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Tools for Social Change on a Shoestring

Tools are software and web applications — often free — that Rootwork has identified as particularly helpful to nonprofits, “accidental techies” and those pursuing social change online with limited resources. Have an idea for something that should go here? Suggest it!

Tool: ChipIn

ChipIn is a fundraising “widget” that allows you to easily collect money on your website, blog, or social networking profile (such as MySpace or Facebook). What ChipIn excels at isn’t in replacing your existing “donate now” button, but in small, concrete fundraising campaigns that have a clear goal and endpoint. The ChipIn widget provides a graph of how close you are to your goal, and automatic “thank you” emails can be customized. Money collected can be channeled to a PayPal account, direct deposit or a traditional paper check. Take a look at Beth Kanter’s case study below for ideas on how to create effective fundraising campaigns using this kind of widget. The second Social Actions article gives a good roundup of all of the fundraising widgets out there if you want to explore other options.

Tool: Doodle

Need to coordinate a phone conference or online meeting but don’t want to play the email scheduling game? Doodle allows you to easily set up a list of possible times and allow attendees to check off when they’re available — leaving you with a easily-visible chart of the ideal meeting times. For more complex user surveys, check out SurveyBob.

Tool: DreamHost

There are lots of web hosts out there, and for particularly large or robust sites DreamHost might not be the best solution. But for smaller nonprofits it could be exactly what you’re looking for — because DreamHost offers free webhosting to 501(c)(3)-registered nonprofits in the United States.

Tool: Email Service Provider Comparison

Stop overwhelming your web host by sending out your email newsletter through Outlook — and start sending out targeted messages to subsets of your subscriber lists. Groundwire’s report compares 10 “best of breed” email service providers for nonprofits — companies that give your organization the ability to send out mass emails or “eblasts” to your supporters. While Vertical Response is a great starting point (see our review of its free service, below), if you have a large list or specific needs, you’ll want to find the best option. This is an up-to-date guide to exactly that.

Tool: Eventbrite

Move beyond Evite! Set up professional event registration pages, complete with ticket sales, discount codes, post-event surveys and posting to Google Calendar. Payment is through PayPal or Google Checkout, which cost about 2.5% per transaction. Eventbrite charges an additional 2.5%, with a maximum of $10 — but is completely free for free events.

Tool: GIMP

Can’t swing the cost of Photoshop, even with a TechSoup discount? The GIMP is a completely free, downloadable alternative to Photoshop that offers a surprising array of powerful image-editing abilities. Even better, it works on Windows, Macintosh and Linux platforms.

Tool: Social Networking ROI Calculator

Is it worth it to integrate a comprehensive social networking strategy into your newest campaign? Should you devote staff time to creating FacebookFacebook is a social network encouraging real identity — each user has a single account under their full, real name. Facebook began among US college students but has quickly expanded to people of all ages around the world. pages or just rely on your email list? Care2’s “Return on Investment” calculator for social networking will help you make the case — or convince you to focus elsewhere.

Tool: SurveyBob

A lot of nonprofits use SurveyMonkey because it's the "market leader" in surveying. It's OK, though its nonstandard, inaccessible form elements can be an issue. More significantly, it caps the number of questions you can have in each survey (10) and the number of responses you can process (100/month) unless you get the paid version — and at $20/month, it's not cheap.

Enter SurveyBob, which allows you to create unlimited surveys, with unlimited questions, processing unlimited numbers of responses, for free. The statistics aren't as deep as SurveyMonkey, and at the end of a survey it dumps respondents onto the SurveyBob page, but still looks more professional than SurveyMonkey. Allows for embedding directly in websites, too.

Tool: TechSoup

TechSoup is a nonprofit that helps other nonprofits in the United States and Canada acquire deeply-discounted software and online services. Microsoft Office for $16? Adobe InDesign for $60? FlickrFlickr is a social media site for photographs and digital images. Like a social network, it allows users to “friend” one another, join groups, and see a recent-updates feed of their own and their friends’ images. Flickr is owned by Yahoo!. accounts for $3/year? It’s all in TechSoup’s stock.

Additionally, TechSoup has a vibrant forum community and blog postings relating to the use of technology by nonprofits.

Tool: Vertical Response

Although there are many mass-email providers, including Emma, Electric Embers and Constant Contact (see the link to the Email Service Provider Comparison report, above), Vertical Response offers free email list management to nonprofits who send out up to 10,000 emails per month. If you’re just getting off the ground, this is a good way to professionalize your communication with supporters without spending a bundle of cash. Vertical Response also integrates reasonably well with Salesforce, a software tool frequently used by nonprofits (see the last review below for details).