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7 marketing tools that cost nothing (or next to it)

To get a first-hand look at the communications issues facing our fellow nonprofits – and because there’s always more to learn, no matter where you are in your career – I’m attending this season’s Certificate of Nonprofit Marketing Essentials, one of Nonprofit University’s suite of comprehensive training series. Fresh from the course opener, I’m already excited to share a bit of what I’ve learned.

Anyone responsible for outreach knows that getting people’s attention is a continuous challenge. To that point, check out this list of free and dependable online tools (and one low-cost outsourcing option) for adding the critical visual element to your next fundraising campaign, event invite, social media post, or any other featured communication.

Free images, made available through a “Creative Commons” style license, can be found any number of places on the web. For the most artistic, off-beat, and on-trend work available without cost – or even attribution requirements – check these three sites.

  • Unsplash currently features more than 1 million images, curated for quality.
  • Pexels offers animated images and short videos as well as still images.
  • Pixabay adds illustrations and vector graphics to the mix of photos and videos.

Worth noting: Though some images may turn up on more than one site, you can find unique content on each. 

Design your own logos, infographics, postcards, and more with these two online design programs. Both are aimed squarely at non-designers, with ready-to-customize templates and plenty of instructional resources.

  • Venngage covers a huge range of projects but is uniquely focused on infographics, with templates available in multiple sub-categories, including “nonprofits.” A free account will let you save up to five designs, but subscriptions are 50 percent off for nonprofit pros.
  • Canva offers a more concise range of projects, with some fun options like a comic strip creator and a meme generator. Some 8,000 templates are available with a free account; nonprofits can apply for a free Pro account, which opens up access to 60,000 templates and more than 4 million images.

Or get expert design help at little or no cost via a couple less-traveled routes:

  • On Fiverr, a site where people offer one-off freelance services on the cheap, you can get a flyer for a little as $40. (Be aware, however, that the low price may come with time or language barriers.)
  • Reach out to college design programs, where students are looking to add work to their portfolios. Most colleges have one, but the Art Institute of Atlanta and the Savannah College of Art and Design are good places to start.

PR bonus: Looking to get your expertise on the record? Got a newsworthy story of your nonprofit’s success? Visit Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where you can find out what kind of stories and sources reporters are looking for, and submit your own pitch for coverage.

▶ Looking for more tools like these? Join us on Feb. 21 for The Marketer’s Toolbox at Nonprofit University, part of the Certificate of Nonprofit Marketing Essentials.

Luiza Raposo is senior director, marketing & communications, at GCN.

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