The majority of not-for-profit organizations rely on the work of volunteers to operate effectively. A great many people are involved with these organizations in some unpaid capacity, or donate money and support fundraising initiatives. Everyone involved in supporting community groups and good causes wants to know the money raised is being spent where it will do most good and not be wasted on administrative costs. However, in order to raise money there has to be a degree of marketing to publicize the cause and involve as many donors as possible, and administration to keep everything in order. The best way to keep costs down while not restricting the impact of a marketing campaign is to find and use free and low-cost alternatives and minimize unnecessary expenditure, and an increasingly important factor in this strategy is the use of digital technology.
Defining a not-for-profit organization
There are legal definitions as to what constitutes a charity, non-profit, or not-for-profit organization, but for the purposes of this article, not-for-profit is being used as a term to describe any non-commercial enterprise that aims to fulfill a community or philanthropic function without taking any profits. That could include local, national, or international charities and good causes, community groups that aim to improve the lives and environment of a local area, sports clubs and groups, enthusiast and hobby groups such as model train clubs or cat lovers’ groups, voluntary groups such as parent-teacher associations in schools, carnival clubs, environmental groups; the list is virtually endless. If you give up your time for an organization without being paid, you’ll be interested in both saving costs and improving visibility for your cause.
Websites and social media
Just because an organization is running on a not-for-profit basis doesn’t mean it is different to any other business, because it still needs a business plan and a marketing strategy to be run as successfully and efficiently as possible. With the advent of website builders that take away the need to have technical expertise in web design, anyone can create a smart-looking site for a minimal investment. The process isn’t fool-proof though; it is still possible to create a site that doesn’t do the organization any favors, for example, poorly laid out, not enough information, badly written content, and no use of marketing techniques to draw people in. You need to find a volunteer who has a marketing or business background to create the site, and have clear guidelines on what the site is to be used for and how it should be updated and added to. The same principles apply to social media accounts, which can be valuable marketing tools but only if used in the most effective way.
Design and branding
The most successful organizations both in business and not-for-profit sectors, have a well-established brand and logo that makes them instantly recognizable. If you see a giant panda logo, you know it represents the Worldwide Fund for Nature without needing to see the name of the organization. The fact that the giant panda is no longer endangered hasn’t made the WWF change their logo, because they understand that the panda is the symbol by which they are known. In the business world, if you see the golden arches symbol you know that means McDonalds, or if you see someone walking around with a stylized tick mark on their shirt you know that garment was made by Nike. Such simple logos can be highly effective in brand recognition, and graphic designers get paid a lot of money to come up with new logos. If you’re helping coach a Little League team in your town, then you wouldn’t be in a position to pay for a graphic designer to come up with a logo, but how do you create one yourself when you don’t have a background in design? This is where digital tools can come to your aid, in the form of do-it-yourself logo design websites. These tools allow you to create your own logo without needing to be an expert in design, and are well worth learning more about as you can save a considerable amount of money.
To publicize your organization and promote an event, you’ll need to produce marketing materials such as posters, flyers, and informational leaflets, either online, in hard copy or for preference both. To create your own effective and professional looking materials, you’ll need to make use of the many marketing templates and self-design tools that are available online. These tools aim to make the process as simple as possible, but before you begin it’s worth finding out about the golden rules of designing promotional materials, such as fonts and sizes, including images and understanding how their use is controlled by copyright law, the right amount of text, use of colors, and so on. This will help you produce materials that communicate the relevant details in an appealing way, and get you a decent amount of positive exposure.
Open source software
Coding enthusiasts are known for their generosity and their desire to enable everyone to make use of the applications that they have created. There are open source software solutions for almost anything you could possibly need, and if you are able to implement them and make best use of them, that will save you a lot of cash. Many are simple downloads, although before you click OK make sure the software is genuine and won’t be installing any malware on your computers. For complex systems, someone in your organization might need to have a grasp of computing in such subjects as Linux operating systems; Apache servers; and languages like MySQL, to be able to install and maintain the software, but there are community help services and contact lists to help you get started and answer any queries you have.
Whenever you need to accomplish a task or have an idea that would involve a level of funding, first check the web for free or low-cost tools that could make the job easier for you. You’ll be surprised how many useful apps there are that can save your organization money while still allowing you to carry out valuable marketing and administrative functions.