Working in the marketing or fundraising team for a charity can be challenging. You're competing against so many other organisations for donations, and there is never enough budget to support your ever increasing targets.
There are loads of free tools out there for charities that are designed to help with efficiency, but which ones come without any obligations? It's all very well doing a free trial, but if you don't have a budget to carry on using a tool that might be working for you, is there any point in engaging with a trial at all? I thought I'd take a moment to list my top five free tools for charities which have no hidden costs and are just completely free. They cover #Fundraising and #DueDiligence, #PR, #OnlineAdvertising, #Design and #StockPhotography
Do you want to make sure your charity has all its bases covered when it comes to governance? Are you looking for specific fundraising resources? Charity Excellence Framework is a tool that every charity needs to sign-up to, not least because it equips the most novice of charity CEOs with tools and guidance to effectively run their charity diligently. It provides online self-assessment questionnaires to ensure you've covered all your bases, provides you with a trustee checklist to review and self-assess your board and if there's anything you do need help with, it tells you where and how to get it.
CEF also has the largest database of charity funders available in the sector. There are lists of funders for every type of charity, including animal charities, religious charities, small charities and human rights and equality. These lists specify exactly which types of trusts and organisations you can approach about getting vital funding for your cause, so you don't end up wasting your time writing grant applications for organisations who won't fund you you and you can concentrate on organisations who are passionate about your cause.
CEF has a huge range of links to charity good governance best practice resources and they also have a really useful YouTube Channel which offers short, sharp and easy to digest videos about best practise when running your charity.
It's always difficult to secure media coverage for your non-profit, even more so when you don't have the support of a PR company to help you. Dot Star Media is a press enquiry service which sends realtime press enquiries as and when they come through from journalists, allowing you to pick-up on reactive press opportunities. It might be that someone from Channel 5 wants to talk to a mental health expert, or a journalist is after International Women's Day stories - you can pick up the stories reactively as they come in and build relationships with journalists while you're at it. That way, the next time they have a story relating to what you do, they will come straight to you.
The way it works, is that the Dot Star system trawls through Twitter for you, picking up journalist requests, aggregates them, and sends the relevant requests directly to your email inbox. You can then respond directly to the journalist who has requested the press enquiry. All you need to do is set-up some keywords that are relevant to what your charity does, like #volunteering, #mentalhealth or #foodbank. It's a really great system, and even though you are likely to get a fair few emails that aren't 100% relevant, the press opportunities that come your way as a result of being on it will more than make up for a few emails that you have to delete.
I've spoken about Google Ad Grants before, because it's such an amazing tool that is massively underutilised by the charity sector. According to Google's site, they supply Ad Grants to more than 20,000 nonprofits across more than 50 countries. Given that there are about 166,000 charities in the UK alone, 20,000 charities across 50 countries doesn't exactly cover an awful lot of ground (read: Google, you could be doing better at reaching out to charities).
Ad Grants gives non profits $100k of free advertising per year in text ads for all charities. Although you'll need to do a bit of training in order to learn how to use it properly, once you know how to take advantage of it, it will become an invaluable tool to helping you be found online by people who are searching for what you do. These ads can help you to do things like raise awareness, attract donors, advertise your events and recruit new volunteers. While Google doesn't offer any Ad Grants-specific training for charities, but they do have the Google Skillshop which offers free training and certification to help you to learn about how to use the whole Google AdWords suite. It's good to do the training because it allows you to fully-understand AdWords as a whole, so when you do get stuck on something you can usually work out what do do.
Or, as I call it, Fisher Price design! Canva makes graphic design so super-simple, that anyone can use it and feel like an absolute superstar designer. Graphic designers aren't great fans of it because it massively simplifies what they do, and (if I'm completely honest) is slightly undermining of their craft.
While nothing can replace a skilled graphic designer, Canva is really great for organisations that don't have or are unable to use tools like InDesign. The format is drag and drop, and there are hundreds of templates in every kind of design you never knew you needed to create. You can create any kind of social post or banner, infographics, flyers and even animated posts. You can also save your brand colours and fonts and favourite templates, so when it comes to creating really simple social content, you can do it in a jiffy. It's really clever, easy to use and completely free for registered charities.
Do you need hi-res, royalty free images? Unsplash is where you need to head. Unsplash has long been a graphic designer favourite, as it enables absolutely anyone to find really great images that can be freely-shared online. It has absolutely everything from food pictures, to nature, to random Star Wars scenes with Lego figurines. As A courtesy, it asks you to credit any photographers or designers (this lovely picture below was taken by Matt Hudson) but it really is a great tool to find suitable images for newsletters and social posts. It also has great integrations where you can use their images from other sources, such as here on my Wix website, and you can drop Unsplash images into your designs on Canva too. It's definitely worth looking at the site itself as it's easier to find exactly what you're looking for and there seems to be a larger selection, but be careful you don't get carried-away with looking at the images for too long.