From website and design tools to accounting and donor management, this article covers our favorite budget-friendly tools for nonprofits.
A year or two ago, I wasn’t that impressed with Google Fonts. Sure, it was a good resource to recommend to nonprofits who needed everything to be free, but for a true typographist, the inadequate typeface families (with two or fewer font-weights), and the small overall selection was disheartening. I groaned when a nonprofit asked us to use a free font from Google. I knew it would look like every other nonprofit who had done the same because there were really only a few viable options.
But that’s changed. Today Google Fonts has an impressive array of typefaces with equally impressive families of fonts. There are lots of typefaces with a variety of weights (typographists are going to need those light and black weights at either end of the spectrum to create satisfying and clear font hierarchies). As a web designer who loves typography most of all, Google Fonts is becoming one of my go-to font repositories.
The freeness is just a bonus.
Also, the fact that they’re free makes them easy to use and install, another bonus for developers. There are no page views or licenses to keep track of.
Can’t afford Photoshop? An online tool like PicMonkey will never take the place of a full-featured Creative Suite from Adobe. However, if you want to make simple adjustments like brightness and contrast, as well as crop your image or add a watermark, PicMonkey is a nice option. The navigation is intuitive, and it looks clean and professional.
As a designer, I would never be able to make professional edits to graphics that I use for web and print with PicMonkey. For that, I’ll stick with Adobe Industry-standard Creative Suite. But I usually recommend PicMonkey to bloggers who want to make quick edits to their photos.
PicMonkey is free with the option to upgrade (but we like the free version the best).
Pixlr goes way beyond PicMonkey. If you’re actually looking for photo editing that feels a little more professional, Pixlr is the way to go. It will add filters, more layer options, and the adjustments you’re used to seeing in Adobe to your photo-editing ammo. Someone who loves Photoshop will be much more at home with Pixlr than with PicMonkey.
I hadn’t tried Pixlr Online until today. Wanting to recommend something a little more robust than PicMonkey, I gave it a spin. I was impressed. It has the image editing tools I use most often. It didn’t have the “save for web” compression options or export options most web projects would require, but most web projects also require vector editing tools like Illustrator. So save this for editing images for social media and blog posts.
Realize that these tools are for photo editing, not for design or text layout.
Font Awesome really is awesome. It takes a bit to understand how to use it, so it’s not for nonprofits who don’t have a graphic designer or webmaster on the team. But Font Awesome is the most comprehensive list of font vectors on the web, and these vectors can be used to create icons for web, presentation, and print. Have your webmaster or graphics expert take a look at how to get started with Font Awesome.
The iconic font and CSS toolkit from Font Awesome is free.
We recommend Quickbooks for small business and nonprofit accounting. It makes invoice sending and payment so convenient. It is cloud-based, which makes it easy to access your records or actions from anywhere with an internet connection, and it does all the basic accounting stuff we all need, like expense tracking, downloading bank transactions, and creating professional invoice and quote templates. And it has unlimited invoices.
We love MailChimp. MailChimp is one of the best things that has happened to solo-preneurs, small business, and nonprofit organizations. We recommend MailChimp, create integrations with MailChimp, and use MailChimp ourselves.
MailChimp has a free plan. “You can send 12,000 emails a month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers with MailChimp’s Forever Free plan, though a few features are only available to paying users.” As you grow, you will want to take advantage of its paid plans, which start at only $10 a month. MailChimp is the best simple tool to get started with email, automated campaigns and responders, inbox previews, and many more email-related things. Check out their pricing to see which plan is best for you.
MailChimp is free but comes with options for affordable plans.
You’re sitting down to create a presentation for your next meeting or talk. Maybe you’ve procrastinated, and you’re pouring a cup of coffee and hoping you can get this done in record time.
If you’re still using PowerPoint, we’re here to tell you there is a better way.
Slides.com is one of our favorite ways for designers and non-designers alike at our company to create presentations quickly and as easily and beautifully as possible. One thing we love the most is that you don’t have to bring your presentation on a thumb drive. Seriously, this isn’t 2009. One of my favorite Slides.com moments was when I noticed there was something I needed to add 10 minutes before my talk started, and I quickly and easily made the change, then stood up to present my presentation. The link had already been given to the moderator and the slide was exactly like I wanted it.
Another favorite thing about Slides? The two-way navigation. If you want to create a multi-purpose presentation, you can zoom through it laterally. At each slide or point of your speech, you can choose to navigate up or down to dig deeper into a topic. Nathan Porter, CEO of WannaPixel, Inc., loves this feature. He used to spend hours creating presentations for each talk. Now he can use the same presentation for various time lengths.
Slides.com is free.
Wunderlist, Asana, and Basecamp
There is no one-size-fits-all project management software. The individual or small nonprofit will love Wunderlist and the way it makes repeating tasks and Google calendar integration easy. Collaborating is a breeze as well, with the ability to comment on tasks and share files.
Wunderlist is free.
If you need subtasks, we would recommend Asana. It has various plans, including ones that are free. We used Asana at our company for years before switched to Basecamp.
Asana is free, with the option to upgrade.
If your organization is one that can afford the nonprofit rate (which is 50% off the regular rate of $99 a month), Basecamp is the way to go. Here is where Basecamp essentially differs from Wunderlist and Asana.
Email tracking and looping clients in.
With the click of a button, you can send an email to a task. This will save your hide any time you need to show that the task is waiting for input from a collaborator. (Or it will show you that the buck stops with you). You can also send a task or message about a task from within Basecamp, and it triggers an email.
We love this feature.
Not only that, but say you want to share one little task from a project with a client or collaborator, but not reveal all the tasks, classified details, and inside conversations. You can loop a client in by clicking (wait for it), loop client in. This will send only that task to a collaborator, with all of its discussions.
How amazing is that?
Basecamp is free only for students.
It’s just so easy to toggle in or out of your tasks with Time Doctor. One of Time Doctor’s best features is this: if you have team members who work remotely, it tracks their screens with screenshots. Not only is this a fantastic accountability feature, but we have often found work that we lost (emails, documents), by looking back over screenshots. Productive team members like this feature. Non-productive ones find the screenshots intrusive. Do the math.
Also great for time management is the fact that it gives you a gentle reminder if you hop on social media. Maybe you need it for your job, but if not…would you like to get back to work or clock out for awhile? I always loved this feature for my own personal time management.
But my favorite Time Doctor feature? Coming back on Monday morning and seeing this message on my screen: “You have been inactive for 63 hours and 23 minutes,” with the option to track or discard that time. If, like me, you sometimes forget to click “finish,” Time Doctor will keep you from having to guess when.
Time Doctor starts at $10 per user per month. Here is a great list of its features.
(If you don’t need Time Doctor’s features, try toggl.com. (Just remember that it’s very basic, which is why it’s free).
If you wish you had all the graphic design skills, but don’t actually know what you’re doing, Design Wizard is for you. Design Wizard can help your nonprofit create beautiful, high-quality content for your cause in minutes. Their high quality and inspired designs are created by talented graphic designers and are available for your use (fully copyright approved), and customize with your unique colors, logo, imagery, etc.
They have a free, premium, and pro plans for you to choose from, depending on how much space you’ll need for your own photos, and how much customer support you want access to.
Graphics are super important to your nonprofit’s work and communications. If you need help on the design front, be sure to check out Design Wizard!
What do nonprofits survive on? Donations, of course. Your life-blood is the people who contribute to your cause because they believe in it (and you).
We have much to say about how branded giving pages increase personal brand awareness and build trust. But that’s a whole blog post. In the meantime, trust us that you will decrease donation abandonment by having your own branded donation page. We mention Give here because it is the best one we know of for WordPress sites (something we work with a lot—the other platform we work with frequently is Drupal).
Give is free.
Many small to medium nonprofits are not sure what a CRM is, but they work with one every day. Any method you use to keep track of communications with your donors or constituents is a CRM, and it stands for Contact Relationship Manager. Some organization’s CRM is an Excel document. If that rings true for you, you might want to consider upgrading.
Born out of 15+ years of work building custom web and software solutions for nonprofits, we created UkuuPeople, the simple CRM for WordPress.
What does it do?
At UkuuPeople, we like to say, “acquire more contacts, love the ones you have.”
UkuuPeople gives you a 360-degree view of any donor or contact. It integrates with our favorite nonprofits tools like MailChimp, Gravity Forms, and Give to let you see a single contact’s history of Touchpoints. Have they donated? That will show up in their Touchpoints dashboard. Have they filled out a form? That will as well. Are they part of a MailChimp segmented list? They will belong to the corresponding tribe you sync from MailChimp to your WordPress site.
It also gives you a 360-degree view of information that is valuable to nonprofits, such as everyone who donated more than $100 in a given period of time. You can quickly use this data to send thank you notes (via MailChimp) or targeted campaign emails.
The reason we like UkuuPeople for many nonprofits is that it allows you to keep your contact details in your own website, not somewhere off on another site, completely integrating your contact information with your website. To begin to understand why this is powerful, think of not having to manually enter every entry from an individual who completes a form or enters a donation. Think instead of these actions effortlessly flowing into your website dashboard.
Nonprofits will want either the Basic Bundle or the Nonprofit Plus Bundle. The prices shown are rates per year, and work out to between $12-$33 per month at the time of this blog post. That’s extremely competitive for a CRM. In contrast, many nonprofits are using tools such as Salesforce, which are completely bloated for the average small to mid-sized nonprofit. With these prices, even solo-preneurs and bloggers can acquire new contacts and love the ones they have—for affordable prices.
Is there a tool you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!