In the nonprofit world we spend a lot of time talking about barriers. The things that get in the way of us doing our jobs. The things that get in the way of our missions. One of our biggest barriers is finding the time, resources, and skill sets necessary to market ourselves and amplify our voices. With tight budgets, limited resources, and a million fires to put out each day, it is often a miracle nonprofits manage to do any marketing at all. But market we must. Whether you invest in marketing to communicate with the communities you serve, to raise awareness about key issues, or to meet your development goals, there are some great free tools that can save you time and money. Here is a countdown of our top five.
An early internet offering, SurveyMonkey has been providing answers since 1999! The free version of this simple to use survey tool allows you to ask up to 10 questions and get 40 responses before you have to upgrade. It is great for gathering anonymous feedback on policies or programs and can help to remove bias in decision making. The paid versions are still quite reasonable, so if you have larger survey needs, this is a great place to start.
Point of interest, prior to his death in 2015, the CEO of SurveyMonkey was Dave Goldberg, husband of Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Both of them signed the Giving Pledge and were active philanthropists.
“Free images, videos and music you can use anywhere” is one of the first things you read when you land on the Pixabay website, and that pretty much sums it up! Pixabay is one of the best resources for free photographs, illustrations, video clips, and music tracks that you can use in your communication materials. There are occasionally some restrictions, so make sure to read the licensing information, but most of the content is free use and can really make it much faster and easier to build out a website, create a quick Facebook post, or put the finishing touches on a PPT presentation.
Apparently Pixabay was purchased by Canva in 2018! Well… that makes sense, we love Canva too.
Eventbrite does so much more than just allow you to register guests online, it provides secure ticket sales, automated emails and receipts, analytics and reports, industry leading SEO, and seamless integrations with Facebook. While Eventbrite took a bit of a hit during the pandemic, it has been on a winning streak for years—going from a lesser known platform for workshops and yoga classes, to a major platform for live music events. This has only built the credibility of the company, and it is now a trusted name that puts people at ease when they go to enter their payment info.
Eventbrite was launched by a husband and wife team (Kevin and Julia Hartz) in 2006. Julia Hartz is the CEO and was recently named one of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful women entrepreneurs.
Canva has been around since 2013, but it has only really stepped into the spotlight as a highly intuitive and flexible online design platform in the last few years. Even the free version comes with a generous number of templates, fonts, and graphics that can be used to create eye-catching content. Upload your organization’s logo, program in a few of your brand colors, and you will be creating unique and eye-catching materials in no time. From Instagram Reels to PPT presentation templates that let you create colorful graphs with a few clicks, Canva will make your content stand out from the crowd.
Fun fact, Canva was founded by Melanie Perkins, one of the youngest women CEO’s in the tech industry. In addition to implementing a non-biased hiring protocol that increased the representation of women who work at Canva to 41% (much higher than the industry standard of 28%), she has also announced that Canva will be climate positive by 2023. She has also stated that she plans to give her sizable fortune away.
While technically Catchafire isn’t free, HSF’s recent partnership with the skills based volunteer matching platform means that our members can take advantage of this powerful tool as a benefit of membership. And we do mean powerful. Catchafire was founded in 2009 as a way to connect professionals who wanted to donate their time to nonprofits who desperately needed expertise. And it is so easy to use! You can browse the many posts made by skilled volunteers, or post your own project that they can respond to. From social media assessments to website development and product pricing strategies, Catchafire has volunteers ready to help you with any project.
Founded and led by another dynamic female CEO, Rachel Chong, Catchafire is a certified B Corporation, which requires a company to meet “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”
While we all agree that marketing can be a chore, and it doesn’t always fall into our skill sets, it is getting easier all the time with new and better online tools. With a pinch of bravery and a dash of creativity, the recipe for marketing success is within your grasp. There is a lot of technology out there waiting for you to take it for a test drive. And, as we say here at HSF, don’t be afraid to press the buttons and see what happens!
Do you have any free tools you love? Please send us a note and let us know which ones. We’d love to hear from you.
—From the always expanding desk of Becca Coolong, Executive Director of the Human Service Forum
Becca holds a BA in Classical Civilizations from Oberlin College. She began her professional career in the entertainment industry and transferred those skills to the human service sector in 2006. She has a strong passion for community building creating creative partnerships and collaborations. She is an advisory board member for John J. Duggan Academy in Springfield, MA.