Your team can be small but mighty with these free resources to elevate your digital marketing
You need marketing support. We’ve got marketing expertise. But not all organizations that are driving forward with a purpose have the budget to allocate to a full-service marketing agency, even if they could use the marketing services. We believe marketing and growth go hand in hand. That’s why we’re sharing our favorite free marketing tools for nonprofits and small businesses—and how to use them to grow your customer or donor base. From graphic design to free email marketing and social scheduling, the free tools and platforms in this guide can help tell your brand’s story to the right audience.
TIP: Scroll all the way down for a short glossary of marketing terms to help inform you as you read this guide.
Table of Contents
Content Planning and SEO Keyword Research Tools
Free Content Marketing Tools
Content marketing is the practice of creating and sharing content like blogs, social media and newsletters to attract and grow your target audience. Publishing written content on your website can improve SEO, drawing in even more visitors from Google search. Plus, it can be shared on social media, expanding your reach and increasing awareness. At the same time, newsletters reengage existing audience members to let them know of an upcoming event, a current giving campaign or a new service the brand is offering and more. The following content marketing tools can help marketers plan content and work smarter.
Content Planning Resources
We recommend using an editorial calendar to help strategically plan the content your brand will produce. This handy planning document helps keep track of what content get posted and when. They also make for great collaboration. Team members can edit and review this calendar on an ongoing basis to make changes or add comments or questions. An editorial calendar should be a living, breathing document where you can follow the evolution of a brand’s content and team workflow. Check out our guide to creating an editorial calendar for our best tips and tricks. Below, you’ll find a few more helpful tools that can help keep you organized while content planning.
- With Google Drive, you can create shareable folders, documents (Google Docs) and spreadsheets (Google Sheets), which all allow you to plan, create and track your content in one place. Anyone with a Gmail account has access to Google Drive, making collaboration a breeze.
- While Microsoft Office itself isn’t free, many organizations already use it for document creation, Excel and more. The good news is that these programs also double as content organizers, meaning there’s no need to pay for an additional content management system.
- We also love project management sites like Trello and Asana. They both offer different ways to organize upcoming content along with key features, like assigning projects to specific team members, setting deadlines, adding notes and more.
Free Tools for Developing SEO-Friendly Content
In order to increase your website search visibility, you need to know what people are searching for. The tools in this list help determine how many people search a given topic monthly. These tools can help you determine what keywords or phrases to include when creating new or updated content.
Keywords show the specific ways people word their searches and help inform marketers what content to include on a page or blog. The way searches are worded can indicate whether a person is ready to buy versus gathering information. For example, an organization looking for marketing tools to get them started may search using phrases such as “free marketing tools,” “best free marketing tools” or “free tools for nonprofits.” But they may also use more specific search phrases to find what they need, such as “apps for nonprofit marketing campaigns” or “free SEO tools.” Configure your website and content with these free SEO resources.
- Google Trends is an easy-to-use keyword research tool that lets users track keyword performance over time, displaying the number of searches in an easy-to-read graph. Another benefit to viewing keywords in Google Trends: Users can specify the time limit and view performance by month, which is especially useful for seasonal keyword targets that might be searched only at a specific time of the year but searched in high volume.
- Google Keyword Planner, a free tool in Google Adwords, lets users search for groups of keywords, find additional keyword opportunities and see a search volume range.
- Hrefs Keyword Generator, a pared-down keyword explorer, suggests up to 150 related keywords to the one typed in.
- Google Search reveals insights into the keywords typed into search. For example, a search for “marketing strategy” returns informational blog posts rather than a marketing service page or a book on marketing. That means Google has determined through searcher behavior that most people typing in this term are looking for a guide to developing or improving their marketing strategy. Pay attention to the format, length, graphic content and page titles in the results for additional insights into what searchers are looking for: Are the top three results all how-to guides? Listicles? Designed landing pages complete with infographics? Make sure your page meets users’ expectations and is more helpful than the competition to earn a coveted top three rank or featured snippet.
- Answer The Public is another research tool that helps you discover popular search terms. It provides you with visual maps that organize keywords by volume and intent, e.g., when, why, how and what.
- Ubersuggest is an extensive keyword research tool that offers search volume by month and year to help track performance according to seasonality and trends. Free for 20 or so queries per day, Ubsersuggest also allows tracking keywords for a website for free (up to 25 terms).
- WordCounter.net allows you to check the length of copy on a competitor’s website, which gives your content development process a competitive edge. It also looks for content that may already exist on a client’s website to help avoid duplicate material. We also use it to check character counts for page titles, meta descriptions, headlines and more.
Free Email Marketing Platforms
Whether your organization would like to send out newsletters, promotional emails or calls for donations, email marketing boasts a 4,200% ROI, so it’s important to take advantage of this powerful marketing channel to engage your audience. Email marketing platforms allow for additional features such as automation—for example, an email triggered when a donor makes a gift to your nonprofit or when an e-commerce customer leaves an item in their online cart—in addition to list segmentation, subject line testing and analytics tools that track email performance.
- Mailchimp offers a free account option for a single user to send up to 10,000 emails per month with a maximum contact list of 2,000. The free account also includes limited email templates, an automated welcome email, basic reporting and more. For $9.99 per month, Mailchimp’s Essentials plan increases the maximums to three users, 50,000 contacts and 50,000 monthly email sends.
- HubSpot is a full-service marketing platform that also offers a free plan for users who send only up to 2,000 emails per month. It also includes use of their CRM (customer relationship management) software. Here’s more on the difference between email marketing platforms and CRM software.
- Gmail is Google’s email platform. If you’re looking for an email platform to communicate with team members or volunteers, it’s free to create a single account, which also allows access to Google Drive and its suite of web-based software and apps. We use Gmail at Yakkety Yak and love its organized design, ease of use, reliability and convenient app. It’s only $6 per month to upgrade to Google Workspace, the business version of Gmail. This upgrade also allows brands to use email addresses at their domain.
- Facebook Messenger: While not an email service, Facebook messenger does provide a way to connect with customers quickly and easily as a free, less robust substitute for email. More and more, companies are relying on Facebook Messenger to be at the front lines of customer service when visitors come to a page—popping up with intuitive question prompts and acting halfway between a live chat and email platform. Many businesses now communicate with customers directly through Facebook Messenger, making it a solid contender for a free, simple “email” service.
Social Media Tools
The tools in this list help brands maintain a consistent presence on social media. It’s important to know where a brand’s audience spends time on social media—Instagram? Facebook?—so to use time wisely in targeting a platform they’re likely to use. Remember, the demographics of users on these platforms may change over time. Practice social media monitoring and listening to get a feel for where and when users are talking about your brand or associated content.
Free Social Scheduling Platforms
Social scheduling allows you to schedule your posts in advance so you don’t have to dedicate time to it each day, or even each week. An awesome feature of most big social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.—is that they come with built-in scheduling features. Follow our social media scheduling tips to help get organized.
- On Facebook, business and community pages can either go to the “Publishing Tools” tab at the top of the page or begin a post as normal and change the timing button from “Share Now” to “Schedule.”
- Twitter offers Tweetdeck, which lets users schedule tweets ahead of time, including photos, links and tags.
- For Instagram, Later allows scheduling and posting directly to Instagram in addition to providing hashtag suggestions.
- If you’re looking for a one-stop shop, sites like Buffer and Hootsuite also offer free versions of their robust features, which let users sync multiple different social media channels to their platform so you can simultaneously cross-schedule and publish to more than one place. Both platforms also allow you to test drive any of their premium paid plans before committing.
Instagram Link Page in Bio
Because links aren’t clickable in Instagram posts like they are on other platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you need to include them in your brand’s profile. That’s where a scheduling platform that automatically updates links with each new post comes in handy.
- Linkin.bio by Later for Instagram is a great tool for connecting your audience with links to your pages and products—whether to sign-up for a 5K, buy into a service or just read a blog post. The free Later plan includes a Lite version of this service, which allows you to add one link per post, includes a Later banner on the linkin.bio page and does not have the Shopify integration of some paid Later plans.
- LNK.BIO is a free program that allows you to add and change as many links as you want and provides access to an elegant landing page for those custom links.
- Similarly, Linktr.ee lets users optimize their links across multiple social channels at once, saving time, effort and precious brainpower.
The downside of using a platform like LNK.BIO or Linktr.ee compared to Linkin.bio is how much control you have over linking individual posts. Linktr.ee is a great option if all you need to do is send people to a few specific pages on your website, like your about, blog or shop page. But if you find you need to link more specifically to individual web pages all the time, it may be a better idea to go for Linkin.bio, which has this capability.
Nonprofit Fundraising Resources
From providing beautiful donation landing pages and integrating with popular content management system (CMS) platforms to pulling analytics insights on donors and offering the ability to accept in-person donations on the go, fundraising platforms help nonprofits drive individual donations. While popular and robust options Kindful and Classy offer an integrated approach to contact management and donations, they also charge a monthly subscription fee that may be out of the price range of smaller nonprofits.
If your organization is just getting started or beginning to scale, one of the free fundraising platforms on this list can help your organization grow its revenue and donor base. Be sure to weigh the free and paid benefits of the different platforms closely with your organization’s goals in mind. Some may charge additional fees to gather leads from donations or require upgrading to a paid subscription for use past a trial period.
- Qgiv offers a no-frills package for nonprofits at $0/month while charging 3.95% plus $0.30 per transaction. Additional features can be added for a monthly fee, depending on a nonprofit’s needs and size, including the ability to easily take in-person donations.
- GivingFuel’s starter package doesn’t charge organizations a monthly subscription fee until after they’ve raised $5000 through the platform. Then, users can upgrade their package or remain on the starter plan for 3% plus 2.99% processing fees.
- GoFundMe does not charge a subscription fee to use their platform with either of their plan options. Their free plan charges 1.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. This crowdfunding platform integrates with WordPress, Salesforce, MailChimp and more.
- Facebook: In the U.S., 501(c)(3) organizations registered with the IRS qualify for Facebook’s fundraising tools. Unlike many other donation platforms, donations through Facebook are completely free because Facebook pays the processing fees. Users can highlight organizations to their social networks and run fundraisers with individualized goals for birthdays and other holidays. Your organization can also add a “Donate” button to the bottom of your social media posts to encourage giving.
- Forefront: An affordable though not free resource, Forefront, an IL-based association representing both grant-makers and nonprofits and their advisors and allies, offers educational and advocacy resources as part of their member benefits. Peer Skill Share lets members connect with a knowledgeable advisor.
Plus, use this handy resource about finding donors for your nonprofit to better utilize the above fundraising platforms.
Free Graphics and Video Software
Don’t have a graphic designer on staff? No sweat. Thanks to new technology, it’s getting easier and easier to create graphics and multimedia content for free—or at a discount. Whether you’re looking to put a personalized brand touch on stock images, create an editable template or add a filter to standardize existing photography, the following tools and resources will help your graphics stand out.
- Looking for searchable stock photography? While paid options like Getty Images offer high-resolution images at a cost, stock photography websites like Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay and SnapStock may have free options to fit your needs. We recommend customizing stock photography to give these images a unique touch—whether adding a brand template, filter, logo or other modification.
- Websites like Canva allow users to make incredible custom graphics for free as well as offer upgrade options for more features. We love Canva because it’s so easy to use—plus it contains tons of layouts, templates, stock photos and color/text options so anyone can create compelling professional graphics. Canva users can also animate graphics with preset movement options. Check out our beginner tips for designing social media posts, website graphics and even print collateral with our How to Use Canva 101 Guide.
- Pixlr is another great tool, providing photo editing capabilities that allow you to both edit pictures to perfection and create collages. Think of new versions like Pixlr X and Pixlr Editor as “Photoshop Light”—offering up lots of similar features for free.
- The free version of Vsco, available as a software download or as an app, provides preset photo filters, along with editing tools to adjust contrast, saturation and more. This can help standardize photo filters across an organization, resulting in a polished and consistent look on a website or Instagram page.
- Inkscape, a freeware vector graphics software, and GIMP, an open-source image editor, allow users to create quality images, logos and more without the bells and whistles—completely for free. Their dedicated user base has also created several tutorials on YouTube that help beginners get started.
- While not free, Adobe offers nonprofit discounts for their software. Compared with free services like Canva, Adobe Photoshop provides more nuanced editing capabilities, like selective sharpening and blurring, piecing multiple images into a panorama, removing or adding people to an image and other advanced image manipulations. Illustrator is a vector-based platform—unlike Photoshop, which is raster-based—so Illustrator files can be resized to any dimensions without sacrificing clarity and resolution. This makes Illustrator the perfect platform for designing logos, icons and digital illustrations. InDesign, meanwhile, is the best platform for multi-page documents, like brochures, magazines and books. Finally, Premiere allows for video editing, and user-friendly Spark makes creating shareable social and web graphics effortless.
Free Analytics Tools
It’s essential to track how well your content is performing. How often is your content viewed and shared? How much traffic is it driving to your site? Which content is performing the best? These are all questions marketers and analytics experts ask themselves constantly. Fortunately, just like channel-specific scheduling features, many sites also offer a free look into these valuable performance insights that let you know how your content is doing and how you can optimize it further.
- Google Analytics: For website traffic, click-throughs, time on page, bounce rate and more, Google Analytics compiles your website’s data for free and can help you make informed marketing decisions.
- Google Search Console: This free tool tracks query-level data for organic searches on Google and gives insights on all of the keywords Google attributes to your website. It provides 16 months of rolling data for clicks, impressions, rankings and other device-level insights. GSC also gives insights on errors or problems Google may find on your site including broken pages, slow-loading pages, penalty communications and even threats from malware. Historically called Webmaster Tools, GSC allows you to be a true webmaster for your website and organization.
- Facebook Insights offers a thorough and dynamic look at your posts’ performance. Here, you can see how many times your content has come across a person’s newsfeed, how many times someone interacted with it and even when someone didn’t like it—giving you the info you need to adjust your social strategy as needed.
- Twitter Analytics gives each profile a 28-day breakdown of its number of tweets, tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions and followers and how those stats compare against the previous 28 days. It also provides an in-depth look into follower demographics and post performance.
- Instagram Insights provides a snapshot of posts’ performance throughout the week, broken down by content, activity and audience. The content tab highlights how many views each post had, including stories, while the activity tab shows how people interacted with the content. Finally, check the audience tab for how many followers were gained or lost in the last seven days, as well as data on follower location, age and gender.
- LinkedIn free business pages show some limited, but useful, insights—while premium and paying accounts can unlock additional tools. When managing an individual profile, you can see information on who has viewed the profile as well as how many people have seen your posts. If you’re managing a business page, the “Analytics” tab will share more information on visitor demographics in addition to metrics on posts (“updates”) and follower count.
- Medium is a free publishing platform that can be great for starting up a sleek, simple and modern blog to showcase written content. In the “Stats” section, Medium collects insights into which posts had the most interactions, views and reads.
Free Website Tools
A polished, intuitive website helps a brand build credibility and draws new users to the site—increasing awareness along with sales or donations. The following tools target search engine optimization (SEO), the process of setting up a site in a way that helps new users find it through relevant search queries. SEO can improve page rank for targeted keywords by providing Google’s website crawlers with the information and organization they need to understand a website and rank it accordingly. These updates also benefit the user experience, improving page load time and functionality. Learn more about why SEO is important for small businesses and nonprofits on our blog.
- WordPress is a free-to-use content management system where you can create website landing pages and blog posts. Hosting and domain name are not included.
- SEO Mofo provides a free tool that lets users optimize SERP metadata to the recommended pixel count. Use it to check the length of page titles and meta descriptions.
- Screaming Frog, an SEO analytics platform, offers a free site crawl for the first 500 URLs, which can be useful in finding easily adjustable issues, like pages missing meta descriptions or headers, that when fixed, can help boost a website’s visibility in search engines.
- Browseo is a web application that allows users to see a webpage the way a search engine crawler does—stripped down to its bare bones. Studying the SEO-relevant information organized like this paves the way for adjustments to search engine visibility.
- For WordPress sites, try the free Yoast plugin for helpful SEO analysis and easy-to-follow recommendations for optimizing pages for targeted keywords.
- Ubersuggest allows users to type in any domain for an SEO overview—and then provides insight into the strategies that are working for others in the market “so you can adopt them, improve them and gain an edge.” Ubersuggest also provides keyword suggestions, backlink analysis and content ideas.
- Use GTmetrix to check your page load speed for free. The ideal load time is two seconds or less. Not only does this keep users from leaving a site if they don’t feel like waiting but fast load time also benefits page rank in Google. Does your site take longer than two seconds to load? If it’s running on WordPress, free plugins like WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache can optimize page loading time.
- Down for Everyone or Just Me has a simple interface that lets users search a website to see if it’s down. While useful for checking if sites like Facebook or Google are experiencing temporary issues, this is also helpful as a first step when experiencing problems with your own website.
With these tools, nonprofits and small businesses alike can execute a killer content marketing strategy without draining their budget. Programs like Canva, Gmail and social media analytics provide the power that organizations need to produce expert-level content on their own—keeping them active and engaged with their members and the public.
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Free Marketing Toolkit: Glossary of Marketing Terms
Content management systems (CMS) platforms: A central hub where all content published on a website is managed.
Content marketing: The practice of creating and sharing content like blogs, social media and newsletters to attract and grow a brand’s target audience.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: Robust software that allows users to send emails as well as collect and organize information on contacts and customers and turn that data into a powerful tool to customize the marketing experience.
Domain name: The part that comes between the @ in your email address and the .com, .org or other suffix of your URL. Essentially, how people can find and remember where a business is located on the internet.
Editorial calendar: A planning document that keeps track of what content will get posted and when.
Email marketing: The practice of using email in marketing efforts to promote a business’ products and services as well as incentivize customer loyalty.
Email marketing platform: Platforms designed to help brands create emails and engage in marketing communication including automated welcome workflows, monthly newsletters and promotional emails.
Keywords: In SEO, these are the search terms that users type into their search engine of choice.
List segmentation: The process of dividing up an email list into smaller groups of contacts that share something in common.
Metadata: Information provided to a search engine about the content of a website. Metadata influences the previews that Google and other search engines display on their search results pages (SERPs). SERP metadata snippets typically include a page title and descriptive text (meta description).
Search engine optimization (SEO): The process of increasing the organic, non-paid traffic to a website from search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Target audience: The group of people most likely to be interested in a brand’s product or services.
Web host: An organization that sells or leases memory space on its servers, enabling clients to publish websites on the internet.