Free graphic design software: Create with Canva for Nonprofits

For two years in my marketing role at ArcStone, I have used Canva almost daily. With the combination of free stock images and Canva, I create rock solid graphics for free in less than 20 minutes. Currently I use the free version of Canva as we already pay for the expensive Adobe suite. However, I have to admit, there are several times I’m jealous of the paid version features. The free version gives me all I need, but the paid version has features that could automate much of my design work.

Then I found out, it’s free for nonprofits!!! And I had to encourage you to take advantage of it.

Canva for Nonprofits Features

There’s so much available to you registered nonprofits, it’s crazy. Take a look:

free-graphic-design-software

The ones a nonprofit could definitely benefit from include:

  • Infographic templates
  • Social media headers
  • Newsletter layouts
  • Email invitations (for volunteers and donors)
  • Graph and diagram generators

Free Design Templates

With “document types” you get access 8,000+ templates to start your design out. If you’ve been considering amping up the aesthetics of your social media, website or blog, now you have a way to do so without costing you anything but a few minutes.

free-graphic-design-software

Free Photo Editing Online

Rather than downloading a photo, opening up Photoshop, and then plugging the image into your design, you can do it all within Canva. They also have their own photo library which is pretty extensive.

free-photo-editor-online
Image source: Canva for Nonprofits

Free Graph Generator

Nonprofits have a lot of reporting to do and drawing out graphs by hand can take forever. Right in Canva you can plugin a graph, chart or diagram.

free-graphic-design-software

Examples of nonprofits using Canva

free-graphic-design-software
Image source: Canva Case Studies – Amnesty International

 

free-graphic-design-software
Image source: Canva Case Studies – Fistula Foundation

 

canva-for-nonprofits
Image source: Canva Case Studies – Muscular Dystrophy

How much money you save using Canva

Canva isn’t an expensive tool, but it can add up if used across a team. It’s $12.95 per month per user, so if just you, a coworker and an intern are using it, it’d be close to $500 per year. Besides that, the cost of a designer on staff or even outsourcing some of these designs is in the thousands.

In short: Canva is gifting nonprofits big time.

How to get Canva for free

Convinced this tool is going to benefit your team? All you need to do is set up an account here, then go over to their application page. Fill out their form and submit a document to prove your a 501c(3) status.

Good luck with all your designing! For more app and tool reviews, follow the ArcStone blog.

How much does your nonprofit lose with your outdated website?

Many think of a nonprofit website design as an expense that would eat up too much of a tight budget. However, as we’ve seen with several of ArcStone’s nonprofit clients, the cost of not redesigning a site can actually be higher. How can you tell if your nonprofit falls into this camp? Our digital strategist Jenna wrote out four factors to assess and we wanted to share them with your nonprofit.

nonprofit-website-design-costs

4 questions to ask in determining the value of a nonprofit website redesign.

1. Are you missing out on signups and donations due to your poor site experience?

It goes without saying that an old, hard-to-use website leaves a bad first impression. People may interpret your website as a reflection of your organization.

Beyond just the negative impression, it could negatively impact the amount of visitors who read more about your organization or sign up for an event. Moreover, if your forms aren’t user-friendly or mobile, people may drop off before completing a donation.

What’s encouraging is that small site tweaks can go a long way: “Nielsen’s research has shown that fixing even minor usability problems can increase donations by 10%” (The Balance).

2. Are you missing out on visitors due to your outdated site?

With a poor website design, not only will people leave your site, they might not get there in the first place. Google takes into account your site structure and user experience in determining your search rankings. If your site hasn’t been edited in years, all your efforts to get people to your site aren’t paying off as they could.

3. Has your AdWords campaign suffered?

If you’re one of the wise nonprofits using your free AdWords money (learn more if you’re not!), but your site is out of date, you’re losing money. A poor site can negatively impact the effectiveness of your ads. Google ranks it lower and your conversion rates go down.

4. Does your organization spend hours on tasks that could be automated?

We’ve ran into several nonprofits that spend countless hours each week on processes that could be automated.

For example, one such nonprofit had never automated their volunteer sign-up process. They spent much of their time coordinating followup. This lead to not only confusion and missed opportunities, but also time that could be spent elsewhere.

Learn more about how a simple form plugin like Gravity Forms has automated the volunteer sign-up process.

Curious about the cost of a website design for your nonprofit? Send us a note »

We also have an ebook to help you see what’s involved in a redesign.

Download for free »

Start a nonprofit blog to increase engagement with your cause

When first helping nonprofits develop their marketing strategy, one of ArcStone’s primary objectives is getting them set up with a blogging strategy. Nonprofit blogs hold huge potential. They contribute to huge gains in several main goals such as spreading the word about your cause, reigning in donors, and getting people to subscribe to your newsletter. Our VP of Marketing at ArcStone, Lisa, recently wrote a post on how to get started with this process, which I repurposed for you all below.

start-a-nonprofit-blog

Before we offer tips, 3 reasons why to start a nonprofit blog

  • You know that search tool, Google? The one that gets people to find your nonprofit in the first place? When you have a blog, and frequently post on it, your site will be more heavily indexed. This means a higher chance of people finding your site. Additionally, research from marketing giant HubSpot, found that sites that have a blog also have 97% more inbound links. Again, this means higher online visibility.
  • Turns out, people actually trust blog content. BlogHer found that 81% of U.S. consumers trust the information they find on blogs. If you’re worried people won’t take your content seriously, think again.
  • If people are coming to your blog, you have a higher chance of engaging with them. Whether your messaging is about fundraising or volunteering, you’ll be able to speak to an audience you wouldn’t have otherwise reached.

We recognize you may already be convinced, but there’s a reason your nonprofit hasn’t launched a blog (or kept up with your current one). It’s challenging and it takes time to see results. Through the following 10 tips, we hope to help you start a nonprofit blog that is successful.

10 tips towards starting a nonprofit blog

1. Develop personas.

Nonprofits often struggle as they have vast audiences. The problem is, their content speaks to everyone at once. This also means they’re not really reaching anyone at an individual, engaging level. Jake, the liberal arts student who’s interested in volunteering will have one set of needs and goals. Whereas Mary, the finance professional who’s interested in making a donation to your organization will have her own. Whenever you start writing, know who you’re target reader is.

Use our infographic to develop your personas »

start-a-nonprofit-blog

2. Write for your audience.

If you want to pull in traffic from Google, you’ll need to write content that answers people’s search queries. If possible, use a keyword research tool such as SEMRush to find out what people are typing into Google. If you can’t afford investing in a tool right now, you can even just rely on Google Suggest. See below:

start-a-nonprofit-blog

Based on the search above, a popular topic for a blog post might be “Why volunteering is good for your health” as people are already searching for content regarding that topic.

3. Study your keywords.

If you’ve found a strong key phrase to write about, do some more research on what other wording you can use throughout your post. You’ll want to do this in a natural way so as not to “keyword stuff.” Learn more about SEO strategy here »

4. Determine your call to action.

Now that you know who you’re writing for, you have to decide what you even want them to do after they read your post. If you’re trying to get more volunteers like Jake for your next event, write a post on how volunteering is good for your health, and then include a call to action that asks him to sign up. Craft a killer CTA »

5. Map out a draft.

Once you have your audience, your goals and keywords, include it all in a draft. This will help you stay focused on your nonprofit’s goals as you develop more content.

6. Decide the length.

Nonprofit clients often ask how long their blog post should be. There’s not one right answer here. If you have time for longer format blog posts (2000+ words), you’ll have more keyword targeting opportunities. This type of post also tends to give you more room backlinks.

Shorter posts often are more attainable when you’re low on time or budget. They also have an advantage many don’t realize: Google likes fresh content and according to HubSpot, organizations that blog more than 20 times per month get five times the traffic than those who blog less than four times per month.

Lisa’s formula: 8 short posts to every long post.

7. Find your writer.

The writing process gets tricky. If you’re too busy to write a post yourself, consider outsourcing. Review the pros and cons »

If it’s more of a matter of not having the knowledge base of the subject, find yourself a subject matter expert. To save time and budget, ask them specific questions so you get the answers you need quickly.

Another way to save time? Use content management tools. That way, you can communicate with your team and stay organized. See our favorite writing tools for nonprofits »

8. Optimize your post for SEO.

Don’t worry, there’s a hack for that. We recommend the Yoast SEO Plugin. Learn about how this and other plugins work here »

9. Be ready to analyze.

If you’re not analyzing how well your content does, you’re going to miss out. Install Analytics and be ready to study how your posts are doing. Learn how to get started with Google Analytics with this ebook»

10. Create your publishing plan.

The chances of people finding your content go way up if you have an adequate social media plan. We have some tools to help:

Blogging is one of the most effective routes to helping your nonprofit gain visibility. We hope you feel ready to start a nonprofit blog and that you reach out for help!

The Trump Administration’s impact on nonprofits and where to go from here

trump's-administration-impact-on-nonprofits

The Trump Administration’s first 100 days are well underway, and still many nonprofit communication teams are unsure of how to react. I thought it’d be wise to gather the opinions of many nonprofit experts and share some inspiration. Through reading their wise words, it’s possible that your nonprofit’s goals, positioning and messaging for the next four years could become clearer.

Here are some questions your nonprofit may be asking and the way that nonprofit experts are responding.

What will donors do with this unpredictable economy? How can we still rally their financial support?

Gail from Fired Up Fundraising worked to instill urgency in terms of nonprofit development:

“NOW is the time to reconnect to our donors. Seriously. We need to remind them of the work, the cause, the need out there in the world. It’s time to rally our donors around us.”

Roger Craver from The Agitator underlines this similar sense of potential saying we should,

“[r]ealize that nonprofits have a unique psychological place in a panic.  To their supporters they’re a known, dependable island of calms in a raging sea.”

Since so much is changing in the world, donors may see nonprofits as a source of stability. If they are reminded you’re still there to help, they may see you as an avenue to make changes. Through your nonprofit, they have control in an out of control time.

How can you ensure your community isn’t hurt by Trump’s policies?

Of course, there’s no black and white answer as nonprofits are coming from many different perspectives. However, a main goal is what CalNonprofits emphasizes here:

“In short, neither jubilation nor despair is right… This is a newly important time for us to ask ourselves, ‘Who is our community, and what do they need us to be doing right now? What are the values our community needs to see us standing up for?'”

Take advantage of this heated political climate to really hone in on the needs of your community. Instead of getting too caught up in the politics, think about the people and how you can best serve them.

Nonprofit Quarterly finds it important to focus in on your team and to get on the same page. They encourage nonprofit teams to work together, innovate and make changes.

“Our workloads will undoubtedly get heavier and our stress levels may skyrocket. Make sure that there is time for getting on the same page internally so that you are nimble and ready for all the threats and opportunities that happen to pass your way over the next four years. This is your job right now. Let’s not think small.”

What should your messaging be as you attempt to rally support for your cause?

President of Cambell and Company, Peter Fissinger, states it all comes back to people and their motivations in that,

“[e]ffective organizations achieve results because their missions speak to people’s hearts…. analyz[e] how new political leadership and trending activist movements motivate people.”

Rather than trying to comment on every single activity occurring on Capitol Hill, focus on what your audience is saying and speak to those desires and needs.

Media relations expert, Peter Panepento discusses the “two Americas” we now have and how many nonprofits find themselves trying to bridge the gap. He sees it as a chance to get to know our audience’s motivations and to truly speak to their goals.

“The best way to combat these attitudes and push for the greater good is to find areas of common ground…. As nonprofit communicators, we should see the election’s result as an opportunity — and challenge — to take time to listen thoughtfully to those who have different perspectives.”

He also points out how our tone can make all the difference,

“When we speak like insiders, we send a strong signal that we’re part of the same club of elites who don’t truly care about the needs of many of the people we are actually trying to help…. And that’s a shame because quite often this work… would improve the lives of many people who see it as working against their interests.”

Despite current state of things, remember your nonprofit’s goals. Your cause hopes to benefit people, no matter their political opinions. The more your nonprofit can focus this time on listening to the needs of your whole community, the greater your impact will be.