In this day in age, all organisations should be digital by nature. Private, public, start-up or well established, digital shouldn’t relate to a department or a component of your organisation, a dedicated team or expert, it should be fully integrated in all work streams of your organisation.The opportunity that digital technology offers is far greater for small and medium sized social enterprises and community businesses, which are often tight on resources. Good digital tools combined with a simple but smart integrated digital strategy enable substantial resource optimisation. This is key to help scale social impact led organisations, generally operating at full bandwidth.
On-Purpose therefore decided to create this Digital Tool Box for social enterprise to find, compare and leverage the wide array of FREE (or affordable) platforms which have been created with one goal in mind: optimising business processes. In simpler terms, freeing up time for people to do what matters most to grow their business.
In order to get a sense of the tools available out there they’ve listed the most popular and useful ones, addressing the various needs of your organisation.
1. Web Development
4. Search Engine Optimization
5. Measurement & Analytics
6. eMail Productivity
7. Customer Relationship Management
9. Finance & Accounting
10. Cloud Collaboration
Most of the 11 digital themes above should normally be topics of conversation within your organisation. If they aren’t, take the responsibility to open it for discussion and see whether or not it could benefit your organisation.
1. Web Development: WIX, WordPress, ThemeForest
The experience you deliver on your website is window into the type of business you are. Quick loading pages, simple navigation, clear design, compelling content… all these attributes define what visitors think of your organisation within a few seconds of browsing on your site. Just as you might dress properly to meet a client, partner or investor, you need to pay close attention to the way you present your organisation online and how people interact with it.
If not already done you’ll want to develop, host and/or optimize your organisation’s website. Ideally, you’ll want to own control over updates and changes in order to do them as frequently as needed without incurring extra costs.
www.wix.com is a simple, cost effective and easy to use HTML5 website builder. Once you know your way around the editor and app store you can put together high standard websites fairly quickly.
www.wordpress.com also offers great flexibility of design, free hosting and support services and paired with www.themeforest.net, an extensive directory of themes, you won’t need to spend on a web design agency’s fees.
2. Design: Canva, Pixlr, Moqups, Wistia, 99Designs, Spark, Adobe Cloud
Just like your website experience, design shouldn’t be overlooked when communicating with key stakeholders. Ask yourself if visually you are consistent across platforms and mediums, might it be online or offline. Ask others how they perceive you. In an era where craftsmanship, creativity and uniqueness are constantly celebrated, organisations should regularly monitor the way their brand is perceived to make sure they aren’t outdated. If you’re looking to attract talent or clients, good design practice will most make an impact.
www.canva.com is a much-needed free tool that simplifies the design process. It’s a graphic design tool for non-designers to create info-graphics as well as other presentations, visuals and graphics. Canva has a huge range of images, visuals, layouts, templates, etc… for all of your communication needs.
www.pixlr.com provides free editing, cropping, enhancing and design tools for digital photography and imagery. Web-based and lightweight, it’s an easily accessible way to make great looking images without investing in expensive professional design software.
www.moqups.com is a web app that helps you create and collaborate on
wireframes, mockups, diagrams and prototypes. It’s free for 1 project and let’s you drag and drop elements from a comprehensive library of widgets and smart-shapes to co-create the digital mock-ups you need for starting user interface design or development.
www.wistia.com provides online professional video hosting services and is free up to 3 videos. It helps SMEs by tracking video performance through its built-in metrics, analytics, and marketing tools. It also has tools for customizing videos and increasing traffic via video SEO.
www.99designs.co.uk runs graphic, logo, or web design competitions, enabling organisations lacking the internal skills with multiple ideas and access to hundreds of designers. To get started, £200 will have 30 designers create a logo for you to choose from.
www.spark.adobe.com is a free web based platform from the Adobe that let’s you create social graphics through templates and design filters, magazine style web stories and animated videos.
Adobe Creative Cloud is offered at discounted rates for Charities through Technology Trust. The most popular collection of creative design desktop applications, mobile apps, and services for designing, developing, and publishing graphical, video, audio, and interactive content for print, the web, and mobile devices.
3. Social Media: Strategy, Buffer, Hootsuite, Mentionmapp, SocialMention Google Trends
Probably the most topical theme of digital, social media seems to have extend its rule in all parts of our personnal and professional lives. The key with social media is too strive for effectiveness. Tools and dedicated platforms will definitely help but first and foremost, to make the best of a social media strategy, we strongly suggest you take a look at Technology Trust’s 14 simple steps to make sure you actually have a social media strategy.
In order to optimize the time and resources you spend on running social media campaigns you should look into leveraging the following platforms:
www.buffer.com helps you connect and streamline your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ accounts. You can create and schedule a day, week or month’s worth of tweets, posts and updates, and finally track the performance of your social media campaigns and gain valuable insights on how to improve it. It offers a compelling freemium model.
www.hootsuite.com is a time-saving platform that anyone frequently posting on social media should be using. A user-friendly dashboard allows you to co-ordinate your social networks, monitor accounts directly from one place, as well as being able to schedule posts across numerous channels.
www.mentionmapp.com helps you to find inspiration on who you should be engaging with and what topics you should be discussing on Twitter. This tool graphically represents connections between people, places, events and conversations that matter to your social enterprise. It’s simple, insightful and free.
www.google.ca/trends.com shows the trend of search volume for various keywords or topics on Google or YouTube. You can use this tool to generate ideas for your content strategy, come up with new products or services for consumers, or find out which keywords shoppers are using so you can include them in your marketing collaterals.
www.socialmention.com monitors over one hundred social media sites. It is probably one of the best free listening tools on the market, as it analyses data in depth and measures influence with 4 categories: Strength, Sentiment, Passion, and Reach. It also displays top keywords, hashtags, and sites.
4. Search Engine Optimization: Google Search Console, AdWords, Keyword Planner, SEMrush, SpyFu
SEO or search engine optimization is a fundamental web marketing practice that every business with a website should be able to do well. To put it simply, SEO is the process of increasing a website’s visibility on search engine results pages, something that can greatly help you, especially if you’re new in the industry. As the CEO of a large charity once told us “if you’re not on the 1st page of Google, you don’t exist”.
Simple steps to keep in mind are:
Strategically choose the keywords you use in your website URL, titles, subtitles, images and videos and in your overall content. Make sure you’re using keywords that you want readers to associate with your organisation and find you with.
Make sure you are location specific on where you are and where you operate.
Keep your readers engaged as long as possible on the site through relevant, diverse and compelling content. The more time spent, pages visited and websites linking back to you, the higher the ranking.
Most people browse from their mobile so make sure your website is mobile friendly. No flash, no bulky text, no unnecessary scrolling.
Once you’ve played around with optimizing your website you can use the following tools to have a better understanding of how you are doing and track your competitors.
www.adwords.google.com is your entry portal to pay-per-click marketing, essentially having your website advertised in google search results. You can always create a short term pilot to see the effects it has on your business but don’t necessarily need to. However, by creating a free AdWords account you can use Google’s powerful Keyword Planner tool which provides average monthly search volumes for keywords based in certain locations, define the competitiveness of a keyword, while also providing you with an estimated suggested bid for how much a click would cost, should you want to advertise for it.
www.google.com/webmasters/ Google search console helps you to monitor your website’s presence in Google search results. More specifically:
a) Search analytics — find the number of clicks, volume of impressions, click-through rate (%), position that your website ranks for certain keywords and phrases in the previous 90 days.
b) Content keywords — this report identifies the search terms most frequently used to find your site. Check this from time to time to see if correlates with your business’ goods or services.
c) Link analysis — Find out which websites are linking to yours, the anchor text used, and which pages are getting the most traffic from external links. A must do for good SEO practice.
www.semrush.com or www.spyfu.com help to analyse your competitor’s website traffic, get a sense of your competitors’ keyword strategy and hopefully will help you find and dominate your niche in search rankings. Most digital marketers have indicated that SEMrush as one of the best SEO and competition analysis tool out there, but you’ll tend to get more value for free on SpyFu.
5. Measurement & Analytics: Google Analytics, Cloudfare
One of the biggest challenges seen for organisations running websites and investing in digital is that they don’t know where to begin when it comes to tracking and evaluation of success. When confronted with statistics, people find themselves looking at an imposing mountain of data and don’t know how to begin climbing. Think of Google Analytics like a very handy, customisable walking stick on your journey through digital optimisation.
www.analytics.google.com is by far the most comprehensive free platform to understand how your business is performing online. It details how much traffic you’re getting over a specific period of time, where visitors come from and which pages are viewed the most. It is a must use for anyone with a website. Key metrics to track are:
1. Website traffic: new visitors vs. return visitors, top pages, mobile vs. desktop
2. Traffic sources: search (see if your SEO efforts are paying off), referrals, paid…
3. Bounce rate: visitors leaving your website after visiting 1 page
4. Conversion rate: set goals and track see what helps to increase goal conversions
5. Average time on site: look at exit pages, where are you losing your visitors
www.cloudflare.com is a good alternative which offers a free basic plan and affordable enterprise level solutions. It’s worth mentioning that Cloudflare is a web protection and performance company so offers with any of its solution different security and reliability support services.
6. eMail Productivity: MailChimp, TT-mail, Rapportive, Boomerang
We spend our days writing, sending, reading and sorting emails and all the information within them. Don’t under estimate the added benefits of automating these recurring tasks. Start making the most out of your email communication by trying the tools below.
www.mailchimp.com is widely regarded as the most popular email marketing software as it has a generous free plan. It’s easy for users to create professional-looking newsletters with pre-defined templates, depending on the objectives of your campaign. You can also easily build sign-up forms to embed on your site. The free plan includes capacity to store up to 2,000 subscribers and delivers a maximum of 12,000 emails per month.
www.technology-trust.org/tt-mail/ is a world-class email marketing platform with personal support service from charity-email specialist offering very attractive prices specifically for charitable organisations. While Mailchimp might be your go to free option, this might be worth considering once you get to a fee based service.
www.rapportive.com shows just about everything connected with the contacts in your Gmail inbox. It is a free blogging tool that helps you get a peep into who is behind the email address, so you can reply more personally. It also allows you connect with Social Media profiles of these emailers.
www.boomerang.com is an effective plugin for Gmail that allows you to create and monitor your email campaigns with ease, sets follow-up reminders, integrates with your social media accounts and comes with a variety of reports and support options.
7. CRM: Zoho, HubSpot, Charlieapp, SurveyMonkey, Salesforce Foundation
When customers engage across email, social media, and in person, you should, too. But the clutter of channels and variety of stakeholder can make it difficult to keep a clear track of it all. A good CRM platform brings all your conversations into one place, organizes and lets you make the most of your customers’ information at a moment’s notice. Well implemented, simple CRM tools should help you close more deals in less time.
www.zoho.com helps you to effectively store and manage customer data, contact info, sales progress and social interactions. It will automatically sort high-priority activities and leads to help organize your day. It’s is one of many CRM tools available online, but it comes with the added benefit of being free for up to ten users, forever.
www.hubspot.com offers a full stack of products for marketing, sales, and customer relationship management. Their CRM and sales products both have freemium versions worth trying. It focuses on helping you to uncover, connect and close leads better while managing your pipeline.
www.charlieapp.com combs through 100s of sources and automatically sends you a one pager on everyone you’re going to meet with, before you see them. You’ll know what makes them tick, what you have in common, and the critical insights on their company.
www.surveymonkey.com helps you keep a pulse on satisfaction and desires. It provides free, customizable surveys, as well as a suite of paid back-end programs that include data analysis, sample selection, bias elimination, and data representation tools.
Salesforce offers discounted or free access to their platform to non-profit community businesses and charities across the world. Definitely worth checking if you fit their eligibility criteria, as they are the largest CRM solution out there.
8. E-Commerce: Shopify, BigCommerce, 3dcart, WooCommerce, PrestaShop, Opencart
For start-ups or social enterprises thinking about bringing your business online, the first question to ask yourself before looking at the tools below is whether you should opt for a hosted or an open-source eCommerce solution. Answer is simple. If you have someone to support you technically you’ll save money using free open-source solutions which offer great flexibility. If not, you’ll be better off paying a fee to save time and get going with a hosted solution offering the support you need.
www.shopify.com Shopify is the go to hosted ecommerce platform, particularly for small businesses. They have 30 free preconfigured templates and 24/7 phone support to get your store setup. Shopify handles everything from marketing and payments, to secure checkout and shipping.
www.bigcommerce.com is a great alternative to Shopify for the less tech-savvy as it has a drag-and-drop editor which makes it very simple to customize your ecommerce platform. It also integrates with MailChimp which can be very useful for CRM purposes.
www.3dcart.com is a good option for small to medium size organisations as it has no transaction fees and is very user friendly. Less customization available but it accepts Bitcoin for those who want to offer this payment option.
www.woocommerce.com is an open source WordPress shopping cart plugin. If you’re used to working with WordPress already, WooCommerce should be your go to option. It’s fully functional right out of the box and requires little customization.
www.prestashop.com is a rather unique open source solution as it is actually a for-profit company. Code is available for download for free and an entire shop of add-on integrations and modules, some of which are free, and some of which are available at a one-time fee. They offer training, development, and support services when needed.
www.opencart.com is a free open source ecommerce platform with a marketplace featuring 13000+ modules and themes to jump-start, grow and expand any online business.
9. Finance & Accounting: Wave, QuickBooks, Xero, Expensify
Small and medium sized social enterprises often face the challenge of having to accomplish basic accounting tasks internally. Cloud-based digital tools definitely make it easier to standardize and report, while keeping ownership of the process.
www.waveapps.com has a variety of free accounting tools to easily manage payroll or business receipts. It is probably the best free accounting software for small social enterprise, but if your business is growing fast or has plans of expanding, you could quickly outgrow Wave. Instead, an affordable option like Zoho Books may be a better suited.
www.quickbooks.co.uk and www.xero.com/uk are popular paid but affordable accounting software alternatives. They’ll let you customise invoices, track expenses, manage CIS deductions among other things.
www.expensify.com allows users to manage expense transactions, upload receipts, generate receipts from online sales and automatically create expense reports while allows finance teams to approve and export reports.
10. Cloud Collaboration: Google Docs, Office 365 Freedcamp, Producteev, AWS
Cloud computing and cloud based collaboration is one of the most transformative innovation for all businesses in recent years. Operating models are truly shifting towards cloud based team work. Brainstorming, collaborating in real time with simple, yet powerful sharing and editing capabilities is now available for all organisations. Your business has gone mobile, so why shouldn’t your office?
www.docs.google.com lets you co-create, edit, store professional-looking documents, spreadsheets and presentations from your computer, phone, or tablet. Files saved for offline use can be edited with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Office 365, the Microsoft alternative is free for non-profits and charities, so check if you are eligible, as there is an array of collaborative utility tools available there if you do.
www.freedcamp.com is a traditional project management type tool which works well as a free tool for small projects and can scale in complexity with cheap add-ons. Its simple user interface and great admin tools make it a good option to collaborate with colleagues or clients. A simpler, free, full featured alternative is www.mindmeister.com
www.producteev.com offers unlimited users and projects even on the free version, making it a great long-term project management tool that is easy to use and flexible enough.
www.aws.amazon.com/free is a popular cloud service which has a number of free products allowing you to run your business anywhere, from storage to business applications, mobile analytics to encryption. www.could.google.com is the usual alternative, both of them enabling faster deployments of business cloud solutions.
11. Cyber Security: FutureLearn, Avast, Symantec, Norton, Bitdefender
We generally hear large corporations making headlines after being hacked, but small organisations can also be targets of such attacks, as SMEs are generally less careful or aware of the threats of cyber attacks. The majority of small businesses underestimate their risk level and think that they don’t have anything in their servers that are worth stealing. The goal of a cyber-attack is to steal or block access to sensitive personal data, which if you are planning for long-term growth, should be aware of how to protect your organisation.
FutureLearn offers a free online course that will help you understand online security and start to protect your digital life, whether at home or work. You will learn how to recognise the threats that could harm you online and the steps you can take to reduce the chances that they will happen to you.
www.avast.com is a free antivirus software helping you to protect your business from cyber threats. Its free version is available for all operating systems and based on your protection needs, they have a wide array of security services and tools available.
Technology Trust regroups the donation programmes of leading cyber security companies Norton, Symantec and Bitdefender if you are a charity. You’ll find a wide array of other tools available at discount or through donation programmes on their TT-exchange catalogue.
The opportunity that digital technology offers is far greater for small and medium sized social enterprises and community businesses, often tight on resources. Good digital tools combined with a simple but smart integrated digital and IT strategy enable substantial resource optimisation. This is key to help scale social impact led organisations generally operating at full bandwidth. Make sure that the end goal of implementing a new solution is crystal clear, that you have senior management or trustees’ support and that all key stakeholders are involved in the trial of different solutions. Done right, you can save money, time and concentrate on delivering greater impact, so it’s definitely worth considering.