The best communications tools for nonprofits — internal and external

Without proper communication, nothing would get done. Take it from your peers: A 2011 report by David Grossman, “The Cost of Poor Communications,” revealed that a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average annual loss per company of $62.4 million due to inadequate communications. Workplaces need internal communication to successfully complete projects, and nonprofits need external communication to drive impact. As communities expand, more organizations go remote, and internet use skyrockets, it can be hard to make sure everyone is on the same page. Thankfully, there are communication tools to help you keep your teammates, stakeholders, and constituents in the loop.
While you’re bookmarking this list of communications skills for the IRL workplace, go ahead and bookmark this list of internal and external digital communication tools for nonprofits.
 

Internal

Slack

What it is: An easy-to-use, real-time messenger tool with file sharing and search functionality to keep track of past notes.
Why we love it: It’s free, and integrates with other tools like Google Drive, MailChimp, Zapier, and Dropbox. You can set up different channels and workspaces for different teams, departments, or campaigns to streamline communications. Plus, gifs and emojis keep it fun.
 

Asana

What it is: A project management tool that allows you to create different projects, tasks, and subtasks within those projects.
Why we love it: Full disclosure, it’s our project management system. We love that we can add notes on each project to give a status update, comment on individual tasks, and add tags to keep track of what projects are blocked and what are #WhaledIts. You can also create subtasks, mark tasks as dependent on the completion of other tasks, and set up team conversations.
 

Google Hangouts

What it is: Google’s instant messaging service, formerly known as Gchat.
Why we love it: It’s Google, so you know it’s good. If your organization is using Google for email, its an easy option that requires no setup. Plus, if you need to chat face-to-face, you can also use Hangouts for video calls.
 

Trello

What it is: A project management tool designed around boards and lists, Trello is geared towards collaborative project management and integrates with a number of third-party tools like Slack, Dropbox, and Evernote.
Why we love it: Visually-oriented people, rejoice: Trello is more centered on the board format, with each board represented a different phase of a project. For example, for a content marketing project, you could have boards for planning, writing, editing, and publishing. This allows you to easily track progress in a linear fashion and keep notes in one place.
 

Basecamp

What it is: Another project management tool (we are superfans, clearly) that compiles your to-dos, communications, schedules, and files into one central hub.
Why we love it: Our favorite parts of Basecamp are the message board for announcements, the “Campfire” for quick casual chats, and the automatic check-ins to get insights from the team on a regularly scheduled basis. Less email = more productivity.
 

Zoom

What it is: A video conferencing tool that includes instant messenger and webinar capabilities.
Why we love it: Full disclosure again, this is our video conferencing tool. We love that it’s easy to use with a low learning threshold for newbies. You can set up an account for your team, but we also love to use it for client check-ins: Users can get an account for free and access the call through a link. It’s easy to share your screen and record any meetings to share with people who couldn’t make it. Plus, we’d be remiss without Zoom’s webinar tool (and data!) for our WWULive events.
 

GoToMeeting

What it is: Another great conferencing tool that includes instant messenger and webinar capabilities.
Why we love it: GoToMeeting is compatible with Microsoft Office, in addition to other email and instant messenger tools for easy-to-launch meetings. For anyone without a computer, or with wonky sound, there’s always a toll-free call option. Like Zoom, you can use voice calls or video calls, schedule meetings ahead of time, and set up webinars.
 

UberConference

What it is: A free conference call tool that focuses on the people. You never need a pin and it pulls in the available social photo for each attendee.
Why we love it: Uber is a great option for quick phone calls, especially on the go. Their mobile app is very easy to use, and if you have low reception but strong wifi, you can also call through your computer. Also, their hold music is iconic (though you can also upload your own if you really wanted to).
 

External

MailChimp

What it is: An email marketing service, initially built for small businesses but growing rapidly. You can now use MailChimp to set up pop-ups, landing pages, and even Facebook ads. It also has a free option if you are just starting out.
Why we love it: Drag-and-drop design so you never have to code, A/B testing, a plugin for WordPress sites, integrations with Google Analytics, Salesforce, and Facebook, plus a nonprofit discount… what’s not to love?
 

Campaign Monitor

What it is: Another email marketing service with a Google Analytics integration, A/B testing, and a base of just $5 per send plus $0.01 (AUD) for each email it’s sent out to.
Why we love it: Like Trello, this tool is for the visually-oriented: It has greater design capabilities than many of its competitors and uses a calendar format for a clean view of your beautiful campaigns.
 

Pardot

What it is: Salesforce’s in-house email marketing tool by Salesforce.
Why we love it: As a part of the Salesforce family, the sync is lightning fast and creepy good; you can get a lot of data on your subscriber’s behavior to inform your strategy. Lots of data, and we love data. It also has advanced automation, personalization options, and integrates with your website to get data on users from how they interact with your site, dynamic content. Plus, A/B testing, and lead scoring. One note: Since Pardot is essentially the Delorean of email tools, we recommend care when setting it up so that you’re prepared for when it hits 88 miles per hour.
 

SMS services

What they are: Texting! Roughly 90% of cell phones in the U.S. have unlimited texting and 97% of U.S. adults text (Pew Research, 2015 SMS stats).
Why we love them: We love SMS because it’s a channel that people actually open and respond on more than ANY other messaging platform. Picture it: a 99% open rate. It can be yours! Also, text is a great way to reach younger audiences. You can check out our full list of low-cost SMS and text messaging tools for nonprofits here.
 

Social Media

What it is: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat. 81% of U.S. Americans have a social profile, and that number continues to grow.
Why we love it: Easy to use, real-time communications with your followers. On social media, you also get to have more fun and test out different messaging tactics. For tips on how to optimize your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram accounts, check out our free Ultimate Nonprofit Guide to Social Media.
 
Keep talking, keep collaborating, and keep driving impact. Do you have a favorite communication tool? Communicate it to us by tweeting @WholeWhale.