Colin Delaney of ePolitics
and I did a workshop focusing on Online Communications on a Shoestring at the Craigslist Nonprofit Boot Camp
last weekend. It was a good time, and it seemed to go well. I liked the structure we used, which divided up the world of online communications into three parts:
- Website (as a home base)
- Email Communication (to talk to your friends)
- Online Outreach (to reach new friends)
But how should a nonprofit balance those components? It will of course vary based on an organization's mission and goals, but is it possible to come up with a rule of thumb? Should a nonprofit focus a third of their energy and money per year on each component? While I have no specific evidence, a rule of thirds resonates with me.
A website tends to be a bit more of a front-loaded investment, but thinking about it as a yearly expense can help to prioritize. For instance, if you have $30,000 worth of time and money to spend on all your online communications, investing $10,000 in upgrading and maintaining your website makes sense to me.
And then another $10,000 in crafting a solid email communications strategy and putting out solid communications? That seems right, or even low - if there's one area that should get more focus than the rest, I'd say it's probably here.
And then lastly, online outreach - so everything from search engine optimization to viral movies or petitions to social networking. This gets the vast volume of the buzz from the nonprofit technology community, and there's no question it should be part of the mix, but I don't know whether it should get more than a third of your online communications energy. The size and mission of the organization might come into play here - a larger organization that's targeting internet-savvy audiences might find that it's worthwhile to invest much more energy in this area, while just maintaining a website and email communications status quo. But a smaller organization might get better return on focusing first on creating a strong website and email infrastructure, before investing in finding new online friends (after all, it's a good website and email strategy that will help keep your friends, after you find them).
What do you think?