Did you try something new in 2015? Did you test a new software or service, a productivity technique or an emerging social network? Did you experiment on a big picture level, with a new marketing strategy or channel?

I started this conversation with a group of smart nonprofit communicators and asked them to share their experiences for the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Here’s the specific question I posed:

What was one thing you tested in 2015 and what did you learn from the test?

And here are their answers:

Todoist productivity app

“This year I experimented with the productivity app Todoist. I swear by keeping lists and have tried other to do list apps like in the past but they never stuck. Until Todoist. You can create different projects and sub-projects, assign tasks and deadlines and, my favourite, you can colour code things. It’s also easy to push tasks if (and when!) the day gets away from me.

My productivity has skyrocketed since using the app, which is great because it’s allowed me the opportunity to take on more projects, like contributing to this great community! I’m happy Todoist came to me in 2015, and have high hopes for us in 2016.”

Meg Shannon, Membership and Communications Manager
Professional Association of Canadian Theatres

Tableau data visualization software

“I discovered that Tableau offers a very low cost version of their product to non-profits through Tableau Foundation. This software is really terrific to take all that data you collect and turn it into striking graphs. This makes it so much easier to tell your story with a compelling visual.

For the most part, it is a very intuitive software that is easy to manipulate. It is smart enough to look at the data you’re using, i.e. location, sales, customer information, and adjust the design to best present your information and with just a click of a button you can look at a different layout.

As is always the case, the information that you get out is only as good as the data that you put into the system, but when you have solid data, this can be a helpful tool to illustrate your point to your board, funders, or other staff members.”

-Seneca Garber, Director Of Marketing
Seattle Chamber Music Society

Facebook advertising

“Social media channels are increasingly becoming “rented” space for brands. You have to start investing money to get your content seen. In 2015, Evergreen tested Facebook advertising as part of our marketing communications plan to sell tickets for our annual fundraiser. I wanted to try it because it’s kind of a no-brainer: highly targeted, testable and scalable. (What’s not to like…aside from having to pay for your fans to see your content.)

It was a successful test because we could identify a very specific audience who we wanted to connect with and it drove traffic to our website. We also made some adjustments to our audience targeting between our first and second advertising flights, based on what we learned, which helped improve results with the second flight. I think it’s Facebook advertising is a good option for not-for-profits for the reasons I mentioned. Make sure you go in with a clear objective and know who you want to target.”

Blair Smith, Marketing Manager
Evergreen Canada

In-the-moment learning from colleagues

“This year I made a point of learning from my colleagues through small, in-the-moment, opportunities. Everyone seems to have their own little program shortcut, hack, or hidden gem within a tool or piece of software they use often. When I’m working alongside someone and notice they access a feature I don’t know about, I make a point to ask about it. Often times it’s really handy and something I wouldn’t have found on my own.

I learn big things from my colleagues all the time, but found all the little tips and tricks incredibly effective too, making my own work easier in the process.”

-Angela de Burger, Manager, Communications
YMCA Canada

Online engagement calendar

“In 2015, I decided to tackle online engagement in an organized (but always strategic) manner. It’s easy to decide that an online strategy is to build relationships, but maintaining those relationships can be very challenging due to daily priorities and information overload.

I used a simple excel document to create an “engagement calendar”. It listed current and potential partners, their Twitter handles, and the days of the week. Daily, I identified which partners hadn’t been engaged lately, and reviewed their recent online activity for content that we could like, comment on, or share. Once engaged, I’d move on to the next batch of partners on the list for the next day. I think the engagement calendar has saved me a lot of time, energy and most importantly, my sanity, since the more you grow online, you potentially have more friends and followers to engage!”

Talya Rotem, Digital Community Manager

Now over to you: what did you test in 2015? And what did you learn from that test? Please share in the comments!

Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira