Even though Love Thy Neighborhood has been around since 2005 (previously known as Hope for Louisville), we became our own independent 501(c)(3) just this year. As with many new nonprofit start ups, our funds are limited which means that there is far more work to be done than personnel and hours to do it. This means we have to work smart and efficient. We had a great first year of helping hurting people in large part to the amazing administrative tools at our disposal. Here are some of the best nonprofit tools of 2014.
Google Drive: This is really the brains of how we work together as a team. The ability to create, share and access documents as a team keeps our internal documents immediately accessible. We never create documents outside outside of this cloud-based system.
Google Calendar: Again, the ability to share calendars as a team across phones, desktops and laptops keeps us all informed and protects us from scheduling conflicts.
Gmail: Because of our internal workflow design, using gmail is a must. We create lots of folders and keep our inboxes neat and clean. We typically read our inboxes and determine any action items needed. We then open our ongoing TO DO lists in Google Drive and add our action items and then file the emails. This keeps our priorities clear and our vision focused.
Mindmeister: Mindmeister is an online mind mapping application. It doesn’t work well for everyone but I am a highly visual planner and need ways to weave together my webs of thoughts into categories. We especially lean on Mindmeister when putting together our annual promotion plans or new websites.
Lucidchart: Lucidchart is a professional diagram application. We stumbled onto Lucidchart a few months ago when we were developing some rather complicated internal workflow systems. We needed to understand how our promotion contact databases, mail merge scripts and data mining processes would all work together. Lucid chart helped us develop a visual workflow chart that made a complicated process very easy to understand.
Expensify: Expensify is an expense report application. Our friend Bryce Butler from Access Ventures turned us on to this great tool. We take pictures of all of our receipts, assign them to a line in the budget, produce financial reports, I approve the reports and then we send them off to the bookkeeper. And this can all be done from your smart phone or computer. A great tool.
RECRUITMENT & PROMOTION
Mailchimp: I’ve used a lot of email services through the years. Mailchimp is the best. (Or as it is affectionately known by fans of the Serial podcast – “Mail-khimp”.) We especially love their workflow emails that kick in as soon as someone joins your email list. You can automate it to send a series of predetermined introductory emails to cultivate the relationship over the course of several weeks. We’ve also seen people use this feature to send out ebooks and special giveaways automatically when someone joins their list – a feature we plan to use more of in 2015.
Chimpadeedoo: Part of the reason we love Mailchimp is because of Chimpadeedoo. When we speak live or recruit at a conference, the first thing we do is hand people an iPad with Chimpadeedoo loaded. It’s a simple one step process to join our mailing list and takes less than 15 seconds of someone’s time. Over 400 people joined our email list in the last 3 months through Chimpadeedoo.
Photoshop & Adobe Creative Cloud: We design most everything in Photoshop. We’re not masters but it’s a necessary and unparalleled tool in a visual 21st century world. If it were up to me, every nonprofit leader should learn the basics of Photoshop. Also, even though it is a bit pricey, we find that having access to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud suite is pretty amazing and worth it.
Digital Promotions: Our friends at CrossRoads Missions operate high quality printing company. We print our brochures and posters here. They also do our embroidering for our more professional attire when needed. Their prices are competitive and the money supports their important ministry work.
Monkey Drive: I’ve used Monkey Drive to print t-shirts since I was in high school playing in rock bands. Their screen printing is top notch and their prices are competitive. They’re local, timely and have a long history of supporting independent artists, which we appreciate.
DONOR & VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT
eTapestry: We’ve used a couple of other donor management systems through the years. So far, we like eTapestry the best. This is where all of our donor information is recorded and managed. Their are a few key things it lacks that they need to correct (like integrating with Mailchimp and separating First and Last Names) but their Friends Asking Friends feature makes these headaches worth it. This feature allows our Team Members to each have their own personal fundraising page hardwired straight into our database and credit card processing. It saves us a ton of time and allows our Team Member’s to have their own space for cultivating relationships with their donors.
Wufoo: Wufoo is an online form builder with cloud storage. We use Wufoo for all of our Team Member applications, reference forms, general inquiries and speaker requests. It’s easy to use. The forms embed onto our webpages and the cloud storage keeps things accessible and organized.
VolunteerSpot: It’s an ugly website but a great tool with flawless execution. You can organize volunteer groups and physical donation needs through this automated platform. In the past, we used it to manage large holiday events for the homeless that included hundreds of food items and hundreds of volunteers. A great tool that keeps gift-in-kind donors and volunteers up to date in real-time.
WEB & SOCIAL MEDIA
Hootsuite: Hootsuite is how we manage our social media across multiple platforms. We can schedule our social media days or weeks in advance if needed. For a small team, this allows us to sit down for a few hours one day and schedule social media ahead of time. This frees up from relentless posting that our small team doesn’t have the time for. We use these pre-scheduled posts in combination with real-time responses and posts to keep our content active.
X Theme: What can I say? This is a brilliant theme built for WordPress. It is actually 4 different themes built into one. You can select your theme and do an extensive amount of customizing with just a few clicks. Their online support team is great and with so many people using this theme, it’s easy to get answers to nuanced questions. Plus they regularly upgrade to offer new features. We’re not web developers but we were able to build the entire LTN website in-house using this theme.
Google Analytics: We need to know how our website traffic is doing and pay attention to sources, new visitors and popular blogs. This data also helped us recognize a key flaw in our initial website design that resulted in people leaving the site before getting the key information they needed.
StoryBrand: We haven’t done the workshops. (We can’t afford them.) However, a few months ago StoryBrand released a free ebook entitled “5 Things Your Website Should Include” (free when you join their mailing list). We followed the steps and saw a massive increase in applications to serve with LTN. The ebook is worth a read for any nonprofit who manages a website.
Phoster: An easy way to create Instagram posters with personal photos and text overlay. So easy to use that it’s actually fun.
Free Stock Photo Sites: There are a ton of generous photographers now making their work available for free. Bootstrapbay.com has curated a list of their favorites. While we have a ton of in-house photos from our years as an organization, finding the right photo for a blog or post through this list of resources often proves to be a faster, more reliable use of our time.