Nonprofit tools

Having the right tools to help you be more productive, efficient, and effective in running your nonprofit can sometimes be a bit daunting.

If you’re intimidated by technology or find it frustrating, you’re not alone.

Yet, we have dozens of tech tools at our fingertips to help speed along our work and keep us organized.

Taking the time to learn about tools that’ll save you time and money in the long run is time well spent.

The key is to find the right tool for the right task. 

The challenge is that sorting through options can be overwhelming.

Some tools are free, at least to start. Some cost a little. Others cost a lot.

When should you pay and how much?

What if you’re not tech savvy? How much tech skill is required?

And which nonprofit tools are the best?

Whether you’re just getting started or you’re a growing organization seeking greater efficiency, the following list of nonprofit tools will help you sort through your options and choose the ones that’ll help you be more productive.

Let’s Get Started!

TechSoup is a global nonprofit organization that offers discounts and technology solutions as well as IT consulting and courses to nonprofits.

When weighing the cost of various technology products, always check the TechSoup catalog and see if a discount is available (because there probably is!).

Office Tools 

No matter how small your organization is, you need a basic office setup.

There are two major players: Google Workspace and Office 365.

With Google Workspace you get Gmail, Chat, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Forms, and many more tools – starting at under $10 per user per month. Google products are widely used in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, and most people you work with (students, volunteers, Board members, etc.) will already know how to use them.

One of the attractive features of tools like Docs and Sheets is that multiple team members can be inside of, and edit, the same document at the same time which allows for real-time collaboration amongst your team members. By the way, Forms will come in handy for volunteer sign-up, client enrollment in programs, and many other tasks.

You may also need Office 365 for key tools like Word and Excel. Office 365 is easy to use, and again, most of the people you’ll work already know how to use the tools. TechSoup can help you get set up with Office 365 at a discount.

You may feel like you’re doing everything yourself early on, and maybe you don’t feel like you need both products, but having all the tools these products offer makes your life easier. This way, you can choose the right tool for the right task – maximizing your productivity.

Email: Use Google Workspace or Office 365 to give your nonprofit professional polish by setting up an email address instead of using an email that looks like your personal Gmail account.

Cloud storage: For file sharing and storage, you can start with Drive through Google Workspace, so all documents can be stored in a convenient, accessible location.

If you want greater security than Drive offers, Dropbox and Box are popular alternatives. Both tools offer some free storage and, starting at about $10 a month, you can get significantly more.

And, don’t worry, storing files in the cloud is perfectly safe. Plus, you can access your documents from anywhere that you can log in, which is super handy if your team is spread out or stuck at home.

Accounting: You need an accounting tool, even if your organization is very small or just getting started. Seriously, proper accounting practices will set you up for success long term.

QuickBooks is the industry leader, and it starts at about $15 per month for 1 user. Online training courses abound, and your bookkeeper or Board treasurer will likely be familiar with QuickBooks. But there are many other options.

Wave is a free accounting app for basic accounting functions. Sage gets high marks for user-friendliness. Aplos is built for nonprofit accounting and has some donor management tools built in. Give each a test run and see which one you like best.

Phone: You’ll want a phone number that is separate from your personal phone. There are many free and low-cost Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) options, which can be used through your computer and your phone.

Google Voice is a great place to start for as low as $10 a month. Grasshopper offers more features for a completely professional phone system where everyone uses their own phones without ever disclosing their personal phone number.

working from home nonprofitMeetings: If we could work efficiently and effectively without holding meetings, we would all do it! But meetings are a part of any nonprofit, and you need a tool to gather everyone or some meeting participants virtually.

To figure out when meeting participants are available so you can schedule a meeting, use a Doodle poll. This handy tool will eliminate the need to go back and forth through email trying to find a day and time that works for everyone. It’s free and easy to use.

Zoom has emerged as an industry leader for video conferencing, but the free version will cut your meeting off at 40 minutes. A paid account is about $150 a year. Google Meet is part of Google Workspace and includes video conferencing. RingCentral is a commonly used app that bundles video meetings and phone capabilities.

Project management: A project management tool is essential to working with a team and making sure everyone is doing their assigned role to get to the finish line. Even if you are a one-person operation, you still need a project management tool so you can manage all your projects and get the “to do” list done!

Trello is fantastic for list-makers and lovers of sticky notes. You move tasks from the idea phase to various stages of in-progress and finally to completion. And, it’s free for the basic version which will serve you well!

If Trello doesn’t work for you visually, Asana, Basecamp, and Monday are popular options. Finding the right project management tool will go a long way in setting your nonprofit up for success long-term!

If you’ve been going along without a project management tool, make this the year you adopt a tool and make it work for your organization. Getting everyone on board can be challenging, but a team cannot work at maximum efficiency without a tool everyone uses. Once you and your team get used to the tool, you’ll be more productive and have fewer frustrations when someone drops the ball.

Other office tools: Other office tools you can use to put forth a professional, established, and organized image include Adobe Acrobat for viewing, creating, manipulating, printing, and managing Portable Document Format files (PDFs); Docusign for signing agreements electronically (Adobe can do that too); and CamScanner for all your scanning needs.

Office tools will help you get control over the administration of your nonprofit, so it doesn’t suck up all your time.

Starting out with good nonprofit tools and processes is much easier than waiting for your nonprofit to grow to the point that you desperately need a tool or everything has become unwieldy. But if you’ve already reached the unwieldy stage, you’re not alone. Take a breath and start trying out free trials so you can see which tools will help you the most.

Marketing and Communication Tools

Marketing and communication, sometimes called marcom, is how you tell the world what your organization does, who your organization supports, and how your organization changes lives.

Even if you’re too small to have a marketing and communication department, you have to do marketing and communication in an effective way. Otherwise, in marcom industry jargon, your organization will exist in a silo, and you’ll miss out on donors, partnerships, volunteers, and opportunities.

Website: Your online presence starts with a website. Think of it as your storefront. Many people will check you out online before they give for the first time. So, it’s important to have a professional-looking and easy to navigate website.

And you don’t have to spend a fortune on your first website. You can actually do it yourself if you’re comfortable giving it a shot. Squarespace and Wix are both popular choices for new and small nonprofits. Squarespace starts at $16 a month and requires no HTML knowledge (i.e. language used for creating websites). Wix starts at $17 a month and is also easy to use. With both platforms, the coding happens behind the scenes while you build your website block-by-block, page-by-page.

WordPress is a global giant and the go-to platform for organization leaders who want a lot of flexibility with their website through themes and plugins. Devotees love the unlimited options and the ability to get the exact features they want. Plans start at $4 a month, and the plan with access to the vast marketplace of plugins starts at $25 a month.

Email marketing: With your website doing its job, you can turn your attention to email marketing – keeping supporters informed about your work through email. If you’re using your Gmail to keep everybody informed, it’s time to uplevel to an email marketing tool.

Mailchimp is a favorite email marketing platform among nonprofits. The free service is limited, but it’s a good place to start to determine if you like the tool. Paid plans start at about $13 per month. Because so many people use Mailchimp, it’s easy to get support via Mailchimp Facebook groups and YouTube tutorials. Many people you work with will have some familiarity with Mailchimp.

As with all tools, there are competitors in the marketplace promising more features, often at a lower cost. Some platforms used by nonprofits are Constant Contact, MailerLite, and Sendinblue.

Increasingly, we’re seeing donor management tools building in email marketing platforms. If you have a donor management tool (more about these in a moment), see if the platform has email marketing built in. You can also inquire about what tools your donor management tool syncs with, or integrates with, best.

Social Media Tools 

Social media is an important marketing and communication avenue for small nonprofits, because social media, especially Facebook, is where many of your supporters already are. That said, there’s a lot to understand about social media to effectively drive supporters to your page.

To really maximize social media, you need to understand how platforms work and adopt a strategy that brings the right supporters to your page and encourages them to take the next steps: going to your website, signing up for your email list, making a donation, and getting involved.

Accounts: To start, grab your organization’s accounts on all major social media platforms, even if you don’t plan to use them. That’ll keep someone else from getting your name on TikTok or Instagram and making people think it’s you.

nonprofit toolsScheduler: A scheduler is essential to managing your social media strategy, and pricing plans start at about $25 a month. There are several in the marketplace, and Buffer is a favorite among nonprofits (it offers a free version), as are Social Sprout, Hootsuite, and MeetEdgar. With a scheduler, you can plan and execute your social media calendar and use the product’s analytics tools to track engagement.

Video: Video is incredibly important for engagement. As you might know, supporters LOVE watching short videos while scrolling social channels! Get comfortable with Facebook Live, which allows you to talk directly to your supporters – grabbing their attention when you have important updates to share.

GIFs: In addition to video, you need animated GIF images to bring your social feeds to life. Like original videos you create, GIFs attract attention through movement. Owned by Facebook, Giphy is the go-to place for expressing yourself with an animated GIF, which is pronounced with a hard g as in goat.

Giphy will give you so much to choose from, you might initially be overwhelmed. As you get used to searching Giphy, you will find what you need to capture the right message and tone for your organization.

Graphic Design: To make your social feeds sing, you have to create your own graphics. Lots of graphics. You won’t find a more fun tool to make  you feel like a design pro than Canva. It’s a graphic design tool that does so much of the work for you that you get to just play and experiment. You can go a long way with the free version, and nonprofits can apply to Canva to get the paid version for free.

To give your graphics professional polish, watch Canva’s how-to videos and stick to your organization’s brand standards, which should include a color palate. Canva will then suggest colors that work with the colors you’re already using. This’ll give your designs a cohesive look.

Beware that Canva can be a real time suck. It can also give you a false sense of your own design skills. For times when you need the strongest graphics possible, it still helps to have a volunteer or paid professional with a graphic design background.

Donor Management Tools

No question about nonprofit tools gets asked more than, “What software should I use for donor management?”

Also known as Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, donor management software is critical to your nonprofit’s fundraising success. 

Many nonprofits start with a spreadsheet using Google Sheets or Excel to keep up with donor data. This can be a fine solution for the first year or so, but it also makes sense to start with a CRM tool right out of the gate.

A CRM tool tracks everyone who gives to your organization, notes their relationship to your organization and to other donors, and sends acknowledgments. The tool tracks gifts in real time, so you always know how much money you’ve raised. It also sorts gifts by campaigns/appeals and keeps track of gifts designated to a particular purpose. Increasingly, CRM tools are offering management of other aspects of the donor ecosystem like  grants, sponsorships, and even volunteers.

Little Green Light is one of the most popular platforms in the marketplace for small nonprofits. The tool has been around for many years and was created by fundraising professionals. It’s easy to use and has a nice interface and outstanding customer support via email. Pricing starts at $45 per month, making it one of the more affordable platforms, many of which are geared toward large nonprofits. Check TechSoup to see if you qualify for a discount for your first year of usage.

Bloomerang is also popular among small nonprofits. It starts at $125 per month, with fees increasing as you acquire more donors. The company has established itself as a thought leader in small nonprofit fundraising, providing quality, free training to everyone. Again, check TechSoup for discounts.

DonorDock and Donorbox are versatile tools that both have great free versions. DonorDock offers email marketing and texting capability with paid versions.

TechImpact offers a Consumer’s Guide that shows you the top 23 donor softwares. You can grab it here.

Many small nonprofits adopt a CRM but don’t utilize its features – leaving them disappointed and feeling like they’re not getting their money’s worth. Resolve to dig into tutorials and find all the ways your CRM can help you be more productive, and your nonprofit be more effective.

It’s also common for nonprofits to be constantly shopping for a new CRM. If your CRM doesn’t seem to be working for you, make sure the fault lies with the CRM before undertaking the hassle of switching. If the problem is that people don’t know how to use the platform, making a switch will only slow you down.

SurveyMonkey is an important tool for donor management, giving you the ability to send your donors occasional surveys as a way to find out why they love your organization, what motivates them to give, and how they found out about your nonprofit.

Grant Searching Tools

Nonprofit tools

Finding grant opportunities is an important activity for all nonprofits. Grants can provide funds for programs, projects, equipment, and even salaries and overhead. Just be sure your nonprofit is ready before you start looking for grants.

Most organizations need a little help identifying leads. The gold standard in the sector is Foundation Directory Online , but it might be too expensive (starts at about $55 per month) for most small nonprofits who don’t need to use it regularly. Your local library may have a subscription that you can use onsite for free. Some libraries will even give you a one-time code to do your search from your home or office.

Another way to gain access is to sign up for a class through Candid. For their boot camp classes and some others, they may offer a week of access to Foundation Directory Online. Ask before signing up!

There are many alternatives to Foundation Directory Online, including GrantStation, GrantWatch, and Instrumentl (offers a free two-week trial). These platforms may not be as comprehensive, but some offer a weekly subscription for just $18 and an annual subscription for about $200 a year.

Fundraising Tools

Nonprofit tools

There are many strategies for fundraising, and different types of fundraising requires different nonprofit tools.

For donations: Accepting donations through your website is a standard nonprofit practice, and to do that you have to choose a payment processor. Paypal is good for a first tool, but some people don’t like using PayPal, so consider using Stripe or something similar. You can expect to pay at about 3% per donation, though some tools will ask the donor to cover that cost (and many do!).

Choose a processor that plays well with your CRM. For example, Stripe syncs with Little Green Light and, for an additional fee, Little Green Light will pull the gift directly into the database.

For events: If your organization puts on events, you’ll need a tool to manage tickets, registration, and bidding. GiveButter and MobileCause handle event registration, ticket sales, and text-to-give. GiveButter set the nonprofit sector ablaze when the company announced syncing with Venmo.

OneCause works well for 5K and other fun run events. GiveSmart is a top recommendation for organizations that hold auctions. Auctria is a popular tool for managing online and in-person auctions.

DonorBox is another great tool for managing events, peer-to-peer, online donations, and more!

For peer-to-peer fundraising: Many of the tools mentioned above are designed for peer-to-peer campaigns, harnessing the power of your most engaged supporters to not only give themselves but ask their friends to give. CauseMatch offers terrific tools and support for your peer-to-peer campaign. Other good options include CauseVox, Classy, and Mightycause. Some CRM platforms, such as Neon, have peer-to-peer capabilities built in.

It can be hard to figure out how the fees work for crowdfunding and peer-to-peer platforms. Many take a cut of the donations you receive. You can ask donors to chip in and cover these fees. Others have a subscription model, which is more up-front but leaves the organization to pay the cost.

Finding the right fundraising tools can be overwhelming. Think about the types of events and fundraising strategies you’re planning for this year and considering for the next couple of years, and choose the tools that’ll best meet your organization’s needs now and in the near future. And don’t forget to ask around to see what others have used and like. Our Fundraising Made Easy Facebook group is a great place to do that!

For wealth screening: Check out iWave for an in-depth review of your current donors’ capacity to give.

For in-kind donations: An often overlooked fundraising strategy is Amazon’s Wish List feature. If you need supplies, like sheets and towels for a transitional housing organization or dog and cat items for an animal rescue, set up a wish list on Amazon and circulate the link widely.

Many supporters would rather buy something off your list than make a financial donation. If you can get your supplies covered by your Amazon list, you won’t have to use cash donations to buy these items. Also, a donor who buys a dog bed off your Amazon list today (for example) might make a $100 donation next time.

Volunteer Management Tools

If your operation relies on volunteers, you need a platform to schedule volunteers, store their contact information, and track their hours.

Commonly used tools include VolunteerMark and EveryAction. Some tools offer event management and other functions too.

Signup Genius and offer volunteers the ability to sign up for specific events and tasks. These tools also collect donations.

For finding skilled volunteers, Catchafire is an amazing resource. Trained professionals with skills in marketing, social media, graphic design, accounting, forecasting, and many other areas offer their services via Catchafire. The Catchafire platform allows a nonprofit to advertise for the exact need they have.

The catch is that an annual subscription to Catchafire is $2,000 a year. Many nonprofit organizations gain access to Catchafire via a sponsor, such as their local community foundation. Contact your local community foundation and ask if they offer Catchafire memberships to local nonprofits.

The Bottom Line

Whew, that’s a lot of nonprofit tools!

When shopping for a tool for a particular function, look for other functions the tool can provide to keep your overall number (and fees) to a minimum.

Of course, you have to take cost into account. But don’t be so determined to find a free option that you put more work on yourself and limit your organization’s growth.

Build the cost of nonprofit tools into your annual budget, assuming about $1,800 to $2,000 a year – except your payment processor, which will take a cut from each donation.

Fear of technology keeps some nonprofit leaders from embracing tech tools. Even tools designed for less savvy users can be fiddly and take time to figure out.

Before investing, find out what type of customer support or tech support is offered. But don’t let fear of technology impact your nonprofit’s growth. Trying to do everything using Word and Excel will only hold you back.

Accept the modest cost of nonprofit tools and the hassle of learning to use them as necessary to succeed. Always be on the lookout for a new tool, one that’ll help you be more productive. Talk to other nonprofit professionals about the tools they use.

Watch tutorials and sign up for product demos. By constantly evaluating and embracing new nonprofit tools, you’ll be more productive, raise more money, provide more services, and change more lives.