Tools Nonprofits Can Use for Better Communications Through Listening

Recently we suggested some useful tools for better meetings. Today we’ll look at tools that can help nonprofits not only manage the enormous amounts of information communicators deal with every day, but use it to inform communications strategies, messaging and tactics.

Do you have other tools to add to the list? Tweet to @fentonprogress, and tag with #lifehack.





Lisa Witter, Chief Strategy Officer


The great thing about the Internet is that it has expanded and diversified our information sources. The bad thing about the Internet is that it overwhelms us with so many outlets to check in on. How to save time and solve this problem? Netvibes. By aggregating real-time RSS feeds from your favorite sources, Netvibes serves as a personal dashboard of your favorite information sources. So, instead of checking eight Web sites, you can take one look at your dashboard, survey the scene, and drill down on the headlines that seem most interesting or relevant. Before you can check the Internet, make sure you have a good connection. You can learn more about Eatel and their offers here.


Erin Hart, Senior Vice President



We all know that important conversations take place on online, but they usually happen in bits and pieces on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. Storify is a great tool that searches for online comments on a specific subject and gives you the opportunity to create a story based on the real comments, quotes, and images that people have shared.

At you can open a free account and connect it to social media sites, and it’s easy to start a search on a subject. I work to reduce smoking and support smoke-free air policies, and a quick search of “smokefree” found comments from the American Cancer Society, real-life stories from people who don’t want to be around cigarette smoke, and comments urging restaurants to be smoke-free.

And while that’s interesting for me just to get a picture of what people are saying about the issue, it has an even greater impact when you share the stories. I can post the “story” I’ve created on the importance of smoke-free spaces to share with reporters, who can then use the tool to capture people’s thoughts and include them in online and print stories they write. For example, during the mania surrounding the latest Harry Potter film release, the Los Angeles Times used Storify to track fan reactions. Check it out at, and read coverage of its usage at Mashable.

Now go and write your story, and share it for others to read!


Kara Masi, Account Manager, Digital



Whether you’re one person who tweets on behalf of multiple Twitter accounts, an organization with multiple team members tweeting on behalf of the same account, or a little bit of both, CoTweet is great for keeping it all organized. Their Standard Edition tool is free and sets you up with a centralized, easy-to-use dashboard that makes managing day-to-day social media conversations a breeze. Users can assign messages to other team members to follow up on, making sure your followers get responded to in a timely manner. It’s also a very simple way to track all of your lists, searches, and mentions in one place.


Jeremy Morgan, Technical Producer



MailChimp probably has the cutest and friendliest mascot of all the social tools available (it even talks to you when you log in!), but that’s not why MailChimp is on this list. MailChimp has proven to be one of the best and most consistent email marketing tools for experts and novices alike. Don’t know html but want to create a snazzy email? Want to see who opened your email and who deleted it? Need to manage your subscriber list and adhere to laws regulating subscriptions? MailChimp is the answer to these questions and more.

Probably one of my favorite features of MailChimp is its ability to generate screenshots of your email in all the major email clients, mobile devices, and international ISPs so you can make sure it renders the way you want it to. Other cool features include social network integration, mobile apps, third-party integration with other web services, and available APIs for developers. MailChimp is a definite must for any nonprofit looking to communicate with others via email.


Julie Leung, Account Coordinator


When you were in elementary school, gauging sentiment basically meant a hand-passed note with “Do you like me? Check yes or no” scribbled on it. Why should managing NGO-wide surveys be any more difficult than that? is a simple platform that allows you to create everything from satisfaction questionnaires and staff performance reviews to feedback surveys on new logo designs and taglines.

Just piece together your questions and collect the data via email, Facebook, or a link you can share or embed on a site. SurveyMonkey will keep track of all the responses and allow you to easily collate the results. The free plan comes with its limitations, mainly 10 questions per survey and 100 responses per survey, so if you’re thinking in bigger scopes, be prepared to shell out $19.99-$64.99 per month for a premium account.


Eric Antebi, Vice President

Social Mention

Have you ever wanted a way to take the pulse of an issue or topic being discussed in the social media universe? One that didn’t involve technical expertise or a pricey subscription or lots of time? Social Mention is the perfect tool for you. Just enter a word or phrase, and click on search. A minute later you get up-to-the-minute analysis of how that idea is trending. You’ll see how often it is showing up and whether the sentiment is positive or negative. You also get a ranking of top keywords, users, hashtags, and sources. You can even narrow your search to just focus on specific types of social media (e.g. blogs, microblogs, video, etc.). Your results are not as air-tight as they would be with something like Radian 6, but Social Mention is free and easy, and it does a good job of approximating what people are saying about you in real time.