3 cool, creative, free communications tools for nonprofits


It’s been too long since I’ve posted about free online tools, and there are some recent ones that deserve your attention. Depending on your audiences and communications strategies—these might make interesting new communications channels for you.

Your own live, interactive TV show

Want to stream an event live? Consider Ustream, which lets anyone with an Internet connection and a camera engage an audience of unlimited size in an immediate, interactive way. Ustream has been used to broadcast everything from high school sporting events to Hollywood movie premieres to Charity:Water’s well-digging, and people are finding new uses for it every day. You can create a channel for your organization, just like YouTube. You can also record your event for future uses. Here’s a quickie how-to overview and a recent blog post with tips from a nonprofit that’s used it. This is a great, free way to increase the reach of your special events.

Your own radio program

You may already listen to the nonprofit marketing and fund raising advice of Kivi LeRoux Miller or Marc Pitman on Blogtalkradio, but have you considered how this free internet radio platform could contribute to your nonprofit’s communication goals? All you need are a phone and computer and you can create your own online radio show, and share it everywhere–Facebook, itunes, Twitter, and more. What a terrific storytelling medium for sharing your work or interviewing the beneficiaries of it. If you’re not up to live video streaming yet, you may want to use this audio tool at events to increase audience reach. Or use it to broadcast discussions about nonprofit issues. (Here’s an example of that from Rosetta Thurman, talking about social justice and philanthropy.) Your supporters can listen where and when it’s convenient for them.

Your own animated slideshows

Last year I blogged about the promise of Animoto, Glogster, and Yodio as free ways to add more zip to your photos. I’ll add one more–Kizoa. I think Kizoa is more fun-loving than the other two, and may not work as well for more serious topics. You have a lot of choices among transitions, special effects, text, animation, and music–so the challenge here is to remember that “less is more.”  It would be very easy to incorporate so many gizmos that viewers are distracted from your message. But this could be a creative, engaging way to issue event invitations or say thanks to your supporters, among other things. Being light-hearted and humorous can be an advantage sometimes, just make sure you use it appropriately. You can share these slideshows through email or Facebook.

Multichannel communication is the name of the game these days, and don’t forget to effectively cross-promote! Connect your channels, align your communications, and invite participation in the form of comments, tweets, updates, posts, etc.

Any other newish free tools out there you’d like to add to this list? I’d love to hear about them.

Creative Commons photo credit: marcmo


Free tool of the week: CommonCraft tutorials on social media tools



Need to introduce your staff or anyone else to social media tools?

CommonCraft offers a set of nine very short (3-4 minutes each) beautifully simple YouTube tutorials in plain English that appeal to even the least experienced among us. They really are small works of genius. Use one a week at your staff meetings, then spend a few minutes talking about possible work setting applications.

The videos include: RSS, social media, social networking, social bookmarking, online photo sharing, blogs, podcasting, twitter, and wikis. Here’s the one on wikis to give you a taste.


CC photo credit: dorineruter

Free tool of the week: Free music for nonprofit podcasts and videos

”]flickr/[phil h]I’ve already blogged about the some of the advantages of Creative Commons for nonprofits. Here’s another biggie—ccmixter. It’s the place to go for free music. Nonprofit video makers and podcasters, take note!

ccMixter is a community music site featuring music licensed under Creative Commons. You can sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want. The site lets you browse others’ videos and podcasts to hear some of the great remixes they’ve built from music on the site, all licensed for free use with attribution under Creative Commons license. It’s a great way to get ideas and inspiration for your own work.

CC photo credit: [phil h]

Free tool of the week: Audacity for nonprofit podcasters




Free, open source software is true blessing for nonprofits. Luckily there’s more and more of it out there.

If you’re into podcasting or considering it as a communications channel in the future, you should know about Audacity—free software for audio editing that works for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. They just issued a new beta version, but are still recommending that all but advanced users stick with version 1.2.6. The Audacity site offers lots of support through a wiki , tutorials, tips, FAQ, and user forums.

Among other things, you can use Audacity to

  • record live audio
  • convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs
  • edit MP3 (and other types of) sound files
  • cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together
  • change the speed or pitch of a recording

Another great freebie for DIY podcasters is the Levelator, a simple-to-use tool that adjusts audio levels within your podcast to even out volume and make it sound more professional. Users call it technical magic. During recordings, volume levels often change—when someone turns away from the mic, when they are farther from the mic than someone else, or when someone has a softer voice. The Levalator evens out all those variations and yields a much better sounding file.

For more terrific tips about podcasts, check out the webinar presentation that Corey Pudhorodsky, host and producer of 501c3cast, did for TechSoup and NTEN. 

CC photo credit: zoomar