Trite but true: the best things in life are free (or at least, heavily discounted). For cause-driven companies and non-profits, purchasing corporate technology products — and hiring an IT team to manage them — is often out of reach, if not just unwieldy for an organization that’s big on mission but not bureaucracy. In recent years however, startups and tech innovators have stepped up to the development plate, quietly creating the next generation of web- and cloud-based management tools specifically suited for small and mid-sized organizations.
From newsletter-creation to targeted blog tools, running analytics and making donations, almost every useful service a non-profit or cause-based organization could want has received a technologically innovative makeover, complete with options for every set of needs, challenges, and price-points.
These six tools might not save the world on their own, but they can empower and facilitate users to achieve their own goals faster, better and more cheaply than ever before. Dean Kosage
1. Wufoo: Need a form — fast, easily, and affordably? Wufoo launched in 2006 to help individuals and businesses handle everything from creating online surveys to event registration, as well as collecting payments and data. Much like iWeb, Microsoft Office, Pages, WordPress and other office suites and content management systems, Wufoo’s cloud-based system offers both templates and personalized forms (that don’t require a tech staff to create). Even better: Wufoo’s many forms are embeddable, brandable and priced between zero dollars and $199.95 per month.
2. iContact: This one-stop shop manages social media campaigns, email contacts, website analytics, and more. iContact’s real gem, however, is its no-brainer newsletter tool. The HTML-free system features drag-and-drop blocks, hundreds of pre-fab templates, and flexible pricing based on the size of the subscriber base. Prefer to try before you buy? iContact offers a free, 30-day trial.
3. Posterous: Wish you could master the social web, but tailor it to the needs of your organization? With the tagline “share smarter,” Posterous has reclaimed the world wide web with circumscribed, user-generated “spaces” that allow businesses and individuals to create and manage permission-based blogs and photo galleries with controlled access (and pleasing to look at formats). For member-based organizations looking to foster community in a walled web-garden, Posterous has your back. The site also makes good on its tagline by offering autopost services for any social-web destination you can think of — and then some.
4. mGive: Specializing in non-profit fundraising, mGive offers a text-to-donate system that simplifies the process for both contributors and organizations. Once non-profits register with mGive, donors can text a unique keyword to a code provided and “send” in a donation. The texted dollar amount appears on their mobile phone bill, and is distributed to the organization.
5. PageLever: Move over, Facebook Insights. There’s a new tool in town, and it’s all about more thoroughly understanding and utilizing the power of everyone’s favorite social network. PageLever allows organizations to move beyond counting “likes” and on to finding out how engaged its audience or constituents is by creating reports on each post, with a detailed and easy-to-understand analysis of each. The tool reveals which posts are the most engaging to fans, why posts are — and aren’t — reaching fans, and how to leverage and enhance fan bases or constituencies. With interactive and easy-to-read charts, graphs, and number comparisons, PageLever is user-friendly and offers tiered pricing packages (not to mention the occasional non-profit discount).
6. SendGrid: This customizable, cloud-based infrastructure is the tool of choice for non-profits with complex newsletter and outreach needs, as well as a little more web-development savvy on their side. No matter your skill-level in writing code, SendGrid handles a lot of the boring nitty-gritty (like monitoring ISPs and creating real-time analytics) of creating and managing custom email systems. The company’s secret weapon, in fact, is its superior customer service: according to one satisfied non-profit client, someone at SendGrid “always picks up the phone.”