Running a nonprofit is no easy task, and making sure you’re getting bang for your buck, running efficiently, and marketing effectively is all essential to meeting your mission.
At IPaintMyMind, a Chicago-based nonprofit, we’ve really embraced a spirit of testing and iterating that has helped us gravitate toward better solutions for our organization.
Whether it’s project management tools, creative shortcuts, targeted strategy, streamlined communication, or relationship building, it’s imperative that as small nonprofits arts organizations that we’re being creative in running our organizations in addition to supporting creative missions.
Art nonprofits often have the added dilemma of being asked to work for free. Since many nonprofit programs have typically been funded through grants and donations, a bias has been cemented in the sector which limits our ability to sustainably fund our work, and which minimizes properly telling our story in favor of putting our heads down and doing “the work.”
That said, streamlining processes and doing more with less frees up time to focus on honing messaging, storytelling, and relationship building, which are always sure ways to expand your reach and connect with people who believe what you believe, and want to make the world a better place via your work.
As one of many incredible arts nonprofits in Chicago, we’ve benefited a ton from witnessing others growth and learning. We’ve also been excited to contribute thought leadership around funding strategies while adopting an inherently entrepreneurial approach that has been made possible in large part by implementing practical systems, making use of resources made available to nonprofits, and retaining a beginner’s mind to keep us fresh.
1. Canva (FREE + upgrades): a great graphic design tool that is simpler and more straight-forward than Photoshop. Allows for greater variance in skill level, includes templates, and helps more folks on your team contribute to graphic design needs in a pinch.
2. Google Ads (Grant Based): use up to $120,000 in Google Ads’ money to drive traffic to your website. We have used this for years and only recently got adept at optimizing it. While the grant is fairly easy to get, know that you will need a Google Ads expert to manage and optimize the account to see any results. You’ll also need a rad website if you hope to convert any of that traffic.
3. PowerMap (FREE+ upgrades): a great organization mapping tool that gives insight into your organization and others by offering org charts for larger organizations but also serving as a tool t map your own organization internally.
4. LinkedIn (FREE + upgrades): for B2B-driven nonprofit art organizations, LinkedIn is a must. Publishing content, connecting with other professionals, and even placing paid ads on the platform is a very targeted way to connect with your ideal partners.
5. Instagram (FREE + paid advertising): if you’re not using Instagram for your nonprofit organization in an effective way by now, ooooiiieeeee! If you have a mission, a story to tell, a better vision for the future, images and video are the way. Paid ads on Instagram are also underpriced as far as social media advertising goes.
6. Slack (FREE): great for communication within a team. Helps drastically reduce email but also needs some parameters set to be truly useful. We use this for chat but use Trello for actual project management.
7. Box (Paid Subscription): a secure backup filing system for your financial records. Not the fun stuff, but super helpful, especially for your accountant.
8. Loom (FREE): a video capture tool that allows team members to share screens, indicate issues, bugs, fixes, or even just to show where that pesky file is hiding in Google Drive.
Taking stock of your tools will reveal what needs adjusting when it comes to your systems. The bottom line is that better systems help you do more with less, meaning your impact is greater and your sustainability is real.
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