Cool online tools that are absolutely free

I continue to be amazed at how many tools there are out there for organizations to use — many of them absolutely free.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Facebook’s new Nonprofit Resource page

Facebook has (finally!) created a page especially for nonprofits which helps organizations understand the resources available to us.  For those who don’t know the difference between a page, a group and an event, this bud’s for you.  These are clearly explained, along with information on how to create content, how to grow your connections, and how to use Facebook ads (hey, can’t blame them for trying to generate a little revenue, can you?).

WordPress

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tool I’m using right now to write this blog.  There are lots of blog sites out there, but I’ve never had the need to look elsewhere.  Wordpress is easy to use, flexible, and the stats are tremendous.  And, you can also create websites on WordPress, choosing from an impressive array of templates (and customization options for the brave).  This makes WordPress the go-to resource for integrating blogs into websites.  One thing to note: WordPress.com and WordPress.org are related platforms which offer different features.  Here’s a comparison.

Online survey tools

I’ve been using SurveyMonkey for years, but WordPress has created a worthy rival, PollDaddy, who’s main advantage is that it can interface with WordPress sites.  Both sites allow you to send out basic surveys (10 questions max and minimal analysis tools) to limited numbers of people (100 respondents per month) for free.  Upgrades for both start at about $200 per year, which you gotta admit is a small price to pay, considering you can use a survey for anything from a board vote to market research.

Google Places

Do me a favor.  Go here, right now.  Do what it tells you to do.  It takes five minutes and allows anyone who finds your location on a Google map to see enhanced information about your organization, including your website, mission, operating hours and photos.  All for free.  You can thank me later.

Of course, cool tools are just toys unless you integrate them into your marketing plan and your operations.  Selecting the tools that work for you has a lot to do with who works with them and who uses them.   I think that a question each organization should ask is, who is going to be maintaining this (blog, facebook page, website, survey account) a year from now?  If you don’t know (and don’t know if it will be you), don’t get too fancy.  If your audiences aren’t techno geeks, don’t load up your website with flash animations that will load slowly and send them running to another website.

And here’s a final caution: don’t think that you can’t do this.  I know too many organizations who think they can’t improve their website or start a blog until they get a “someone with web experience” to design it for them.  The only trouble with that is, the “someone with web experience” who sets up your site may not be around to help you troubleshoot — and of course, nobody knows best what should go on your site or blog than you do.  Go for it.  Jump in with both feet.

What tools do you like?

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About Ellen Rosewall

I am Professor and Chair of Arts Management and author of Arts Management: Uniting Arts and Audiences in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 2013). I believe that arts and culture are undergoing a profound change in the 21st century, and I love talking with people about how we continue to bring arts to our communities and individuals give the brave new world of social media, technology and economic changes. Join the conversation!
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2 Responses to Cool online tools that are absolutely free

  1. Betsy Bostwick says:

    These are great resources! I am literally going to Google Places now to get the art gallery listed. I have not yet visited Facebook’s Non-Profit resource page, but I have to put a plug in for Facebook Ads. Yes, there is a charge for this, but it is totally worth it. For the 48th Annual Marshfield Art Fair, we ran ads both online through Gannett Media (Central WI newspapers) and Facebook. We spent $250 with Gannett and received 27,000 impressions. It only ran for one day on the website and we were not able to target it at all. On Facebook, we were able to target our ad to people who live in Wisconsin with an interest in the arts and art fairs. We received 100,111 impressions for $87 and the ad ran for a month. For an event, it is very reasonable, easy, and since we were using grant funding to pay for the ad, it was helpful to receive weekly reports from the Facebook Ads Team of how many people had seen the ad and clicked through to our website. Ok, plug over!

    One other quick note! I’ve recently started using weebly.com for a website for a grant funded program. The site is totally free as long as you don’t mind having a .weebly.com after your site name and can resist upgrading to weebly pro. If you add a “contact form” feature to your website (still free), you can create up to 5 questions. I am using it as an evaluation tool for visitors and artists participating in the program. It won’t tabulate results for me, but it gathers the data and sends it right to my inbox.

  2. This is awesome, Betsy — thanks for the stats on the FB ad!

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