Sunday, November 23, 2008

Free Nonprofit Fundraising, Software, and Outreach Options...

In the spirit of the holiday this week, I want to give to you and your nonprofit. The following are several free resources that will help your nonprofit raise funds, acquire items that it needs, and operate more efficiently; all for free. Happy Thanksgiving! If you haven't already...

__ Need something for free or does your nonprofit (or even you!) need to get rid of something that is perfectly re-usable (e.g. everything from a wheelchair, to packing peanuts, to sewing machines, to computers, bikes, clothes, furniture, etc.); or does your organization need something that can have been previously used? Go online to www.freecycle.org and find a freecycle program near your region. All items are offered for free. All of them. Create an account and follow your local freecycle.org's rules (e.g. usually users must take something before it can put something up on the list to be picked up from you). Freecycle users are anonymous, can request "serious inquiries only" or "interested parties who will pick item up, themselves, only", etc. It's a great way to clear your organization's office of unwanted items in good quality and avoiding putting it in the dump; but it's also a great way to acquire a free fax machine, free computer, etc. Most local chapters allow users to post "Wanted" items, too.

__ Optimize your organization's administration by using better and faster free office products. For the computer: www.ubuntu.com is a free, tested, and much adored operating system (that could replace Windows or Mac OS, for instance with like office software products) if your organization is having difficulties with its operating systems. Similarly, you may want to install Mozilla's Firefox web browser if the nonprofits' staff or volunteers are having difficulties with the latest versions of the current web browser (perhaps Internet Explorer). It is also free, well used, and highly regarded. If your organization has phone conferences or meetings, you can use Google's suite of 'cloud computing' software. Google offers free (just create a Google account at www.google.com) office software equivalents (that we all know, such as Excel and Word) for free. They also offer a calendar that can be used as your organization's official 'internal' calendar providing everything from 'days off' on the calendar to all events, fundraisers, classes, services, board meetings, etc. posted on the calendar on the days and at the times that they will occur. The thing about their office suite is that it can be used by multiple people at one time, in real time, for instance during work meetings. Google allows users to also save, keep, and go back to the documents they've created, plus any and all docs can be shared with whomever the doc creator indicates (in the application) it should be. There are many free software options, today, for nonprofits that are excellent products. If there's something that your organization needs, do a search in any search engine for the product and the word "free" or "freeware" (which means free software).

__ Create an account for your organization on www.idealist.org. Idealist is a respected, long standing, informative portal for nonprofits. Once your organization registers and creates an account on idealist.org the general public can learn about or learn more about your group. It is a place that nonprofits, people who work for nonprofits, etc. go to search for organizations. On your Idealist.org account you can add upcoming events, donation information, and more. It is a free offer that only adds to your organization's presence on the web.

__ Create an account on www.missionfish.org; the donation arm of www.ebay.com. When you create an account on missionfish, as people buy or sell on ebay.com they can select your organization to receive a portion of the sale as a donation. Be sure to let your clients, volunteers, staff, and donors about your organization being listed there, now - so that when they use ebay, they can contribute to your group.

__ Create a wish list for the items that your nonprofit needs (either items for your clientele, or maybe research work, and even office supplies, for instance). Go to www.amazon.com; create an account for the nonprofit (and keep record of its log in, on amazon, and its password). Then, using the "search" feature enter the first item that your organization may need. For instance, let's say that we need reams of copy paper; search for 'copy paper' and select the product your office prefers. Then, on the right hand side of the item, instead of clicking 'purchase this item', find and click the 'Add to Wishlist' prompt. The first item that you go to add will cause amazon to prompt 'no wish list exist for this account, yet; do you wish to create one?' and acknowledge that yes, you do. This first item will now be in your organization's wish list on amazon. Continue to search for, after, and and add any and all items that your organization would like to receive (that amazon sells, of course - but they sell a lot). When you're done, (and you can always return to add new items, later; or delete items later), click on "Wish List" in the upper right hand side of any amazon web page (while you're logged on in the organization's account) and give priority to the items that your organization really wants by going down its wish list and providing the level of need in the right hand side prompt of each item (low, medium, high, and highest). For each item, select its priority level, and then click 'save' right under the priority level prompt. Finally, notice that on the left hand side you can click 'give more information about your interests to help friends/family shop for gifts for you'. Even though yours' is an organization, click this feature. Make sure that the delivery address is correct (in the middle of the profile page); list your organization's mission statement in the 'personal interests prompt'; make sure that the wish list is public and accessible to all amazon users; and finally, at the very bottom of the profile page click the 'this wish list is for a nonprofit' check box, and provide your organization's Federal ID number (or 501(c)(3) tax number) and its website address; then save. Go back to the account's home page, and on the left hand side notice that you can e-mail your organization's wish list. If you wish, you could copy and paste, there, the e-mail addresses of your organization's donors and or sponsors and send it to them.

__ Use your community's local media to reach out to potential new volunteers and donors. How? Don't go to them when your organization is in crisis with the 'save us or we'll disintegrate' disaster message (it demonstrates why donors shouldn't give to your organization anymore - you can't manage and run a healthy organization). Instead, go to the public while your organization is meeting its mission statement goals (and give reasons why potential volunteers and donors should invest in your successful, efficient organization). For instance, you could share whether your organization doing something new? Is your organization offering a new service or class? Did your group just make a new discovery in its research? Maybe your organization is holding a Kwanzaa or Hanukkah gift exchange for those in need this year? Let the community know! Create press releases for any and each these kind of unique or new happenstances occur at the organization; and disseminate the release to all media that reaches the people your organization serves (you can e-mail a press release, fax it, or snail mail it). The list should include local radio stations, newspapers, television stations, magazines, relevent regional list serves, blogs, etc. and your organization's own website. Send the press releases "attention: community events" at each contact. Create a short and clear press release (search in any search engine if you aren't sure how to create a professional press release and look for what seems the best) and be sure to include the: who, what, where, when, how, and why of whatever you're informing the press about. Always remember to include your organization's name, a succinct (short but clear) phrase stating what it does (which does not have to be your group's mission statement) AND always provide where people can learn more (or volunteer for or donate to) your agency.

If you have a great 'free' tip for my readers and I, please post it as a "Comment" below. Thank you!

Best wishes this Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Always nice to see free nonprofit software products, as well as fundraising for it.
-Jon