Essential Software Suggestions, Links and Tips

Why did I research, study, and list essential software, programs and apps  below?

Because this process is mandatory for the simplest and most complex organizations, businesses, profit or non-profit, which also includes creative endeavors. 

Serving others requires wise usage of both people power and computing power.

Finding the software which fits your budget, needs, abilities takes a bit of time and inquiry. 

These tools will often make the difference between being efficient versus being overwhelmed and burnt out.

Those who avoid process, and merely use whatever anyone says to do, often regret not spending more focused time and thought about these tools.

Software changes. What people were using last year of a few years ago might not be the best solution for today’s rapidly changing needs. Plus the person who insists on only this app or that, might be a wiz, but moves on. Then you are stuck with something with a big learning curve or that others don’t like.

Basic tips for determining which software to use:

  • Is popular and powerful
  • Large user base (useful for finding people to help you and use the product)
  • Good tech support (online, phone, live chat)
  • Affordable or free for non-profits
  • Plus needed features
  • User friendly

Often popular and powerful software is actually difficult to use, but has a great reputation.

  • Vital to listen to people who are both successful and use the software.
  • Not just the developers.
  • Not just the techies.
  • But real people doing what you are doing or want to do.

Sadly, most software or apps lack decent how-to documentation. So vital users can reach out to developers and get the help they need.

Most apps lack  documentation or tech support will not or cannot help in down to earth words. Cost doesn’t matter.

Always ask others if there’s good tech support for whatever you are using.

Detailed Listing of Software Links, Info and Tips

Canva is one of the most popular free graphics software.

It’s online app designed for what you are doing.

Create org charts, clip art and photos,  for sites, social media images, online or print brochures, and so much more.

Plus many templates to get started. 

Now you can make Org charts too!

WordPress.

  • 39% of all sites are WordPress. More people use WordPress than any other software.
  • Anything you want to do, you can do in WordPress.
  • It’s very cost effective (lower price than other platforms).
  • Many people know it, love it, and use it.
  • You always can find support online and in real life.
  • IF organized, IF categories used, IF keywords used, Google will rank your site very high. Which means people will find your site quickly.
  • ALSO, people can find info IN your site easily. There are widgets to add for searches and more.
  • When people can easily FIND and use info, they become raving fans. And supporters/donors.

IF designed and created properly.

That is a big IF.

I am very good at organizing info, but few even think about how the info is presented).

You can:

  • Collect email addresses.
  • Add contact forms.
  • Add any forms.
  • Add DonorBox or similar for Donations.
  • Private access to pages for your team or specific people.
  • People can submit information and your Admin or Editor can upload.
  • Free Elementor builder
  • Free OceanWP theme. That will enable you design it as you wish.
  • Use free plugins.
  • Start with one to display Instagram far more pleasingly than your current Instagram layout.
  • This site made in Elementor (the world’s leading WordPress site builder) and OceanWP.

Web host: NEVER use GoDaddy, Bluehost, DreamHost or Hostgator.

Some love SiteGround, but others, who create complex membership sites, sell downloadable products and courses, prefer MomWebs.

I had never heard of it, but getting raves from people who had a serious issue with SiteGround.

Siteground is the top preferred web host for WordPress (I use them), but others feel differently.

Many startups and organizations with minimal budgets use or at least start out with LTD aka LifeTime Deals. You get great discounts for a flat, low price.

The most popular site is AppSumo. It can be hit or miss. They offer a no-questions asked 60 day refund policy.

Good idea to read the reviews and especially questions. See how long it takes for developer to respond and if their responses are helpful.

Often the software is new. I’ve found most programs/apps no worse than more established programs/apps, which are much more costly.

People offer these deals because maybe the developer needs to raise a little cash, or wants feedback before launching larger, or in some cases, just want to expand their market and not ready to go big (which often means a larger team and more headaches). Software offered on LTD are often priced far higher later.

For example, I use SendFox, which is a very simple, basic email newsletter program. People can sign up, get an auto-responder (an email to reward people with a link to another page with information or a downloadable file) and more.

$49, without the usual monthly costs. I needed support because it was not intuitive and more complex than they claimed. But it works! 

They answered emails and then we did a Zoom (prior to lockdown). This is an ongoing offer. More on email systems in another section.

$49 for tech support and more features than many free email apps is a good bargain!

No consensus on best email.

Here’s one of many posts listing a variety of email newsletter providers. Sadly, most posts merely reiterate typical marketing material, rather than first-hand tips about pros and cons of software.

Email Marketing for Nonprofits: 10 Top Tools for Your Organization

Many find MailChimp hard. Ask people who actually use it about the learning curve. The discount is negated if the software is hard to use.

  • MailerLite gets rave reviews from many. Supposedly more user friendly than others.
  • It’s not just cost. It’s ease of use.
  • Templates are over-rated.
  • Most successful marketing folks are sticking to plain text, with maybe an image here or there.
  • People want simple, short stories!

This post from Donorbox is very useful:
7 Nonprofit E-Newsletter Best Practices

Donorbox is an effective fund-raising tool! From Donorbox:

“Stripe and PayPal both love nonprofits. They offer discounted credit card processing fees for registered nonprofits. Please email nonprofit@stripe.com and apply at PayPal’s Nonprofit Center.”

  • Merch is a good way to raise funds and awareness IF done correctly!
  • If and when you decide to sell merch to raise awareness and funds, I have tons of experience.
  • I can give you advice, so you can make wise decisions how to move forward.
  • POD or Print on Demand merch to raise funds and awareness, you can add WooCommerce only to WordPress, the most popular selling software. It’s free (unlike Shopify).
  • You can sell t-shirts, phone cases, coffee cups and insulated holder and … the sky’s the limit.
  • Costs nothing but a bit of time to add a WooCommerce store to a WordPress site.
  • Or if you use a POD company who sell through their site, you will make far, far less money.

Social Media scheduling software: a system to keep track of what has been posted where, and to be posted, hashtags and responses to questions and comments. Consistency and targeted posting is essential. What software? Many options. Social media volunteers should have experience and suggestions.

I think Sendible might offer more features than other comparable apps. It’s not just posting! It’s the ability to respond timely, without spending a lot of time on social media.

Engaging and Replying” is not offered by everyone.

From their site:

At Sendible, we’re happy to offer a 25% discount to non profit organizations on all annual plans (billed annually). See our pricing plans to discover which features meet your business needs.

To request the discount, there are two quick steps:

  1.  Select a plan and sign up to Sendible. Your 14-day trial will begin immediately.
  2. Contact our Sales team with your account username, email address and a link to your organization’s website so we can apply the discount. 

If it’s not extremely obvious on your website that you’re a nonprofit, we will get in contact with you for more details.

If you have any questions, reach out to us by sending an email to sales@sendible.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Google Forms is easy to embed in a site.

Forms should display all the information on the page, not one line at a time. People can see what they need to do and if they want to do it. 

  • Volunteers
  • Donors
  • Testimonials
  • Personal stories
  • Suggestions
  • Requests for photos and images for social media

Most of all, allow people to input what they feel is important. Include space for their input.

Mapping Program
Mapping programs seem to exist in a parallel world. Matching volunteers and clients can be difficult if software thinks downtown LA is close to Santa Monica. That’s been my experience and … I don’t know if your mapping software is serving your needs well.

Keeping track of volunteers, recipients, various organizations, projects in process and in the future, plus a private way to send emails and keep them organized, track everything, and on a need to know basis for each.

Without a robust Project Management system in place, understood and used by various team members, projects can get unwieldy quickly.

  1. Emails which are easily found and organized.
  2. File Management.
  3. Many are using GoogleDrive to create documents. The docs can either be set to view only or editable for those with permission.
  4. Or files can be uploaded, and again, accessible to those with permission.

Freedcamp is popular, powerful, many featured Product Management program.

  • Freedcamp offers a free plan for Non-Profits.
  • First create a free account (which you can delete if you don’t use Freecamp).
  • Click for the Application.
  • Give all links to your site, social and press. (Not just a list of links, but what they are.) Plus I suggest a bulleted list of current activities, goals and progress. Plus testimonials. You probably know all this, but I never make assumptions. Not telling you what to do … just sharing, that’s all.
  • See Pricing and Features.

This will give you an idea of some features found in many, but not all Project Management software.

Core Applications featured in every Freedcamp plan.

Tasks
The most simple and intuitive way to stay organized. Set priorities, due dates, and assign tasks to people. Works great with Milestones app.

Calendar
Quickly add To-Dos, Milestones, and Events in a calendar overview. See all Tasks, Milestones, and Events in your project with daily, weekly and monthly view modes.

Files
Easily access and search all files uploaded to your projects. Upload files or add new versions with change notes.

Discussions
Communicate around ideas with a group of people. A very familiar approach to those who have used Forums.

Milestones
Work towards deadlines by adding multiple Tasks with one common date goal.

Time
Track time spent on different tasks, then bill those tasks with the Invoice application.

Passwords
Tired of remembering and sharing passwords with friends and co-workers? This app saves you a lot of headaches.

Minimalist Plan includes:
Email-In
Create tasks, discussions, issues and upload files from emails

Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive
In addition to unlimited file storage provided on all plans, link files from these services with ease just as if it’s a file that was uploaded through the system.

I’d carefully read the features against what are your minimum needs. 

Can be overwhelming and various difference between the programs.

Or investigate and purchase LTD aka LifeTime Deals. You get great discounts for a flat, low price.

Many savvy people use AppSumo. It can be hit or miss. The offer a no-questions asked 60 day refund policy.

Current Project Management offers, Feb 13, 2021. Read the their terms and features because they vary.

BeesBusy

Bloo

SmartTask

Finally, Trello, an online project management system many love. It is very limited! Not for an organization of your size and scope!

Database Software
Although I taught Microsoft Access to attorneys, MBAs, project managers and others for CompUSA, this is not my area of expertise. I fell in love with Access, but as a longtime Mac user, we only had FileMaker back then. No comparison.

I don’t know if your users can readily filter, create queries and reports. Nor if it can be easily updated to add more fields, based on information being gathered.

People are opening up to your volunteers in ways that are not generally made public.

They are telling you about needed services, plus offering information helpful to fulfilling those needs and growing your organization.

THAT information is GOLDEN.

IF organized and tracked well!