22 Free Tech Tools We’re Thankful For

How many free* tech tools do you rely on? In the rush to churn out content, it’s easy to take these invaluable resources for granted. So we’ve complied some of the many tools we rely on to make great nonprofit campaigns even greater.


Graphic Design

The web-based software Canva delivers on its promise to be “amazingly simple.” It allows non-designers to create beautiful images for print or the web.

Likewise, if you’re specifically in need of infographics, look no further than Piktochtart. Their snazzy templates cut out the brainpower required to lay out an attractive, intuitive design. A lesser known but similarly useful free infographic design program is Easel.ly.

No Photoshop? No problem. This cute little doggie is Gimp – freeware that offers many of the basic functions of this otherwise expensive software.

Design programs are great, but where can you source images in the first place? The Creative Commons Commons license,  which allows images to be reused for noncommercial purposes, changed the game several years ago. But them many people think Creative Commons images, they only consider the Flickr Advanced Search. We suggest adding Creative Commons Search and Wikimedia Commons to your mix. The firm Ragan also compiled this great list of sites.

Word to the wise: when using Creative Commons images, make sure you provide attribution.

Social Media

Have you ever wondered how people create those inspiring social media graphics with a quote or powerful message overlaid? Word Swag and DesignFeed.io are your tickets to a social media share. Some samples:

Image source: Word Swag

If you’re looking for something that plays off existing social media images (that may or may not be written in LOLCODE): try the original Imgur Meme generator.

After you get great social media images, what’s the best way to tag them? Hashtagify is a discovery tool that helps you find relevant hashtags to fit your topic. Note: currently, the site only tracks hashtags on Twitter.

Recently we’ve also taken note of two great Twitter optimization tools:

  1.  Followerwonk from Moz analyzes who are your followers, where they are  located and when do they tweet? It’s a great way to find and connect with new influencers in your niche – including actionable visualizations to compare your social activity to others.
  2. Crowdfire is an audience growth app with a more specific purpose: to help you see which of your followers doesn’t follow you back.

Presentations and Reports

Why create another dull PowerPoint when you could create an awesome zooming web presentation with Prezi? There’s even a special package for nonprofits. Check out this sample presentation (and learn about the animals of the Amazon too!).

Have you been looking for an antidote to your PDFs? Try Medium – the publishing platform created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. Today, it’s being used by nonprofits to release long form reports in smaller, shareable pieces. Check out this example from Robin Hood.


Our primate friends appear to inspire many people who create free tech tools. Here are just a few:

  • SurveyMonkey has made questionnaires a snap. The site also offers survey templates specifically designed for nonprofits – for donors, volunteers, and organizational structure.
  • Meanwhile, MailChimp has greatly simplified the backend experience for email marketing. And they protect your email recipients with great quality control. MailChimp even released as content style guide a few months ago, for users who need a go-to resource on writing for the web.
  • Finally, there’s PicMonkey – another great resource to generate social media images.

Photo by Squirrel Monkey / CC BY


Planning and Evaluation

When planning your organization’s communications, it’s great have a sense of the larger landscape – holidays, nonprofit conferences, and advocacy days of action. Get a jump start on these dates with the public editorial calendar provided by our strategic partners the Lightbox Collaborative. You can view the dates as a Google Spreadsheet, or download it an customize it to your organization.

Evaluation can be daunting if you go it alone. So don’t! The Urban Institute’s Perform Well and Independent Sector’s Charting Impact can help with strategic planning and measuring progress against your goals. For example, with Charting Impact, you answer just five questions, and it will create a custom report. The tool works in In partnership with Guidestar so organization’s plans can also be released to public.

Caution: Many of these tools also have paid or “pro” versions. Know which is which before you proceed.