Free Online Tools for Nonprofits

Recently I’ve been experimenting with the wide array of online social networks targeting nonprofit organizations that claim to bring in big dollars, earn your charity some street cred, and make you the go to place for hip, young volunteers.  …But are they really worth your time?  After my trial-by-fire work with these sites, I decided to share my reviews below.

Philanthroper

Worth a shot? – Definitely.

Philanthroper is the most user friendly and simple donation tool that I’ve worked with.  Relatively new, this site is the equivalent of groupon for nonprofit donations.  The concept is that many people will donate $1 (sometimes the amount changes, but the idea is to get a bunch of people to donate a little for a huge, combined impact).  The featured organization(s) change daily, and there is a weekend wrap-up.  There is a quick and easy sign up to become a featured organization, and it is a super smooth and user-friendly way to donate.  Just a short registration (it took me 3 minutes) and the donor can pay with their paypal account.  The average amount generated is only $200-$500 but it is a great way to create that great first donation experience and retain a donor.  A+ rating for a donor on the go or a charity looking for the easy fundraiser.

VolunteerMatch

Worth a shot? – If you need people, yes.  A bit complicated to search through and overwhelming if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for but overall, a great resource. VolunteerMatch is a nation-wide search engine for volunteer opportunities.  Prospective volunteers can search by geographical area, mission of the organization, and even keyword. 

For the nonprofit: Each opportunity is entered in individually and it may be tough to continually update appropriate contact information, needs, etc. but it really is a comprehensive list and well worth the effort. 

For the prospective volunteer: Unless you want to sit down with the phone book or look up each organization individually, this is your go to source for volunteering.  Whether its long-term commitments or a few hours to serve off that speeding ticket, volunteer match lets you know what opportunities are interesting, nearby, and the perfect fit for you.   Almost always there is up to date contact info and you can visit the charity’s page directly from VolunteerMarch, so if you’re in need of service hours this is the place to go.

GOOD (recently merged with Jumo)

Worth a shot?  Yes, and it will only get better with time.

GOOD and Jumo teamed up and are now operating a graphical newspaper-type resource for philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and community involvement. Right now I feel like GOOD is still getting their sea-legs, but over time I think they’ll hone their focus and prove to be a valuable news resource for the nonprofit sector.  Currently the breadth of scope allows the casual visitor to learn about anything from going green and microloans to diversity and education issues. For a casual read, I recommend it.

Twitter

Worth a shot? – If you don’t have a twitter account already, you are missing out.

Since most people already know all about twitter, I want to share a story about me as a consumer and an up-and-coming nonprofit. I’m sitting minding my own business when @nonprofitcoffee starts following me on twitter.  For those of you who don’t know, I am a coffee addict and I go through about a ½ pound of coffee a week. I also love nonprofits (obviously). So when I saw the idea of nonprofits and coffee smushed together in a twitter feed, my interest was peaked.  So I went to www.twitter.com/nonprofitcoffee and came across a charity/coffee company called Three Avocados.  Their basic premise is to sell coffee from an African village to raise funds to provide clean water and social empowerment to the villagers, particularly women and children, who instead of attending school travel miles each day for clean drinking water.  Talk about pulling the heartstrings with a cup o’ joe.  So, I was interested enough to purchase a bag.  Through twitter, I found something I was interested in and the nonprofit received a donation. It was less than two minutes worth of work to do a “coffee” search on twitter, and start linking in with people who wrote about it – instantly you’re connecting with people who are attracted to various facets of your mission, and all of a sudden the big world is tiny and connected together.

Do yourself a favor and get a twitter account for your organization. 

Facebook for Nonprofits

Worth a shot? – Yes, but I wouldn’t suggest putting all of your eggs into the facebook basket.

Recently with the subscription options, facebook users can tailor their minified to only the updates they’re subscribed to.  Ultimately, this results in a diminished reach, and as a result, I wouldn’t suggest devoting time and effort into facebook that you won’t get out of it.  That being said, facebook as made it easier than ever before for nonprofits to build their presence, advertise, update pages, and provide information to people interested in searching for your organization. If you don’t already have a facebook page for your organization, I strongly encourage creating one, and if you’re going to put in the time, let facebook for nonprofits help you out.  Along with the tips of the trade, there is also a group of nonprofit professionals who post about best practices and discuss effective strategies with one another on facebook.  Definitely check that out too.

Likeminded

Worth a shot? – Eh, if you have some free time.

Likeminded seems to be a lot like Jumo in the sense that it tries matching specific issues, charity campaigns, and opportunities in your local area to you.  The user interface is great, and it is much more visual than other tools, but at the same time I found myself doing a lot of reading without being compelled into action.  All community issues are divided into 14 categories, so if your passion isn’t one of their subsections, I guess you’re out of luck.  It does try to pair you with local issues and opportunities (even though in Texas some of the related items were about Alaska) but overall, its nice to see a local network blooming.  This site is still in the beta phase, so I would suggest keeping your eye on Likeminded.  It has potential, but there is still work to be done.

Google for Nonprofits

Worth a shot? – Yes, especially if you’re a young charity

Google for nonprofits isn’t just one tool; like most things Google, it’s a monstrous conglomerate of tools, analytics, and sites specifically designed to raise awareness, target donors, utilize resources, and inform teams.  Google has put together specific apps like Google Grants, website optimizer, Google Analytics, Youtube for nonprofits with embedded donate buttons, translation services, Data Explorers, Google places, Earth Outreach and more.  While not all of the services come without a cost, there are enough free tools that you can save thousands by reducing IT costs and implementing a variety of do it yourself tech projects.  Even if you don’t use the suite of their products, one app could be the exact item you’re looking for.

LinkedIn

Worth a shot – yes!

I love the new changes LinkedIn has made.  I can now input my favorite philanthropic causes, and the specific organizations I’m linked to either through employment or volunteering.  If the charity has a linkedin page, Linkedin will automatically hyperlink to the organization page.  Imagine the reach if 10 volunteers and 5 employees each with 300 contacts list the nonprofit.  This is a perfect instance of a little going a long way. This also allows you to see the related organizations and causes that supports of your charity are interested in to gauge potential collaborations, or just to see where your organization fits.

 

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