Free essential software guide for nonprofits: Essential marketing tools

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Nonprofits are passion projects and very personal - they are created to serve a major need in our society, a mission so valuable that making progress towards realizing its ultimate goal is rewarding in and of itself. Realizing that fulfilling the mission requires the nonprofit to connect to others, whether by finding other like-minded people that can help it realize that vision, including generous donors that help sustain it, or, more importantly, connecting with those that the organization is trying to serve. To get there, organizations need to share their message with the broadest audience possible, which requires solid marketing tools.

With the dawn of the digital age, marketing has changed drastically over the last two decades. It has gone from a few large media companies controlling the channels that can reach the masses to being more fully democratized through the advent of the internet. The barrier to entry is very low, which has increased the number of people trying to reach their audience. The challenge, however, is cutting through the clutter, having a presence in channels your audience is active in, and reaching them with the right message.

To help us deal with the complexity of marketing in the digital age, a large number of software marketing tools have been developed. This is the second article a three-part series on free and essential software tools for nonprofits. In part one we discussed free essential productivity tools. In this article, part two, we will cover free essential marketing tools for nonprofits that can help you build a web presence, reach your audience through email, and find your community through social media tools. Stay tuned for part three where we will cover essential back-office tools. For now, we hope you find this essential marketing tools guide helpful. Let’s dive in!

Having an online presence is table stakes for any organization including nonprofits. A website is the digital manifestation of your organization, its brand and values, and is the main hub for your members, donors, and the community you serve. Once you connect with your audience, email marketing can help you stay engaged with them. To find new audiences and to share your message more broadly, social media can play a major role. This article will share a number of tools to help you build a website, craft engaging email marketing messages, and manage your social media community.


A website is the digital gateway to your organization. It can be as simple as a few pages with the key information you want the public to know about your nonprofit and your mission, or be a more complex, interactive website with a private membership area, ecommerce functionality, and donation and fundraising collection features. Regardless of your needs, there are a large number tools available that allow any nonprofit organization to set up a website quickly without any technical know-how and iteratively add additional functionality to it over time. Some of the best and most widely used website building technologies are available for free and allow any organization to setup a website very quickly.


WordPress is a free and open-source software and the most widely used tool for creating websites, with around 30% of the websites on the internet powered by WordPress. With that scale comes a large community of people who constantly build new functionality, write tutorials, and answer any questions that other WordPress users might have. This level of scale and support is critical, especially for organizations that have tight budgets: it enables them to find solutions to their website needs on their own. To help nonprofits get started, here is an introductory guide for nonprofits to WordPress.

Key Considerations:

  • WordPress is the most widely used website building technology
  • A large ecosystem of add-ons that can enhance your website over time for adding donation collection and membership functionality
  • Completely free set up for website and very low cost add-on packages to add some key features, including having your own custom website address
  • WordPress is a free and open-source software with a large active community that constantly expands it and produces helpful support information for any question
  • WordPress is a very powerful tool with lots of options, so learning all the ins and outs of WordPress can come with a steep learning curve

You can head over to the following link and build your free WordPress website.


Weebly is a proprietary drag-and-drop website builder, and allows anyone to quickly make a beautiful website. The tool is focused on making it easy to build websites by carefully allowing the users to add elements in certain areas of the page. It also has an app centre to add enhanced functionalities to your website.

Key considerations:

  • Easy-to-use drag-and-drop functionality to quickly build a website
  • Has the necessary add-ons needed for nonprofits, including DonorBox integration and Membership area and other features using their App Center
  • Great built in e-commerce functionality for selling any goods and services
  • Build a website for free, which will include a built by Weebly footer
  • The initial pricing is slightly more expensive than other offerings but still affordable
  • Less flexible than other options for customization as you are limited to what is available in the Weebly ecosystem

Head to the following link to get started and build a free Weebly website.

Email Marketing

Engaging with your volunteers, donors, and the communities your nonprofit serves is critical to the continued success and growth of your organization, and email marketing is one of the most effective tools for accomplishing that goal. There is a good selection of email marketing tools available to nonprofits to help them engage with their audience on a regular basis.


One of the most popular email marketing platforms for small businesses is MailChimp due to its ease of use and powerful features. It is also a great choice for nonprofits, as you can customize their existing email templates to match your nonprofit’s branding and message, send and track email campaigns, and more importantly, you can automate these campaigns to free up time for more creative marketing activities.

Key Considerations:

  • Allows you to easily build emails and quickly send email campaigns
  • Create beautiful emails with drag-and-drop templates
  • Powerful email automation feature allows you to automated email campaigns
  • Get up to 2,000 subscribers total and 12,000 email sends a month for free
  • Learning the advanced functionality can take a bit of time
  • Once your users grow past 2,000 the monthly costs can start to add up, but they offer nonprofit discounts

You can start your free account by visiting MailChimp.


Salesforce is one the largest software companies in the world and the leader in cloud software in a number of categories, including email marketing. They provide powerful technologies to large enterprises and have made the same technology available to nonprofits through their initiative. You can get unlimited access to their industry-leading tools for up to 10 users from your organization for free, but they do have some strict eligibility criteria.

Key Considerations:

  • Very mature, feature rich, and industry-leading email platform for large organizations
  • Get unlimited access to all their software suite beyond their email marketing tools
  • Limited to only 10 users from your organization, with additional seats having to be purchased
  • The technology is very advanced and has a very steep learning curve for first-time users
  • The eligibility criteria for nonprofits is fairly strict so you might only get the free month trial
  • Prices can become fairly expensive, especially for smaller nonprofits

To learn more, visit the marketing cloud solution page for nonprofits.

Social media

Social media has changed the way we communicate and engage with the world. The audiences you want to engage are already on social media and having a presence on these channels is critical to any marketing strategy. Managing all these accounts, from facebook, twitter, to Instagram and others, can become time consuming. There has been a number of social media management tools developed to help us administer these accounts more efficiently and effectively.


Hootsuite is the leading provider of social media management tools. It is widely used by many organizations and has a great free offering that can meet the needs of nonprofits and provide them access to their power features. With Hootsuite, you are able to manage multiple social media accounts from one tool. Create your post once and distribute on all the channels, monitor replies and posts to engage with your audience, and automate posting schedules to save time.

  • Free account includes managing up to three different social media accounts
  • Automatically schedule future posts based on easily configured frequency rules
  • Monitor and engage with your audience on different accounts from a single tool
  • Prices can get steep after converting into paid but they offer discounts for nonprofits
  • Auto schedule limits to a total of 30 messages on the free plan

To get started head to the free Hootsuite account sign-up page.


Buffer focuses on optimizing the time it takes to create and schedule posts for different social media accounts. All features are built around this core goal which makes it very effective at realizing that value for their users. Buffer offers discounts for eligible nonprofits.

  • Great for scheduling post on multiple accounts
  • Get up to three social media accounts managed in their free tier
  • Limits to 10 scheduled posts per social media account
  • Lacks other rich features including monitoring and engagement features

Head over to Buffer to get started for free.

Marketing tools and software are essential components in a nonprofit organization’s tool box. They allow an organization to communicate their vision and identity to the world through their website. They enable them to create a continuous communication efficiently with their membership, donors, and the community they serve through email marketing technologies. They help them find and connect with their audience on social media and effectively manage multiple accounts with a single voice more quickly through social media management tools. All these tools are available for free and provide priceless value to nonprofits that take advantage of them to realize their mission.

Kasra Zokaei is the Founder and Executive Director of CIMHS, a nonprofit that has developed Bliss, a free online therapy for depression program that teaches skills and strategies for overcoming depression. He has extensive knowledge about technology and has over a decade of experience in the high tech sector. @cimhs is focused on using technology to make effective mental health services accessible to people around the world! You can find Kasra on twitter @kasra_z and on LinkedIn.

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