Updated: Nov 19, 2019
A recent conversation with a friend who is wading into the fundraising world reminded me that nonprofits (as well as small and medium-sized businesses) are often in need of cost-effective solutions to help them easily deliver meaningful results.
When I worked in e-commerce for UPS we talked a lot about the flow of goods, funds, and information and how to streamline the supply chain to save our customers time and money. Much has changed since my days at UPS, but I am still always on the hunt for cost-effective and time-saving solutions.
Below are a few tools I've used recently to support projects and processes for myself and my clients. No, I don't get any kickbacks or kudos from these companies. I just enjoy sharing (and receiving!) tips and hacks.
Form Building: I'm a big Wufoo fan. Their forms connect with many other apps and solutions including for e-commerce. Their customer service is tremendous, and the customized branding makes for a very smooth presentation. Since there is a backend for admins a form can be edited and "admin only" content entered. Of course, the content may be exported into various reports and/or spreadsheets. I hadn't used it in a few years and just pulled it out again last week. I was a little rusty on it at first. The learning curve isn't too steep but when the forms get more complex it does get tricky. Nonetheless, I soon enough found my groove and was trying to come up for more reasons to use it. I don't use the free version but that's a fine place to start.
Time tracking: Whether you are tracking your time for your clients or projects, it's usually a good idea to use some sort of tool that is more robust than jotting it down on your calendar. I use Toggl to track my time with my clients and their individual projects. I have still managed to stick to the free version. I can track by client and then further down to projects under the client. It is very intuitive and also has a simple phone app. I can see how this would also be helpful for nonprofits tracking time on various foundation grants and project-specific funding.
Website Builder: Sure, WordPress gets a lot of press and is very robust. However, for a small business website, I've been very happy with Wix. If I had to give one word for Wix, it would be "driver-friendly" (OK, one hyphenated word). It just wants to get you where you want to go and keeps you looking good. While my experience with WordPress has been fine, it hasn't been the same kind of relationship. Many sites need the bigger engine under the hood that WordPress can provide, but so far Wix has been a reasonably priced, reliable vehicle that's fun to drive.
Graphic Design: One word: Canva. It is a bit life-changing in the marketing world. My actual graphic designer friends are probably rolling their eyes on this one. And they are right...it's no Illustrator. (As far as I can tell you can't tighten up a vector file or many other technical graphical challenges.) But I'm no advanced-degree designer...yet I still need to create good marketing collateral on the fly, particularly for digital marketing. Hands down, for standard designs, you can't beat Canva. (OK, maybe you can, but this works for me. I would love to know what you use if it's something else.) I've used it to create digital media for blog posts (see above), social media profile images and banners, and the list goes on. I just used it to create a tradeshow banner. Seriously, it is incredibly user-friendly. I got by on the free version for a while but now that I've upgraded—providing the ability to much more easily resize posts, much more content available and many other perks—I probably won't go back. As long as you keep a good sense of style and not get carried away with all of the (at times, cheesy) bells and whistles, you will be fine. Plus, you may find it a bit addicting. Consider yourself warned.
So there you have it—a peek into my Marketing and Development toolbox. I hope these thoughts help you as you are connecting with your customers, donors, partners or other stakeholders. Please share your own experiences using these or other tools that help you deliver your own style of meaningful work.