No matter what way you look at it, to continue to exist and drive your mission forward your organization must not only stay “in view” of your audience, but you must also leave those audience members with positive experiences connected to your brand.
Couple this with the reality that most nonprofits have a small (to $0!) marketing budget, and you see where things get tricky.
What follows is a simple round-up of some of my favorite tools to help your nonprofit put forward marketing and communications that are professional, polished, and streamlined – both for your audience and for your team. Every tool highlighted in this post has a free option, although some have expanded functionality with a paid service. I hope you find them useful in your day-to-day work!
Two tools with the same purpose but offered in different formats. Hemingway and Grammarly improve your writing in a variety of ways – beyond a simple spell or grammar checker, these tools check your language use for clarity, conciseness, and reading level, and highlight opportunities to make your content generally more easily digestible and engaging for readers. Hemingway is completely free — you simply copy and paste your content into its web-based app for it to review and offer suggestions. Grammarly has a free and paid version that you install on your browser, where it continuously edits whatever you may be typing. Hemingway’s free offering is quite robust in how it edits your writing; Grammarly’s free review covers fewer aspects of your writing, but the convenience of having it auto-check your writing in whatever window you are typing in (including web-based email correspondence) can’t be beaten.
Use it for… Everything you write! But my favorite tool between both services is Grammarly’s beta “tone checker” – it tells you how your writing will sound to readers. Nowhere is this more helpful than when writing emails. Sounding confident and friendly when I email donors? Yes, please!
What you might call a “thesaurus on steroids” – you search a word and it can populate a list of synonyms, antonyms, rhyming words, pronunciations, and much more.
Use it for… Never say “thank you for your generous donation” on your acknowledgment letter again! A quick search for “generous” came up with nearly a hundred alternatives for you to spice up your writing to donors.
This is likely the most well-known communications tool out there. This free online design tool allows you to easily and quickly create a variety of social media, email, and even print marketing communications. Whether it is Facebook posts or trifold brochures, Canva provides templates that make polished design work within reach for nonprofit teams that do not have access to or a budget for graphic design support. Canva offers the paid premium tool for nonprofits through their nonprofit discount, which allows nonprofits an expanded range of templates, icons, images, and more. The premium tool also allows you to save your custom brand colors so you can create branded content more quickly.
Use it for… Creating high-quality marketing content (print and digital) without having to pay for professional design services (or in addition to, if you have graphic design work in your budget!)
Record yourself and your screen simultaneously for free. Loom has a paid feature with unlimited length recordings, but for free you can record videos that are less than 5 minutes. You can choose to record your screen, yourself, or a combination of both with your face in a small bubble in the bottom corner of the video.
Use it for… Sending personalized, face-to-face content to your donors and community! And, internally within your organization, an easy tool for training your team members on different software or databases you use. You can save these recordings to your team drive as a ready-made tutorial for new team members and volunteers.
A free video editing app. Whether it is adding music, trimming video clips, or applying filters and effects, InShot is another great resource for nonprofits creating video materials… that don’t have a video designer in their budget!
Use it for… Creating professionally edited videos for social media, your website, and more.
This free tool will review any website for accessibility concerns and errors. A must for any nonprofit to ensure its website is available and digestible for individuals of all abilities.
Use it for… Making sure your website is accessible to all who may visit it – so you can help expand your mission and services to anyone who may need them.
An app that provides automatic closed-captions for filmed videos. The service is not free, but you can get 3 minutes captioned for 99 cents or a bulk purchase of 1500 minutes for $89.99 (monthly individual and business subscriptions are also available).
Use it for… Making any video you share captioned for sharing on your website, social media, and through email newsletters so that it is accessible and digestible for anyone watching without sound.
Asana is a free, web-based project management tool. Its uses are numerous and extend far beyond marketing – both for an individual and for a full nonprofit team. Whether it’s planning your marketing calendar, an event, or your donor acknowledgment process, Asana is a wonderful tool to ensure your team is on the same page and to keep important projects moving forward.
Use it for… Specifically for social media and communications planning, I like to create two different “boards” within the Asana system — one board for content ideas (where you simply jot down ideas as they come to you) and one for a formal content calendar (where you map out what will be shared when across all of your different platforms). This helps you create a consistent stream of ideas for what to share with your community as well as a simple process for seeing all the communications that go out across all of your channels (social media, email, even in-person events) in one place – two pieces that are vital to maintaining your digital presence!
Airtable is a powerful cloud-based database management tool. It has premade templates (anything from event management, to customer relationship management, to content calendars, and much more) so you can jump right in and quickly customize to your organization’s needs, or you can build your own from scratch (with zero coding knowledge required!)
Use it for… There are too many options to name for how airtable can be used to better your organization’s operations, but if you are a small shop that does not have a budget for a donor database, I highly recommend considering this as a starter tool for your organization! It is also of course an excellent tool for planning marketing campaigns of all kinds.
There are many social media management tools out there, but Hootsuite and Later both offer free social media scheduling, making them ideal for the small nonprofit shop. Other paid social media planning tools include Planoly, Tailwind, and Facebook Creator Studio (must have a Facebook business account).
Use it for… Being consistently present on your social media accounts! Block some time each week or every other week to batch schedule all of your posts. Set it, forget it, and get back to your mission-driven work!
For nonprofits on Instagram, this site will help you find hashtags that are good for your particular niche, geography, or mission. Do some simple searches to find hashtags related to ones you are already using to find new ways to connect with similar audiences.
Use it for… growing your community on Instagram by finding new hashtag niches to connect with.
There you have it! Eleven excellent, free resources for making your nonprofit marketing that much more polished and streamlined.
Which tool are you going to dive into first? I’d love to hear below!
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