Free tool of the week: Build your nonprofit communications expertise online


There’s never been a more dangerous time for a nonprofit communicator to stop learning than right now. Communication channels, tactics, and tools are undergoing radical transformation. As Alice in Wonderland said, you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in place. The good news is that you can attend class while sitting in your office chair!

With travel budgets squeezed hard, you may not be able to attend professional development conferences this year—but a universe of online education is at your fingertips. Here are a few free ways you can keep up with developments in the field and build your communications expertise. The real challenge is setting aside a few hours a week (Friday afternoons?) to build your expertise and then sticking to it!

Alltop Nonprofit

This site aggregates the best blogs by topic. The Alltop Nonprofit page is a gold mine of the latest advice and news in communications, philanthropy, and social media. You can also search for related pages, like marketing, fundraising, facebook, etc. I defy you not to find something that’s both fascinating and useful.


SlideShare is a visual university, a vast collection of slide presentations by all kinds of experts. If you want to browse you can search for topics like “nonprofit communications” or “social media.” But it’s good  for more specific topics, too–like “nonprofit annual reports” or “fundraising on Twitter.”  You can also search by name–say you want to see all the presentations by Beth Kanter, for instance. (And she’s got some great ones!) With some presentations, you may miss not hearing the audio portion of the talk, but many contain all the information you’ll need on slides. I’m betting some of the presentations from those professional development conferences you can’t travel to anymore will be on SlideShare very soon after the event.

The Communications Network

The Communications Network supports communicators who work in philanthropy, but many of the resources they offer are equally applicable to nonprofits. One of their latest offerings is Are We There Yet? , a communications evaluation guide. Some of the presentations at their SRO fall 2008 conference are available on the site as slide shows or summaries. Their Ideas You Can Use, and Research and Reports are useful, too. And the site includes a trusty Jargon Finder.


The Nonprofit Good Practice Guide website offers a pretty rich section on Marketing and Communications. The SPIN Project site provides a great set of tutorials on communications topics from working with PR consultants to planning strategic communications and developing relationships with reporters. The site also offers a Strategic Communications Plan Generator that allows you to create a full communications plan for your organization or campaign by filling in a simple web-based form. The Getting Attention site offers a free Nonprofit Tagline Report, and MarketingProfs library has some great articles and case studies.

Webinars and Podcasts

There are some wonderful opportunities out there for free webinars and podcasts on nonprofit communications topics–many offered by experts who have blogs. Sometimes you can capture these by doing a search or by reading the latest blog posts on Alltop Nonprofit. For instance, in the past few weeks you might have found: a free webinar about how to write a great elevator pitch on NonprofitMarketingGuide; a series of free webinars on social media and storytelling by NTEN; a regular Chronicle of Philanthropy podcast series called Social Good by Allison Fine on how nonprofits are using social media; and a Chronicle of Philanthropy Live Discussion about social media and raising awareness and funds. Most of these webinars and podcasts are archived, so you can access them even if you missed the live events.

Do searches for specific communications topics you’re interested in, and you might be amazed at what you find!

What other treasure troves of professional development content are out there?


3 Responses to “Free tool of the week: Build your nonprofit communications expertise online”

  1. John Says:

    A great nonprofit educational site I have found is They have fresh content each day. Just sign up to their RSS or email feed and the info flows in. Great practical stuff!

  2. Andrik Cardenas Says:

    Hi Gayle,
    Thanks for mentioning the SPIN Project in your post. I’m honored to know you think of us as a good resource. IMPACTMAX is a long-time staple of my Reader feed. We are currently updating most of our curriculum and tutorials to offer the best possible learning experience and allow nonprofit communications to excel.

    To add to your list of online resources, check out Don Griesmann’s exhaustive post listing dozens of online articles to help any nonprofit communicator:

    His years of experience really shine in this collection of useful links.

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