Free Tools: Visual Timelines

Tiki-toki

Tiki-toki

Facebook isn’t the only place you may want to use an interactive visual timeline to tell the story of your organization’s evolution and accomplishments.

Lucky for all of us, there are some new FREE timeline tools out there that nonprofit communicators can make good use of: Tiki-toki, Timeline JS, and Dipity. Examples of each are to the right.

Check them all out and choose according to your needs. Of course, there are premium versions to buy that offer more flexibility, but any of the free versions probably would work fine for most nonprofits. There are several differences among them.

Tiki-Toki allows you (makes you) add months and days to the dates of your stories (at least I haven’t found a way around that!). That works great if your story takes place over a month or a week, but it doesn’t work so well for anniversaries where you just want to note years. You can only create one timeline and you can’t embed it on your website without upgrading to a premium account (lowest upgrade is $5 per month). You can share your timeline, just not embed it. There are also some limits on images hosted on the Tiki-toki server.

TimelineJS

TimelineJS

TimelineJS  is good if you’ve got tech support in building your timeline. It’s easy for the viewer to use, but not so straightforward for the person creating it. Personally, I found Dipity that simplest to create with. You can get a timeline going in 15 minutes. And I like the way Dipity hides the detailed information–you have to click on it. That makes the big messages in the headlines really pop, and lessens the distraction of the reader. Yet, anyone who wants more details can easily get them. Also, you have the choice of viewing a Dipity timeline as a flipbook or list.

The free version of Dipity allows you to create 3 timelines with a maximum 150 events. These timelines can be embedded and shared. Note–your timeline will have ads on the page unless you buy a premium version ($5 per month minimum). Also, Dipity allows you to sync your timeline with your twitter, facebook, tumblr and other social media so the timeline is automatically updated with those posts. (This feature could come in handy if your timeline is tracking campaign progress.) Here’s a good video tutorial on starting out with Dipity.

Before you even start thinking about using one of these cool tools, you need to have a good reason. Strategy first! None of us have much time to learn tools just for the fun of it. But, if your organization has an anniversary coming up or you’re trying to tell a story that rolls out over time, visual timelines can be a lot more effective than scrolling narratives. Like infographics, they offer easily digestible bites rather than a huge meal of text/photos. Consider the possibilities… And if anyone knows of other free timeline creation tools, please leave a comment below.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, Dipity has experienced long-term technical problems that have prevented creators to edit or add to their timelines. It’s been three weeks and the problem still exists. What’s worse, Dipity hasn’t been forthcoming with information to its users about the nature of the problem. They keep promising it will be fixed by such and such date, but that never happens. I moved my Dipity timeline data to Whenintime instead–based on a referral from another Dipity user. I don’t like the timeline mechanics as well, but it does offer an interesting blog template. Check it out, or one of the other two free timelines above. I can no longer recommend Dipity!

Free photo editing tools for nonprofits

PIXLR

Visual content is online gold, especially for social media. But lots of nonprofits don’t have the money to hire great photographers or buy Photoshop, so they end up using lacklustre photos or no photos at all. But there are great free photo editing tools out there that can turn your photos into masterpieces, and allow you to do very creative things with them.

I’ve been using these a lot myself, so I wanted to let you know about them!

Quick and dirty photo enhancement: PICMONKEY

This replaced Picnik for me when it moved to Google+. It doesn’t require any download and it very quickly and slickly lets you fine tune photographs and add some interesting creative effects. Really simple to use. So if you need to adjust contrast, color, or brightness, eliminate red eye, resize, add text or overlays, or touch up a photo fie–this is the place to go. Also, try out the very cool effects section! Love it.

More advanced photo editing and manipulation: PIXLR

I tried GIMP for a while, but PIXLR editor has become my favorite for about every kind of photo manipulation tool that Photoshop offers. You can make backgrounds transparent, create image layers that are then compressed into a single finished image, and do just about anything to a photo or graphics file. GIMP had these capabilities too, but it seemed much less easy to understand than PIXLR. ( I don’t have time to pore over manuals, and I’m betting you don’t either.) I highly recommend watching this Norwegian’s introduction to pixlr video–it’s about an hour and half long, but he goes through almost every tool in an illustrative and understandable way. You come away ready to go!
PIXLR also has a vintage effects section that’s interesting.

Smart phone photo styling: INSTAGRAM

I’m sure you’ve all heard of this little gem, and many of you have used it personally. Think about ways you can snap photos on the run that relate to your nonprofit’s work, then style and post them on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media. Here’s a recent Mashable post about 10 inspiring nonprofits using Instagram.

Start with these three, but here are a couple of links to top-rated photo enhancement tools you might like, too.

Fearless Flyer’s 5 of the best photo editing software–for free!

Freeware Review’s Best free digital image editor

So, get yourself a digital camera and snap on my friends!

Free digital storytelling tools for nonprofits

Flickr/mysza831

A little holiday gift for you! A couple of times a year, I dig into the web to find free tools that can help nonprofits tell their stories in ever more engaging ways. Each time I do that, the range of options kind of astounds me. This year is no exception,

Not every nonprofit has the resources to hire videographers or even buy and use a video cam themselves. These online tools offer FREE ways to get dynamic content onto your website, blog, and social media without HAVING to use video. Many of these create mash-ups of just photos, text, graphics, and music.

I’m amazed more nonprofits aren’t using them because they have so many potential communication applications. They offer interactivity and surprise so they attract and hold people’s attention. Plus they’re fun! And remember, the web and social media are about entertainment as much as education.

In past posts I’ve covered some amazing AV tools like Prezi (which still has a free version but charges $59 a year for more capabilities), Glogster, Yodio, and VoiceThread (which now is available at a very low cost). This time I’d like to cover six other storytelling tools–Animoto for a Cause, VuVox, MixBook, SmileBox, ZooBurst, and Masher.

Animoto for a Cause

Nonprofits can get a pro level Animoto account free (worth $249 per year) by applying through Animoto’s nonprofit portal. Animoto is a very simple to use animated slide show producer (photos, text, music, various design templates, all animated automatically) that you can share  through YouTube, Facebook, etc. Really professional looking and the music is terrific. There are many design templates to choose from and a certain amount of branding can be done. I used Animoto last year to produce a nonprofit annual report and it got great response.

VuVox

VuVox allows you to create attractive photo collages with text overlays that advance horizontally at the speed the viewer chooses. Here’s one example and another. You can also include audio and video, although I was unable to find an example of those in their gallery. If you’ve got great photos that tell the story of how someone’s life was changed, this could be your tool. I think VuVox could also lend itself to policy issue framing.

MixBook

Using MixBook, you can make very creative free digital scrapbooks customized with your colors/wordmark etc. and share them online. Page-turning  is animated. (You can also order printed copies, but that costs.) Here’s a generic version of a scrapbook about camping. You can see how easily an environmental group could use this template. But you can also create your own pages from scratch. You can also create digital cards, invitations, and calendars that you can send and share. (I could see creating an event scrapbook with this tool!)

SmileBox

SmileBox covers a lot of territory from creating one-page “newsletters” to photo collages, invitations, ecards, scrapbooks, etc. The animated slideshow option would be great for capturing events. Here’s a sample of a SmileBox slideshow for a cancer fundraiser. This tool is free, but  like most of these programs, there’s a premium level you can buy that gives you many more options. I wouldn’t buy into any of these until you’d used the free version and seen how it works for you.

ZooBurst

ZooBurst lets you create pop-up books with images, photos, and text. The examples here are from young students, but I can see many nonprofit applications for this tool. For instance, if you run an art program for youth, you could create a book where each page is devoted to one student, showing their art work and a couple of photos of them, with a quote from them at the bottom about how your organization has changed their lives. Or you could create a donor thank you book, with quotes and photos of donors and the people their contributions have helped.

Masher

Masher deserves more exploration than I’ve had time to give it. It lets you create AV mash-ups of  not only your own photos and video, but video clips from a large library that includes the BBC. You gather and organize your images, then add special effects and music. Here’s one example with a “go green” message. Again, you can share these on social media sites or email them.

It takes a little time to experiment with these tools—as well as to hone your messages and gather your images. But they can add real zip to some otherwise very uninspiring communications, especially if you incorporate music. It adds excitement and can build momentum. As you’re thinking about tactics next year, remember these tools. They’re not only fun for your audiences, they’re fun to use!

UPDATE! Here’s another one for you, Projeqt.

If you’ve got a favorite AV tool not mentioned here, please tell us about it in comments!

Creative Commons photo: mysza831

Top mobile social media apps for nonprofits

Flickr/Irish Typepad

Reminder: If you don’t have a great website and email strategy, you probably shouldn’t be focusing on social media yet. Those have to be your first priorities.

It’s predicted that by the end of 2014, mobile (smart phone and tablet) access to the web will have outstripped desktop access. Think about that in relation to your current website and social media strategy.

It’s time to start thinking/acting mobile.  Even if you’re aiming for older audiences, you can’t ignore mobile—tablets are becoming very popular.

I just took a great webinar from Heather Mansfied, author of Social Media for Social Good, on the most useful social networking mobile apps for nonprofits and I want to share the top 8 with you. These apps are essential content management tools when you’re away from your desktop.

But first, a couple of pieces of sage advice from Heather.

  • Real-time stories rock. Understand that your communications role via mobile is that of a 24/7 reporter. You need to keep your eyes open for storytelling opportunities that you can post, update, tweet, and upload on the spot (rather than next week when you have time).
  • For small nonprofits with tiny staffs, probably the most important entry into mobile is the creation of a mobile website. She recommended doing that through mofuse.com, where it costs about $8 a month to launch a mobile site.

Top 8 mobile social media apps

Now for the social media apps nonprofits should consider downloading and using. Most nonprofits won’t need all of these because few organizations have a presence on every social networking site. Where on the social web you invest your time and money depends on which sites make the most sense for you in light of your strategic communications plan. But once you’ve got a presence on one or more social media, use these apps to add and edit content on the run.

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. Location-based apps: Foursquare (Gowalla–more a travel guide; Google Latitude–which will probably merge with Google Places and Google+ brands at some point). Location-based nonprofits (museums, parks, etc.) have just scratched the surface of these apps’ potential. Great for activism. But be very clear whether you’re using them as an individual or an organization—it can get messy.
  4. Photo-sharing apps: Flickr works best with mobile right now, but other options include Twitpic, Twitrpix, and Instagram
  5. Video-sharing apps: Twitvid and Youtube
  6. Live-streaming apps: USTREAM, but a warning from Heather that this is hard to use on iphone 3. Great for events and conferences. Heather believes live streaming apps will get better and much more popular very soon. Nonprofits will even start their own TV stations as this medium gets more traction.
  7. Payment app: Square (allows any smart phone to accept credit card payments for 2.75% fee, with next day direct deposit to your bank account.)
  8. Free group-texting app: GroupMe (great for working with volunteers)

My advice to communications staff is  to download one app at a time and get used to using it. Once that one becomes routine, download another—if that makes sense. For instance, maybe you’ve got conferences coming up that you want to do live tweeting from—so you might want to download the Twitter app, learn to live tweet, and then download Twitrpix or Twitvid apps and learn how to use those with your phone camera.  The app combinations are endless, but if you learn one at a time you won’t feel overwhelmed.

The most important thing to remember is the 24/7 reporter role you play for your organization. To do that well, you’re going to have to learn some new tricks! These 8 apps are one way to start.

Thanks, Heather!

Creative Commons photo credit: Irish Typepad

Guest post: 10 things to consider when designing your annual report

Linda Henneman, ThinkDesign

Linda Henneman, ThinkDesign

Over the years, I’ve been in charge of developing a dozen annual reports for large foundations. For some of them, I was lucky enough to work with ThinkDesign Group. Their award winning work is known for its powerful interplay of text and design. For this guest post on annual reports, it was a no-brainer to turn to Linda Henneman, creative principal at ThinkDesign.

My nonprofit clients are producing annual reports this year, despite the economic downturn. Together, we’re creating pieces that are appropriate for the times. Like them, you too may be faced with a complex story to tell, with only a few pages to tell it on—most likely on a trimmed budget.

While addressing the reality of the economy is important, it need not be all doom and gloom. Instead, your audience needs to know that supporting your organization’s work now is more important than ever. So focus on setting the tone through a reassuring voice and compelling design, and be assured you won’t need to break the bank.

Remember, an annual report is your chance to talk to the people who have been passionate enough to support you financially. So create a solid annual, they’ll appreciate it!

1. How to think about the strategy behind the annual report

  • Yes, it’s a report addressing the past year, but make it even more useful by placing focus on the future.
  • What’s your message? It must be aligned with the needs of your organization, concise, true in good times and in bad, and delivered with confidence. Your message should convey the essence of your organization.
  • You’re talking to your supporters, but it’s also a great opportunity to talk to a new audience. Balance the “choir” audience and the potential new audience. Keep in mind that your supporters may also need help understanding the nuances of what you do.

2. Key leadership needs to be a part of the process

  • This is true from the initial discussion to choosing concepts. This is a piece that is the voice and vision of the leaders. Hearing directly from them is critical in setting the right tone.

3. Bring the designer and writer in early, they’ll help spark the process

  • The writer and designer can get the process started by being the outside voice and getting the focus off of the “internal speak.” Designers are problem solvers by training, and can offer ideas to overcome challenges. A good writer can inform the design and make the whole piece stronger, so get them on board from day one.
  • Provide your design team with the details they need to make your annual report stand out.

4. Start Early

  • Give yourself enough time, between three and four months. Forcing it into a shorter amount of time will only increase cost, errors, and stress. Your annual report concepting process can be a great opportunity to evaluate, revise, and reinforce your organization’s communications strategy.

5. The power of less copy & why writing shorter can be better

  • Using minimal text with powerful images can make a strong statement; quickly. In today’s world, it needs to be quick. People are taking less time to read.

6. A great cover makes you think

  • The cover should make you think. You should feel the urge to open it. And when you do, you get the payoff: your curiosity is satisfied.

7. Don’t neglect the mailing envelope

  • The envelope needs to break through the mail pile. An odd size for a little extra “wow,” or try colored envelopes or add a teaser headline to spark interest.

8. What to look for in photos

  • Photos don’t need to be literal—like people sitting around a table, working. Find more dynamic ways of telling your story.

9. Today’s green printing option

  • Promoting green printing practices sends a powerful message and can motivate others to do the same.
  • Choose a designer knowledgeable in eco-friendly paper and printing vendors. One that can help you make decisions on paper recycled content, vegetable-based inks. Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, renewable energies, efficiency in printing and press/paper setup.
  • Be sure to add a simple line of text explaining how your piece was printed green, include all applicable “certified-green” logos.

10. Differentiate your report from others without breaking the bank

  • It’s easy: a good concept, with strong messages, compelling visual, and clear, concise copy—and it doesn’t have to cost a lot to print. For instance, The Headwaters Foundation for Justice’s consistent, award winning annual reports are 2-color, use stock photography, and reprint efficiently on a sheet of paper.
  • A good designer can help choose an appropriate printer for your specific project. Paper selection, production and printing techniques can all be ways to cut costs.
  • Mailing cost is another area for potential savings. Consider smaller formats for lower postage costs.
  • Order realistic quantities. It may be cheaper per piece to print more, but if you just throw them away it doesn’t save money or the planet.

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Free tool of the week: Animoto for a Cause

cause CaptureThis is the second in a series of explorations of free, online audio-visual tools that have potential nonprofit applications.

Animoto—a service that automatically programs music you select and your images and text into a video slideshow—has been around a while. Again, it offers a free level (30-second limit) and a paid premium level of service. But last week, Animoto for a Cause was launched, giving nonprofits the chance to sign up free for the premium level, which includes:

  • Unlimited full-length video creation
  • A tool that allows you to add text to your video
  • Free access to their library of 300+ songs, all licensed for promotional purposes
  • A call to action feature that links your video to a website (great path for getting viewers into a relationship with your organization)
  • Unlimited DVD-quality downloads (much better resolution that the standard Animoto videos) which can be burned, re-sold, or played during events
  • The ability to post your videos to popular social networks

Here’s Animoto’s own description of the program:

Animoto for a Cause (http://animoto.com/cause) gives non-profit organizations and community activists free and unlimited access to the full range of Animoto’s services, both standard and premium. Animoto is the web application that lets anyone quickly and easily create dynamic, professional-quality videos from their own photos and music.  Now organizations can use the service to promote their cause online in a multitude of ways, from posting and sharing videos on websites, YouTube and social networks, to downloading them to DVD for distribution at events.  Applications are now being accepted from qualified organizations, groups, individuals, non-profits, and activists.

And here’s a sample about Darfur from Animoto that gives you a sense of what the finished product is like. (Sorry, wordpress.com doesn’t accept Animoto embeds, so these examples are links instead. Just click on the photos.)

darfur Capture

Obviously, you need good free music, strategically crafted copy, and photos that tell a story. I’m thinking this example isn’t the best the medium can yield. But it holds communications promise—especially for younger audiences. Animoto suggests that it’s a good way to highlight special events, but I think it could be interesting to use this tool for advocacy, fund-raising, or community-building messages.

Because I wanted first-hand experience with Animoto, I created a free 30-second portfolio of my past work just for fun. The process is very simple, and here’s the result. (I used free music from CCmixter, which is also very simple.)

animoto Capture

If any of you nonprofits have used Animoto or have other ideas about uses for this tool—add a comment or a link to share your example!

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Free tool of the week: Design Eye-Q

eye-q-captureIn a recent post on A List Apart, called In defense of eye candy, the author concludes this about attractive Web site design:

“The more we learn about people, and how our brains process information, the more we learn the truth of that phrase: form and function aren’t separate items. If we believe that style somehow exists independent of functionality, that we can treat aesthetics and function as two separate pieces, then we ignore the evidence that beauty is much more than decoration. Our brains can’t help but agree.”

This wisdom extends to all kinds of visual design beyond Web sites. Keep in mind that 2/3 of all the stimuli that reach the brain are visual, so the appearance of your communications is critical. Pleasing, well done design can play a big role in getting your communications looked at and read—no small feat in this cluttered world.

But many nonprofit staff aren’t  trained in visual design and may not know what to look for when they’re judging a designer’s work. Design Eye-Q to the rescue. Got an hour? Here’s a terrific free, 60-minute webinar that takes the mystery out of good design.

One in a series of great nonprofit resources produced by CauseCommunications, it will teach you the 10 questions you need to  ask when evaluating new Web pages, e-newsletters, annual reports, direct mail, or any other professionally designed communications.  You’ll learn about the different emotions that particular colors convey, what type face to use when, things to consider when you’re designing a logo, why eye patterns are important, and other valuable tips.

After reviewing examples of design evaluated by experts in this webinar, you’ll feel much more confident that you’re making the best design decisions for your organization and your audience. (Plus, it’s fun!)

Once you’ve done the webinar, you might want to check out Donor Power Blog’s Stupid Nonprofit Ads archive and Vincent Flander’s irreverant Web Pages That Suck (his checklists are very useful)–another source for what not to do and why. Then jump over to the Council on Foundation’s annual excellence in communication awards for an archive of some great designs in annual reports, magazines, reports, campaigns, and Web sites. The more examples you see of poorly done and well done designs, the better you’ll be able to judge what designers give you.

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Free tool of the week: Tutorials on taking better photos

flickr/turkguy0391

flickr/turkguy0391

In my last post, I encouraged budget-conscious nonprofit staff members to consider taking their own digital photographs instead of hiring professionals every time they need images for Web sites or publications.

But I also cautioned that those photos had better be good, or you really haven’t saved any money. You’ve just compromised the quality of your communications.

Spend 20 minutes a week on these few sites to become a much better photographer. As powerful as visual images are, it’s well worth the effort to master the basics of this art form. (Oh, and the first rule is READ YOUR CAMERA’S MANUAL!)

Start with Amateur Snapper’s 10 top photographic composition rules and Digital Photography Schools’ composition tips.

Then explore DPS’s 10 ways to take stunning portraits and idigitalphoto’s list of 60-second lessons to improve your photography.

Finally, check out 10 questions to ask yourself before you take the photo.

And don’t forget to explore free online photo editing applications like Picasa, Piknik, and Gimp.

NOTE: At long last I’ve added the page of nonprofit social media case studies I promised a couple of months ago. If you’ve got a good candidate to add, please let me know in a comment. Thanks.

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31 ways for nonprofits to save money on communications

flickr/Daniel Y. Go

flickr/Daniel Y. Go

If you’re really chafing under 2009 budget constraints, try this exercise.

List all your communications projects for the rest of this budget year and prioritize each from the standpoint of how important it is in meeting your strategic communications objectives. Eliminate the bottom 20% of that list.

It may seem drastic, but it also might surprise you how little effect it has on your communications impact. There’s never been a better time to cut programs and products that don’t contribute significantly to your end goals. It can give you extra time and money to focus on more effective tactics.

Below are some other ways you can squeeze impact from a smaller budget. But first, a word of caution.

You’re top priority is always effectiveness. If you find cheap paper but it doesn’t do what you need it to do, or you find an internal staff member who can take photos but they aren’t high quality–those savings are not really savings. The goal is to explore small ways of cutting costs without lessening the impact of your communications. Keep that in mind as you look over this list of ideas.

  • Cut down on meeting time. Free your staff up to get more work done so you have to outsource less. Eliminate most information-sharing meetings by using other kinds of internal communication. Meet only when you need a decision or action.
  • Hold your staff accountable for managing their budgets. Monitor slippage and tie it to performance review.
  • Attack all areas of cost, not just what you spend out-of-pocket. Look at internal staffing/overhead costs, and ask the tough question: Would I better off outsourcing this function?
  • Curb your enthusiasm. Do what you absolutely need to do well. Then—only if you have extra time and money—take on new projects. This is a time to think about what you can take off your plate, not what you can add.
  • Find volunteers, unpaid interns, or short-term lower-paid staff to keep up with the daily routine of maintaining relationships and accurate contact data, and doing follow-up tasks. Once the routine has been explained, these workers shouldn’t require a lot of supervision.
  • Cull and update your mailing lists. You cannot believe how much postage you’ll waste if you don’t. Add “address service requested” to the mailing label of one of your newsletters (or another mailer) to improve the accuracy of your list.
  • Be ruthless about which publications you really need to produce. Don’t rely on: “We’ve always done it this way.”
  • Eliminate some of your printed publications and publish online PDFs instead, to save on printing and mailing.
  • Group print jobs together to save on press time. This means you have to plan in advance.
  • Have your printer/designer analyze everything from paper stock and size to number of halftones and colors to see if you can shave costs.
  • For important publications, ask your designers to try to leverage free or discounted paper from paper companies.
  • Take your own digital photos and video. There are plenty of online sources that can teach you to do this well. (My Thursday blog post this week will give you some resources for this.)
  • Use free online stock photos. (See my April 16 post for sources.)
  • Can you eliminate a conference or workshop and replace it with a less expensive webinar?
  • Ask your board members if they know printing or design vendors who might offer discounts or even pro bono work to your nonprofit.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel unless you have to. Adapt the great ideas of others (but absolutely no plagiarism!) There are many places online to find design inspirations for all kinds of communications.
  • Instead of attending professional conferences, make use of free professional development opportunities online in the field of communications (webinars, blogs, etc.).
  • Use every free tool you can get on the internet—photo and audio editing tools, jargon finders, Web site analytics, PitchEngine, Google Docs, SlideShare, JS-Kit, and much more. (For ideas, select “freetools” on the ImpactMax tagcloud. I highlight a new free tool every Thursday.)
  • If you’re still using a clipping bureau to track media coverage of your organization, use free online Google alerts instead. Set up alerts for your organization’s name and acronym, your CEO’s name, and other top executives’ names. You can also set up temporary alerts for special keywords related to your media relations tactics.
  • If you’re considering using a low-cost, online vendor for emails, enewsletters, teleconferences, or webinars, be sure to take advantage of the free trials they offer to test their services.
  • Small nonprofits may want to put wish lists for in-kind contributions in their newsletters (e.g., perfectly working electronics like digital cameras, video cams, printers, etc. and new office supplies—whatever is needed).
  • If you need a quick, low-cost design, consider 99 designs, where you can hold a little online contest for a project.
  • Talk to instructors at local colleges offering design courses to see if you can make the design of one of your major publications into a class assignment or contest. This takes advance planning to give instructors enough time to prepare. Be sure you control the final decision.
  • Talk to journalism or creative writing program graduate program directors to explore what kind of talented writing interns you might be able to place with your organization.
  • Cut spending on special events and galas. Think about lower cost events that have more of a programmatic context.
  • Do more fundraising through email than higher cost direct mail. (But make it permission based.)
  • Use free Web 2.0 media as alternatives to traditional paid communication channels. But remember, while they’re free, these media take staff time and thoughtful planning to use well.
  • Use email news releases rather than printed snail mail. You save on paper, printing, and postage, and reporters prefer email.
  • Explore partnerships with businesses related to your issues or in your geographic area. They can sponsor events, underwrite publications and advertising, etc. But know they will want recognition in return.
  • Leverage your staff expertise. Encourage staff members to publish articles and accept speaking engagements to help you raise your organization’s visibility.
  • Network, network, network. Partner and collaborate to cut costs. Share video cams. Share webmasters. Share copywriters.

What cost-saving ideas would you add to this list?

Thanks to LinkedIn contributors Janet de Acevedo Macdonald, Bridget Bevis, Jonathan Carter, Jill Eckhoff-King, Elizabeth Flynn, Jeffrey Kramer, Randy Milanovic, and Ed Peabody. Their smart ideas are part of this list.

CC photo credit: Daniel Y. Go

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Free tool of the week: Stock photos online

flickr/naixn

flickr/naixn

What nonprofit isn’t hungry for great FREE photos for publications, online communications, and presentations?

I blogged a while back about flickr’s Creative Commons licensed photos, which can be used free with proper credit given to the photographer. But here’s a  list of other online sources for free stock photos, many of which are recommended by photographer Robin Good. It may take some time to find exactly what you’re after on these sites, but it an also save you photography fees in lean times.

Just a suggestion—if you use photos from any of these sources, it would be a nice idea to give credit to the photographer. These artists have been very generous to allow their shots to be used without charge for non-commercial uses. Return the favor.

  • If you want to start collecting some great generic photos, go to iStockphoto every week and download their free photo of the week.
  • For more than 100,000 free photos, go to the stock.exchng. It’s an impressive collection of high-quality photos taken by amateur photographers from around the world. (Good does mention that at times this site is hard to access because of heavy traffic.)
  • FreeRangeStock contains a collection of free high resolution photos. All photos are already sharpened, distortion corrected, and color corrected. Some have been manipulated in Photoshop to make them more effective.
  • All the images at Open Stock Photography come from Wikimedia Commons and can be used by anyone, for any purpose. A unique feature on this site is the color search where you can pick a color from the color wheel or enter the hexadecimal code to find images that match a particular color. The feature requires patience as the site searches the extensive database for matching colors.
  • Images from fotogenica.net are organized into a handful of categories (lifestyle, business, computers, travel, etc.).
  • If you’re after photos of textures to use in your work, check out Mayang’s Free Texture Library—a collection of nearly 4,000 textures, doors, windows, signs, paint effects, and aerial views.
  • For free large format photos, go to FreeLargePhotos and drool over the gorgeous landscapes and many other kinds of photography—nearly 3,000 choices.
  • FreePhotosBank has some great stuff in a range of categories–for instance 54 free photos of currency! Who doesn’t need dollar shots these days.
  • FreeFoto is the largest collection of free photos on the internet—124,000 and counting, including 300 shots of textures.
  • StockVault offers over 13,000 free images in categories like objects, people, nature, design templates, buildings, seasonal, transportation, etc.

If you use any of these, please let me know which are your favorite sites! Good hunting…

CC photo credit: Naixn

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