Choosing the Right “Free” Tech for Your Non-Profit
If something sounds too good to be true, especially as a solution for a major marketing and communications challenge like branding your organization or building a website, it often is. It’s important to say up front that free services are often not the right choice for your organization.
Familiar is built on the premise that pro bono design and development work sounds great, but often ends up being a huge time suck for the organization that can lead to a dead end.
But there is some great tech out there that can really revolutionize your organization without breaking the bank. I’ll walk you through three options that we’ve helped our clients become successful with.
Salesforce has quickly become the industry standard for non-profit donor databases. This is largely due both to their free or low-cost offering to nonprofits and educational institutions, as well as the Non-Profit Success Pack (NPSP): a set of standard customizations to make Salesforce more tailored to the typical needs and expectations of non-profit organizations. Salesforce’s increasing ubiquity means it’s easy to find new staff that have some experience with the platform and that there’s a whole community of organizations using it all eager to share best practices and success stories.
Expect to hear a lot more from me in future posts about the many ways our clients are using Salesforce, but donor databases are only the beginning of what’s possible. We’d love to work with you to make the most of your Salesforce instance.
Google for non-profits
Every organization needs some kind of email service, and if you aren’t using Google’s G Suite, you’re doing it wrong.
Google offers completely free access to Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs, all customized and controlled by your organization. This means you get unlimited emails using your normal organizational domain name, with no servers to manage and no IT staff to hire.
This is the same email setup we use here at Familiar and is in use by millions all over the world. If you’re still paying for Microsoft Exchange with someone on staff or on contract managing it on a server in your office, stop reading this article right now and sign up for Google for Non-Profits.
Google also offers another benefit that many organizations may not know about. It’s called Google Grants, and it provides $10,000 a month to spend on AdWords to promote your organization’s work. I discovered this program while I was Marketing Director at Housing Works many years ago, and I used it to build an audience for their first online business, known then as Housing Works Auctions (today it’s shophousingworks.com). Through these ads, I was able to get thousands of visitors every month, which accounted for more than 50% of revenue generated by the site.
While it does take some time and a little expertise to set up, many of our clients have gone through an initial configuration process with us, and then not need to worry about any ongoing maintenance.
Slack is relatively new, but in my opinion has the largest potential for organizations both large and small. Espically as they grow (and succeed!), organizations can struggle with internal communications and end up spending countless dollars on staff miscommunication and inefficiencies, and Slack can help.
Slack is, at its core, software for setting up a series of private online chat rooms. That might sound simple, and it is, but that’s also what makes it so powerful. It works seamlessly on your computer and your phone, and lets staff communicate with each other and share files or links in real time from anywhere.
Conversations can be grouped by project, topic, department, or any other structure that makes sense for your team. You can restrict certain chat rooms to particular team members, which helps streamline conversations. All conversations are also archived and quickly searchable, making it easy for everyone have access to Slack’s built in institutional memory. Slack also integrates with other services, like Google, Salesforce, Intercom, and dozens of others.
Slack for Good offers organizations free access to their pro plans which include unlimited users and full archive and search of all messages. We use it ar familiar everyday and I can’t recommend it highly enough.