative and collaborative solutions to the region?s most confounding issues.  In keeping with the size of the new grant ? upwards of $500,000 ? organizations are encouraged to think BIG.  The inaugural Lora M. and E. Claiborne Robins, Sr. Community…

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Tech Roundup: Quick Tips for Social Media part III

Quick Tips for Social Media blog post series part three (see one and two).  In case you missed the recent Nonprofit Tech for Good webinar with Heather Mansfield, 10 Social Media Strategies for NGO's, here are a few quick tips, tools and resources you can use for social media success in ConnectVA's 3-part blog series: 1) Launch a mobile-compatible website: Mobile will…

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