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A Practical Guide to Automating Your Nonprofit with Zapier and IFTTT

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I recently shared an article about productivity.

In particular, it was about all of the mistakes I made with my own productivity. I spent entirely too much of my life and my career being unproductive because I simply didn’t have the right tools and the right mindset to get more done.

Chances are, you probably feel like you could be more productive, too.

But, the irony is that all of the talk about productivity—and how to be more productive—can actually make you feel worse. It can cripple your work ethic and make you feel inadequate.

So, I wanted to provide a more practical look at productivity and one thing that you can do today to improve your workflow and reduce your amount of busy work. It’s a personal favorite of mine—automation.

Automation rules (pun intended!)

I love automation. As an unabashed nerd, nothing makes me happier than setting up the perfect system that just works and does exactly what it’s supposed to do without any extra time or effort.

That’s why two of my favorite tools are Zapier and IFTTT (If This Then That).

Both of these tools allow you to automate specific actions and sync information from one source to another. It can be a huge boon to time management and productivity.

Automating tedious, time-consuming, and repetitive tasks allows my to clear my plate and focus on more difficult and engaging work. Rather than going through my day checking off boxes, I get to spend my time creating, building, and problem solving.

As a nonprofit, automation can save you both time and money.

One of the great things about simple automation tools like these is that it can provide functionality of expensive, enterprise systems. It can also dramatically reduce the amount of time and money that it takes to integrate systems. Rather than hiring a developer to build a custom integration, you can often just configure these tools to do the heavy lifting.

Crash course on Zapier and IFTTT

Before we jump into the specifics on how to use these tools, I want to give you a quick overview on each one and when it might be most appropriate to use one tool versus the other.

On the surface, IFTTT and Zapier are fairly similar, functionally, but when you start to dig in, you can see that they are really suited for different uses.

(Note: Zapier calls an integration a “Zap”, IFTTT calls them “Applets”.)

Use IFTTT to get started with automation

If you’re looking for a simple intro to automation, the IFTTT is the perfect tool.

First, their visual Applet builder makes it a breeze to create automation rules. You can be up and running within minutes and all you need to do is authorize the IFTTT app on each of the programs that you’re connecting.

Their integration are a bit more consumer focused, and they aren’t quite as well suited for heavy duty business use. But they offer a number of integrations for apps and services that you likely use every day.

IFTTT is free to use—so there’s no reason not to try it out.

Use Zapier to manage the business side of your nonprofit

Zapier is really built to scale. Although it can be used for organizations of all sizes, its most robust features like multi-step Zaps make it incredibly powerful, but also potentially complex.

It offers a huge number of integrations, particularly with business-specific software like CRMs, databases, and web applications. This makes it useful for handling business-specific data, especially.

They have variable rate plans based on usage, but they also offer a free tier to get started and that will work for smaller orgs that just need some basic functionality. However, if you start using Zapier seriously, expect to pay at least $20/month.

Getting started with Zapier and IFTTT for nonprofits

Let’s take the next step from the high-level overview on each of these tools and talk specifics. How can you implement workflows and which tools, specifically, can you sync together to make your life easier?

Both Zapier and IFTTT offer a suite of options and the right setup will ultimately depend on your workflow, your shop, and which software you use.

Creating an Applet with IFTTT

The IFTTT setup process is incredibly simple and intuitive.

Their graphic interface makes it pretty straightforward to understand and configure.

When you go to create a new Applet, it will ask you to first select a program for your “If” statement. Think of this like the trigger—if this happens in a program or app, then I want that other thing to happen somewhere else.

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So, in this example, we’ll start by selecting Twitter as the service that we want to use. Then it will ask us to select a specific action in Twitter than we want to be the trigger for this Applet.

In this case, we’ll say that we want something to happen anytime you post a new tweet with a specific hashtag.

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Once we’ve completed this step, it will take us back to fill in the “that” part of the Applet.

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This process looks basically the same. Although, this time we will be selecting specific actions to take place rather than things to monitor.

Just for fun, let’s have IFTTT send us an email every time one of these tweets appears. I selected Gmail as the service this time and then selected the “Send yourself an email” action from the list.

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Once we configure this Applet, we will receive an email every time there is a new tweet with our special hashtag.

Creating a Zap with Zapier

Similar to the IFTTT process, using Zapier is pretty straightforward.

They have a list of apps that work together and for each app, there are some predefined triggers and actions that can be selected.

So, you’ll begin by selecting the trigger app. This will be the app that initiates a Zap whenever a certain action takes place. For example, if you want to create an entry in Salesforce whenever a Trello card is created on a certain board, you would begin by selecting Trello as your trigger app.

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Then, you'll choose the specific trigger—or activity—that you want to use to execute this Zap. In this case, creating a new card.

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Configure the options for what kind of action should trigger this Zap to take place.

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Next, choose the app where you want the action to be performed. In this case, we want an action to happen within Salesforce.

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Then, choose the specific action that you want to happen.

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Lastly, you configure the settings for the action. You’ll be able to choose specific options for that part of the process (e.g., filling in the “Email” field in Salesforce from the card description in Trello.)

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And that’s it! You’ll have the option to test some of the configurations to make sure that they’re working as intended. But, once you enable to the Zap, everything should happen automatically.

You can go back and edit, update, or stop your Zap at any point.

For a more detailed walkthrough, check out Zapier’s official documentation on creating Zaps.

Creating Zaps and Applets for nonprofits

Now, let’s look specifically at some of the practical applications that are likely to be valuable for your organization to use on a daily basis.

Popular IFTTT Applets for nonprofits

Because of IFTTT’s simplicity of use, there are many hundreds of configurations and Applets that can help you run your organization more smoothly. Let’s just look at a few basic examples.

Automatically Tweet/Share new posts/events (IFTTT)

Never forget to promote your upcoming events or new blog posts again.

With Wordpress or an RSS configuration, you can create an Applet that automatically sends a tweet, posts to Facebook, or one of many other social media platforms any time there is a new post on your website.

Depending on how your CMS is configured, you can also segment this to post different types of updates for events, blog posts, news stories, etc.

Save tagged photos from Instagram to Google Drive or Dropbox

Events and fundraisers are great opportunities for your your supporters and stakeholders to take and share photos. But I can be a big job to find and capture those photos.

Use a simple IFTTT Applet to find photos posted to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram using a specific hashtag. Then, save those photos directly to a Google Drive or Dropbox folder for easy cataloging and organizing.

Popular Zaps for nonprofits

Before we get into the specific Zaps that you can use with your nonprofit, let’s look at some of the popular apps that you can use with Zapier.

It works with hundreds of different apps and programs, but a few notable integrations:

In addition, they’ve written an entire blog post chock full of additional ideas that might be useful for your shop. Be sure to check it out.

Now let’s look at some specific integrations you might want to use.

Google Sheets to Insightly

Do you have multiple people at your organization who add contacts and information to a spreadsheet?

This Zap will give you a simple and easy way to import data from Google Sheets and use it to create contacts in Insightly. Just configure a Zap that triggers any time a new row is added to a specific Google Sheet and then create an action to create a new contact based on that change.

Donately to Insightly

Tracking donation activity can be difficult. But with Zapier, you can automatically add donation records to Insightly any time a donation is processed through Donately.

Just create a Zap:

  • Trigger app of Donately

  • Trigger for donation received

  • Action in Insightly

  • Update/create record with the donation information

PayPal to MailChimp

If your organization accepts donations through PayPal, it can often be a pain to process those donations and add donors to your mailing list or follow up with them.

Use this Zap to turn transaction details from PayPal into contacts and add them to MailChimp. From there, you can subscribe them to your newsletter or send them follow-up and thank-you messages.

Eventbrite to Google Sheets

If you're hosting an event and allowing registration through Eventbrite, you can import the event registrations into Google Sheets, which you might use to store all of your supporter or donor data.

This makes it automatic—rather than having to manually download attendee data and/or manually input it into the spreadsheet, you can have Zapier just Zap it straight from one place to another.

Using Google Sheets as an intermediary

Although both of these tools can feel a bit like magic, they won’t solve every problem.

Sometimes, data doesn’t sync cleanly from one source to another or one program doesn’t accept the data that you need in an integration. Instead, you can use Google Sheets to store the data and then transfer it where you need it to go. Simply create a Zap or Applet to transfer the data from one app into Google Sheets.

Then create another Zap or Applet for transferring it from that Google Sheet into the other place(s) you need it to appear.

For example, you might string together a few different configurations:

  1. Anytime there is a new tweet with a special hashtag, add it to a Google Sheet

  2. Anytime there is a new line added to the Google Sheet, add an activity to Salesforce to reach out to that person

  3. Anytime there is a new line added to the Google Sheet, send an email to the social team to let them know to reach out

This can help you solve a number of difficulties that might crop up. But, most importantly, they allow you to connect almost any two apps, even if there isn't a specific Applet or Zap configuration that would allow you to create a direct connection.

Armed with these two tools and this handy workaround, there is almost no repetitive task that you can’t automate.

That means more time for you to focus on being productive and advancing your mission—and who doesn’t want that?

Do you have any zaps in Zapier or applets in IFTTT you find useful? Let me know in the comments below!

Spencer BrooksComment