I recently met with someone at a local community outreach organization about bringing their internet operations up to speed. They were surprised to learn that they were eligible for free web hosting simply because of their IRS 501(c) (3) status. I couldn’t help but imagine that there are plenty of others who would love to know about this.
As I got to thinking about it I realized that there must be other great free for non-profit services out there. I’ve been doing some research and below you’ll find 8 useful eResources that are completely free to qualified non-profits. They include web hosting, marketing, software, and web application solutions.
Some of these are even free for anyone, and can be of great value to businesses, small and large. I include them because they can be especially valuable to non-profits. By employing free open source software you can keep your IT budget to a minimum without sacrificing.
DreamHost offers their powerful carbon-neutral web hosting for free to non-profits. Instructions for claiming your non-profit status are on the DreamHost wiki.
DreamHost is the hosting company I use, and suggest for most of my clients. They are an employee owned company that offers solid service at a low price with impeccable customer service and a great control panel.
If you don’t qualify as a non-profit you can still make use of this DreamHost promo code to get a discount of $50 on any plan. Just enter the code GRANDSTAFF to claim your discount when you sign up.
DreamHost also offers 1-Click Installs of some of the web applications mentioned below such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. It’s very easy and they guide you through the process with ease.
Google Analytics – Website Statistics and Analysis
Google Analytics is a versatile and powerful website traffic analysis package that is free for anyone. That is, unless you get 5 million page views per month, then it’s free if you are an Adwords customer. Of course if you’re getting that many page views then you’re already using Adwords.
When you sign up you’ll get a snippet of code to put at the bottom of all your website’s pages. Once you’ve added it all you need to do is log into Google’s site and you’ll have access to a dizzying number of metrics for your site’s traffic and useage. There’s nothing more useful when you need to propose new funding or projects to your board (or your boss) than hard numbers, and Google Analytics will give you just that. It even creates custom graphs and lets you download everything in PDF format! You can also grant access to the data to other users so your whole team can stay up to date.
Vertical Response – Email Marketing
Vertical Response offers email marketing that is free for non profits up to 10,000 emails per month. They also provide discounted rates on their survey and postcard services. Direct email can be an incredibly powerful way to stay on your donors’ minds and to keep your volunteer base up to date and in the know. You can use it for a monthly newsletter, or to get the word out quickly when needed.
Now, if you’re looking for an email marketing solution for business I use and suggest AWeber. They have a extensive feature set at a competitive price. Perhaps what really sets them apart is their emphasis on educating you in how to make the best use of their service and their outstanding customer support. There are tons of videos, tutorials, and webinars to make sure you know how to take full advantage of your email marketing campaigns. They are also always adding new features and have stood the test of time. You’ll also get a free month to test drive it and make sure it’s right for you, so there’s no risk!
I just heard from AWeber regarding their discount for any non-profit:
* The account will include 3 months of service at no cost then following this period a discount of 25% off monthly billing.
* You will need to postal mail or fax us the order form completed with cc number and a copy of your 501c3.
With Vertical Response or AWeber you’ll get reporting features for your email campaigns. You can see what percentage of people opened your message, how many clicked a link, which links, and more. This alongside Google Analytics will give you all the metrics you need to report on the effectiveness of your on-line presence.
CiviCRM – Open Source Constituent Relationship Management
CiviCRM is a completely free (as in speech and beer) relationship management system designed for non-profits. The feature set is aimed at activism groups, non-profit organizations, and non-governmental organizations. It is designed to integrate seamlessly with either Joomla or Drupal, which are both free and open source content management systems.
Optional modules can be added for specific needs such as fund-raising, event registration, and more. Combined with the flexibility offered by Drupal or Joomla this is a free website platform that can meet the needs of even the largest organizations. There are reports of it managing a database of 7 million constituents, but it’s free and you could even run it on your DreamHost account!
A few of the non-profit organizations using CiviCRM are…
- Amnesty International
- Creative Commons
- Wikimedia Foundation
- Atlanta Audobon Society
Google Grants – Free Advertising
This might be the highest value item on this list. It’s also the most exclusive. Non-profit organizations meeting Google’s eligibility requirements may may apply for a grant to receive up to $10,000 of free Adwords advertising per month. Yes, that’s Ten Thousand dollars worth of advertising free for non- profits!
Adwords is Google’s advertising program. You bid on keywords to have your ads appear alongside search results for those keywords. It’s pay-per-click advertising, which means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. In addition to targeting keywords you can exclude keywords or target your campaigns to specific geographic areas. Adwords is an effective way to advertise any size website.
Google Grants is not open to everyone, but most community organizations and advocacy groups should be eligible to apply. They also expect you to make use of the free account and may terminate it if you let it go dormant.
Also known as OO.o, OOo, or plain old Open Office. It is a completely free for anyone office suite including word processor, spreadsheet, presentation creator, and more. This can save a non-profit a couple hundred dollars per computer. Just make sure Microsoft Office doesn’t come on your new computers.
It seems like everyone thinks they need Microsoft Office, but Open Office will meet all their needs and add features they’ve always wanted in Microsoft Office. For instance Open Office can open MS Word and Excel documents and it can export files as PDF, easily.
On top of all the great features Open Office runs on MacOS, Linux, and Windows! That means you can open your files on any computer. If you’ve ever tried to open Microsoft Works documents on a Mac you know how valuable that can be.
Google Apps Education Version – Web-based Mail & Collaboration Application Suite
Google Apps Education Editioni is a set of web-based applications and services that runs on Google’s servers but using your domain name. You can outsource your email & office applications, use instant messaging, host video, and collaborate. The Education Edition includes some extra features and is also free for non-profit organizations.
You can use Google Apps with any domain, but the Education Edition has some extra features that could benefit larger organizations. If you use DreamHost for your hosting you’ll be able to install Google Apps when you set up a new domain in the control panel.
WordPress can confuse people at first because there are two WordPresses: WordPress.org is home to the free and open source blogging software, and WordPress.com is a site that runs the WordPress software and lets you host your own blog on their site. The are both free to anyone and great for non-profit organizations. If you have your own website you can install WordPress as an add-on to provide a blog on your site, or it can be used to run the entire site like a content management system, or CMS. In fact you’re looking at WordPress right now, as I use it to run my website.
You can log into an administrative panel on your website and write or edit content as if you were using a word processor, or using HTML if you prefer. WordPress stores your content in a database and automatically applies styles or themes to your work so you can worry about creating content rather than making things work and look right.
Out of the box WordPress isn’t the best CMS. (It’s a great blogging framework!) Luckily there are many many freely available extensions that add all sorts of features to WordPress making it a very adaptable and easy to use CMS. You don’t need to be an expert to use it or install it, especially if you use DreamHost!
For sticking it out to the end of this post I’ll tell you about one last resource: Me, Peter Grandstaff. I do consulting and implementation of web solutions at no cost for select non-profits. Currently this is by invitation only. I will offer discounted pricing to most 501(c) (3) entities though, so be sure to ask about it!
If any of these resources sound like they could be of use to your organization, but you’re not sure how to go about putting them in place, you should contact me for a free consultation. I will be happy to help you navigate the options and find the best fit for your unique needs, whether you’re a non-profit organization or not!
Got one I didn’t cover? Share other free resources for non-profits below, and have a great day!