Useful free resources for CSOs: tested and approved tools

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free online tools

Working in a small organisation is not easy. Financial and human resources are scarce, and although civil society organisations (CSOs) are aware that there are countless free resources and tools out there that could make their life easier, they are often so overloaded that they can’t invest the time needed to find out where they are and which ones would correspond to their needs.

Here are a few resources we find useful, on issues that small CSOs often request support for; we hope they will allow you to free up time for what’s important: your programmes and the people you work for!

free online tools

1. Management and internal processes
  • Non-profit hub: This website gives general advice for CSOs; although sometimes more directed towards US based non profits, it offers useful tips and guidelines, especially regarding fundraising and external communication (but also sometimes related to governance, planning…). They also regularly organise free webinars on different topics of interest.
  • Mango: This is a very interesting UK based charity, specialized in financial management, which is sometimes a weak point for smaller organisations when looking for donors or partnerships. Mango supports grassroots organisations and large international NGOs, through training and well-designed free guidelines “to take the fear out of finance”.
  • Nonprofitready: This is a platform that brings together over 300 online classes and other resources about all aspects of non profit management, which anyone can access for free after creating a profile. You can then search resources by topic or keyword.


2. Fundraising

Fundraising can be a headache. Fortunately, some websites can make this work (a bit) easier, by sorting and publishing different opportunities:

  • Funds for NGOs: This website doesn’t have the best search engine in the world, but it is a good source of information regarding funding opportunities for all sorts of projects. The information given is sometimes a bit limited; for more information you will be redirected to the donor’s page, which is still a pretty good start!
  • Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development: it isn’t exhaustive but we still like it, as it is intended for organisations including those based outside of the UK and is frequently updated.
  • Development Aid: The list of opportunities is open to anyone although access to details requires registration, which has a cost. However, you might be able to find detailed information by going directly onto donor websites once you have seen an opportunity posted on the development aid site.

Some websites also provide methodological tips to help you write winning proposals:

  • Classy: Although rather orientated towards US based non profits, they also offer guides, tips in their blog and free webinars that can help you build up your strategy and save time and energy in your fundraising efforts.

Most of these organisations publish tips and resources on social networks: they also often have a newsletter, which you can register for in order to get the content automatically delivered to your inbox.


3. Communication

Communication is key to show the world the wonderful programmes you implement; unfortunately this is often not considered a priority in small (and overloaded…) teams. Here are a few tools to get you started!

  • Some practical tools can help you manage your social networks better, once you know, for example through Facebook’s statistics, what day and time you are most likely to reach your audience: Buffer is a very simple tool that helps you programme your posts and publications in advance, as well as tracking their performance. You can create a free account and then manage your different social media accounts from just one place.
  • As you have heard before, a picture is worth a thousand words: this programme helps you create professional-looking infographics, which you can then use for your website, social networks or any other communication needs. You can start from scratch or use one of the many existing templates, topics, charts, graphs… The possibilities are almost endless.
  • There are many free tools to edit photos: pixlr is one of them, which allows you to do very simple or more elaborated editing, add some creative effects, etc. The quality of pictures used for your website and communication is an aspect that is unfortunately often overlooked, especially by smaller entities. Don’t neglect this aspect, it gives a strong first impression about your organisation!
  • Newsletters: This is a powerful tool to inform your audience about the great programmes you are implementing and the impact you are having. Some online tools can help you design them very easily, the most famous and most used being MailChimp, which offers ready-to-use formats where you can enter your organisation’s information. It also allows tracking (how many people opened your newsletter, etc.) and automatically manages e-mail addresses entered twice, etc.

There are countless other resources that might be useful for your organisation, depending on your needs. In any case, a tool is just a tool, and it will only help you if you know your needs well! Don’t hesitate to contact us for advice if what you read here doesn’t respond to the specific challenges you are meeting. Good luck!

This blog piece was initially published on Well Grounded’s website in an adapted version here

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