Guest post by Erica Holt

These are frugal days, and everyone loves getting and writing about free stuff.

(Wait for it…)

Relax, I’m not going to re-list what’s already been written all over the Interwebz about affordable technology available to non-profits.

Instead, here are four completely awesome tools I love that don’t seem to get the attention they deserve.

Image: Brad Stabler via Flickr, CC 2.0

As smart WUL readers know, technology does not equal strategy, and it won’t solve all your organization’s problems.

I also don’t recommend implementing tools willy-nilly because they are free.

But if technology can help you meet your goals, and the cost is time, not money, you might want to check out these tools (if you haven’t already) that can come in very handy for those on a shoestring budget.

1. Mobify

Given the huge uptake in mobile web use, you know by now that if your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you are likely missing out on opportunities left and right to connect with your audiences.

But creating a well-designed mobile version of your site from “scratch” can cost you in expensive programming time.

Fortunately, several hosted platforms can do the heavy lifting for non-programmers and help you create spiffy mobilized websites on the cheap.

Of these, Mobify is my favorite, and they offer a free basic branded service and great discounts for non-profits on premium services.  (You can e-mail them at sales [a] mobify [dot] me with “non-profit” in the subject line to get the discount.)

Mobify is hosted, but still gives site creators flexibility over mobile style-sheets to create unique designs and layouts. You do need a basic design and CSS background to configure your site.

Examples of sites using Mobify include Boing Boing and A List Apart.

2. Google Grants for Google AdWords

Google offers $10,000 per month free advertising to qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations serving the arts, education, health, science, technology, and volunteering.

The ads run through the Google AdWords pay-per-click advertising program and can be used to solicit donations, recruit volunteers, promote events, and more.

When users search on a specific keyword on, ads associated to that keyword appear above or to the right-hand side of the search results.

The benefits are quite obvious, I think. A past client of mine saw a 20% increase in donations while implementing this program. Many other non-profits, including the Diabetes Hands Foundation, have had great success.

However, you definitely need the time and resources to both to apply for the program and implementation.

AdWords campaigns require keyword research, account set up and maintenance, and ongoing tweaking and optimization to get results.

You are also limited with the grant program to maximum bids of $1.00 per keyword, which can prevent you from competing for more competitive search terms.

Gracious marketers gone before share all you need to know on applying for a Google Grant and implementing non-profit AdWords campaigns (PDF).


3. Animoto


Animoto has become a popular tool for magically creating professional looking videos with no budget, no camera, and little technical skill.

It couldn’t be easier to produce an Animoto video. You simply load images, text, select music, and wait about 10 minutes while Animoto whips up a video that looks like these.

Yes, the tool is limiting. Your video can consist of only images, words, and music, and all of the videos produced have a similar look and feel.

But I paid to use this tool several times before I discovered that Animoto supports non-profits with free pro accounts!

With a pro account, you get unlimited full-length videos without Animoto branding that you can embed on your site, YouTube, or e-mail.

4. Donor Tools

Donor Tools is one of many, many non-profit fundraising and outreach donor management systems. Why do I like it? It’s extremely affordable, newish but not beta, web-based, and offers simple functionality for those looking for just the basics in managing donations.

You can use Donor Tools to track donations and donor profiles, create communications with donors, and tag contacts and communications for organization and reports.

The service currently integrates with Paypal, with plans to support Google Checkout, which has lower fees and which some non-profits prefer.

For large organizations that need custom functionality and advanced reporting, this system won’t cut it. But for smaller organizations or start-ups on tight budgets, it’s worth checking out.

Technically, there is a very, very limited free plan, but realistic use of the service will cost you from $5 to $60 per month.

Obviously, this list is just a sampling of technology available free or low-cost to non-profit organizations.

YouTube and Facebook both offer additional features for non-profits, and up-and-coming Quora seems to have a lot of potential for non-profit use, though that’s a post for another day.

What do you think? Have you used any of these tools and do you have any others to add? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Erica HoltErica Holt has more than eight years’ experience developing digital marketing strategies for health, non-profit and public sector clients. She lives in Takoma Park, Md., with her husband and two young sons. You can catch up with her on Twitter or by email.