Five Tips for Setting up Slack for Your Nonprofit

I wrote previously about why I think Slack is a great tool for internal communication for many nonprofits. But like any tool, if your nonprofit doesn’t plan for a strong adoption, Slack won’t seem like it works better than email. Here are five tips to start your organization off right in Slack.

1- Set up your workspace and channels

Admins start by setting up the Workspace, with control over all settings. Set permission levels and defaults for the workspace. Slack admins can also set up the initial Channels.

Think about the groups of people who should definitely be collaborating via Slack, and set them up with Channels from the start.

Channels are for a particular purpose, and public channels are generally available to any user. Admins can also set up private Channels.

Give your Channels consistent names, and a descriptive Purpose. You can also add their Topic, which is always visible anytime that Channel is visible in Slack.

Add some useful resources to each Channel from the start. Anytime I set up a new Channel, I pin useful shared files within the Channel, so they’re just a click away. I also consider whether there are any other services that would make sense to give access to this Channel (more on robots and integrations below). Screenshot - first look at preference screenBecause of the ability of users to customize their display and notifications, you don’t need to worry about limiting Slack Channels. Users can set up Slack so that they don’t have to see all the Channels all the time (via Preferences).

Create as many spaces for interactions as you need people to have. I’ve heard of/participated in quite a variety of Channels, from teams to processes to fun ones, including:

  • learn (for new information or resources)
  • cats (I mean… it’s the Internet)
  • insecure (for the HBO show)
  • props (for calling out successes)
  • whatif (for new and big ideas)
  • website (for new content, and you can add website monitoring notifications)

Here are more tips for setting up your Channels.

2- Train your team on Slack

Screenshot - preferences are under your profile photo on sidebarMake sure that team members know that they can set their own appearance and notifications. Give them tutorials on using Preferences to customize the overall appearance, their notifications and the visibility of Channels.

Make sure they know about /commands, and about what integrations are available to them (or how they can propose new ones).

For high-volume Slacks, I set my channel visibility to only display channels that have an active message I haven’t looked at. That’s my equivalent of “Inbox Zero” in the Slack world. (I show that setting earlier in this post.)

3- Take advantage of integrations and bots

So many great integrations! You’ve got the file sharing ones, which include for your Google Drive files, Dropbox and Box. Notifications can come to you from Pingdom, Twitter, Github, New Relic — there are hundreds of integrations pre-built, plus you can enable others using an integration service like Zapier or If This Then That.

Plus the “Slackbot” is an automated tool within Slack that you can access via commands that start with “/” and are fast to use. I love the /remind command: the Slackbot reminds me of conversations or Channels that I need to circle back to or tasks I want to complete outside Slack.

4- Set up everyone with desktop and mobile apps

Screenshot "When I'm not active on desktop"The desktop and mobile apps for Slack is simple and addictive, but don’t leave users on their own to set them up. Help them with setup of these apps, and make sure that the connections between their desktop and mobile are seamless, so that when a user goes inactive on desktop, their mobile app picks right up. Make sure they know they can start their own direct message threads as needed.

5- Make your group’s Slack etiquette clear

There are plenty of different ways to do it “right.” Talk with your users about what the shared standards could be, see what sort of agreements you can come up with, then write it down somewhere. Revisit it as needed.

  • Some Slacks have everyone “sign in” to the general channel each day and “sign off” at the end of the day. This can be good for places that value people getting to take time off.
  • Some Slacks are busy with emojis and gifs, some less so.
  • If there is a time that users are expected to be available, let users know that you’ve set the default Do Not Disturb time, but they can adjust that setting in their preferences.
  • Let users know if they are free to add integrations or not.
  • Offer guidance on when it makes more sense to call each other on Slack rather than chat.

How to get started

There’s no cost to set up an initial Slack, although your organization may outgrow the free version (you can’t use it for group calls or video and the archive has a size limit). The full-featured version of Slack isn’t free, but there is a free “Standard” Slack for nonprofits option that should meet many organization’s needs.

Once you get Slack up and running and your users fully adopt it, you’ll find yourself wondering how you ever communicated internally without it. Enjoy!

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