Online Tools for Non Profits

If you’ve just started your own nonprofit organization, or have just landed a new job with a nonprofit start-up, you may not know what they next steps are in terms of nonprofit technology.

How should you build your website? Where can a nonprofit find donated software? How can nonprofits use online tools? Luckily, there are a number of online resources to help new nonprofits get connected.

Guidestar is an incredibly handy research tool for nonprofits. Not only should you be uploading you nonprofit information and 990, you should be using Guidestar to search for organization information for other nonprofits and foundations as you make partnerships and develop funding proposals. The 990 form holds tons of information about an organization, the types of programs they provide and who funds them. Guidestar puts this information at you fingertips.

NTEN is the nonprofit technology network. They hold periodic webinars and an annual conference to introduce the nonprofit sector to new technologies created specifically to suit their needs. They provide resources and reviews of technology relating to website design and maintenance, financial software packages and online communication tools. The best part is that the reviews are geared towards smaller nonprofits that likely have smaller technology budgets, like nonprofit organizations that are just starting out. NTEN is a membership organization (fee-based) but many of the online resources are available to the public.

Techsoup is a FANTASTIC source for new nonprofits in need of technology. The offer a catalogue of donated and discounted products – everything from computers to the Windows operating system. They put nonprofits in touch with special programs from major software companies (like Adobe) so that nonprofit organizations of any size can find technology to suit their needs. They also have incredibly active forums where you will find some who can answer just about any question that comes up. The people at TechSoup have been there, and are anxious to share their knowledge with people in all kinds of nonprofit jobs.

Facebook and Twitter are the now-ubiquitous networking sites that managed to become wildly popular though a few years of competition in the online community. Nonprofit organizations can greatly benefit from these free tools to build awareness about their cause and programs. The best way to evaluate how you can use these tools is to evaluate your constituent based: are the people you are trying to reach already using Twitter and Facebook? Would they be interested in hearing what you have to say? Facebook and Twitter are best used for people who are already on the Internet and are looking for more information. You can easily set up a Twitter account for your organization for updates about your current projects, as well as things in the news having to do with your cause. Creating a page on Facebook only takes a few minutes, and can serve as a gathering place for your online community.

Idealist is not just for the job search. In fact they have created an entire library of articles about how one can start their own nonprofit, including advice and frequently asked questions. Idealist also features an online community where people can ask questions from their peers around the world, and likeminded organizations can get and stay connected to collaborate on important issues.

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