3 Tech Tools Nonprofits Can’t Live Without

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Here are 3 tools that are FREE that nonprofits need to start using if not already.  There are many technology tools out there helping nonprofits however these are 3 easy ones that you can get started with today, they are that easy.  All you need is an e-mail address to sign up. Your organization will start seeing a Return on Investment immediately.

Canva

No prior graphic design experience required!  With the user friendly drag and drop features anyone in your nonprofit can create digital marketing materials in minutes…literally. Canva has more than one million images you can use in addition to having the ability to uploading your own. Forget about having to figure out what size things should be, canva has the specs already laid out.

What types of things would you use canva for:

Social media– facebook cover for you agency, facebook pictures to go with your post, twitter header, etc. Dress up all your social medias within 5 minutes of using canva.

Save the dates– create a post card save the date to send out to your contact list before a fundraising event.

Infographic– create an inforgraphic to use for your annual report.  Communicate to donors and volunteers statistics that are important for your organization through data visualization.

Flyer-create flyers for events, sign up forms for volunteers, and e-mail newsletter sign ups.

Thank you cards-create your own thank you cards for campaigns and events. Make it personal instead of store bought cards.

You can save the images in different ways depending on what your need is:

Save options

Here’s an example of a social media post that I created within 1 minute:

Mailchimp

No more e-mail distribution lists!  Many e-mail marketing tools are free up to a certain amount of contacts.  For mailchimp it is free for the first 2000 contacts and then you will start paying $20/month depending on number of contacts.

Mailchimp is considered an e-mail marketing tool. What does that mean?  An e-mail marketing tool let’s you specialize your e-mail campaign by creating lists of people by preference and behavior.  For instance, you might have volunteers that need a reminder about an event coming up, board members that want an update on a struggling program, and donors who want to know the impact of the previous years giving.  This segmentation into groups and lists gives your agency the ability to talk specifically to people.  Also it gives you newsletter templates so you don’t have to hire a marketing firm/consultant to design that for you.  With drag and drop features any person in your organization has the ability to create a newsletter.  Same with the lists, you can create separate newsletter for the different stakeholders that are a part of your organization.

Mailchimp also has the ability to make your transition from distribution list to e-mail marketing tool seamless by using the import tool. They also have many other integration capabilities such as keeping up with your donors using your donor management system (dependent on what system your organization uses). You can create, edit, and manage events with Eventbrite integration, or you can easily survey your constituents with SurveyMonkey integration. Additionally, you can share your email campaigns with a click of button on Facebook or Twitter and allow your subscribers to do the same.

Lastly, mailchimp has a robust reporting and dashboard tool so you can see how all your subscribers are reacting to your e-mails and newsletter.  You can tell who opened your e-mail and who did not.  Also you will be able to see what they clicked on in your e-mail or newsletter if you provide links to other sites and such.  This is just a few examples of what you can review in the reporting dashboard feature.

Here is an example of a newsletter created in Mailchimp within minutes:

Google Apps

Google apps

E-mail– Create unlimited email accounts for your staff on your own branded domain ie. msmith@helping.com

Drive– Store files in the cloud: 30GB of storage space per account across Gmail and Google Drive. When stored in Drive you can access your documents from any device anywhere.

Docs, Sheets, Slides– Collaborate in real time with colleagues on grant proposals, meeting agendas, and more through Google Docs . Track answers on a Google form by connecting it to a Google sheet which automatically tracks responses in an excel type spreadsheet.

Forms– Conduct surveys, training assessments and event sign ups through Google Forms

Calendar-Manage appointments and schedules in Google Calendar.  Everyone in the organization can use the same google calendar to coordinate scheduling.

Groups– Monitor group discussions and distribution lists through Google Groups

Hangouts– Hold video conference calls for up to 15 participants at a time on your desktop or mobile device; audio and screen sharing tools included.

In addition to all these features and more they also provide 24/7 support by chat (my preference), phone and e-mail. As long as you have access to a modern browser then you have access to anything you need in google apps.  There is no hardware needed aside from the hardware that you are using to access the browser (phone, tablet, etc.) and updates occur automatically with not extra work. Lastly, you can securely access your data from mobile devices.

Once again all of these are free for nonprofits.  There are premium versions available in which you can pay but I would suggest using the free versions of everything first and then move on to the premium once you have the lay of the land with the freemiums.

9 Mobile Apps for Social Workers

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Add digital skills to the many skill sets we wear as social workers. Our clients are carrying around devices that can serve as a secondary tool to support practice and our primary connections. Many practitioners feel that technology is taking away from the human interaction. However, technology can actually enhance our practice and empower our clients while scaling our efforts.

For instance, we can reach people in rural areas we weren’t able to reach before, empower clients to monitor their moods outside of sessions and have real time data to discuss in session, make connections with children on the autism spectrum that is difficult for a human to make, assess suicidal ideations, alert authorities/contact of domestic violence situations in real time, and the list goes on.  We must not fear technology as it is here to stay.  In fact, they are now moving into the world of the Internet of Things (IOT) such as wearable technology.

The social work practice will not progress by chance, we will have to embrace and educate ourselves on technology in order to most effectively advocate for our clients and the profession.

  • “Most social workers have no access to data in the field, even though worldwide global mobile access is above 87%.” Northwoods Business Brief
  • “Smartphone owners use an average of 24 apps per month but spend more than 80 percent of their [in app] time on just five apps.” Forrester Data
  • “To date, 85.5 percent of the world subscribes to mobile phone services…” Technology for good: Innovative use of technology by charities

Mobile apps are a wonderful tool, however they are just that: a tool.  They should not replace the relationship but rather enhance and augment the work you are doing.

1.     PTSD Coach – “The PTSD Coach app can help you learn about and manage symptoms that often occur after trauma. Features include:

  • Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work
  • Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms
  • Convenient, easy-to-use tools to help you handle stress symptoms
  • Direct links to support and help
  • Always with you when you need it

Providing you with facts and self-help skills based on research.” (iTunes, Google Play)

Tags: Veterans, Mental Health

2.     Northwoods Compass CoPilot – “It’s the ideal solution for mobile social workers at child and adult protective services agencies, and other workers who visit clients in their homes or other locations. Social workers in the field use Compass CoPilot to access all case and client information, forms, and documents, just as they would in the office. It’s the only social services software to ensure that social workers are never without the files and information they need while they’re on the road. During client visits, social workers can use Compass CoPilot to record interviews, take photos, document, and notate their findings — all while they are in the field. Being able to accomplish all of this with a tablet makes the information gathering less intrusive, which helps put clients at ease and allows for better interactions. Our innovative social service software syncs the new information with the agency’s Compass® system back at the office.” (iTunes)

Tags: Child Welfare, Case Mangement

3.     Classdojo – “Easily encourage students on participation, perseverance, or something else? Customize ClassDojo to work for your classroom.  See a timeline of students’ progress, share a beautiful timeline of all the wonderful things your students do. Students love how positive classrooms are and it saves teachers valuable class time, too.” (iTunes, Google Play)

Tags: School Social Work, Autism

4.     TF-CBT Triangle of Life – “new [free] mobile game app helps children who have experienced trauma by letting them use their tablets or smartphones to practice life skills they have learned in the therapist’s office. With the tagline “Change how you think; change your life,” the TF-CBT Triangle of Life game is designed to help children age 8-12 better understand their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and move toward a better quality of life. During this game, the player takes the role of the lion in a jungle story, guiding other animals toward more positive experiences and relationships.” (iTunes,Google Play)

Tags: Mental Health, Trauma, CBT, Therapist

5.     Aspire News – “A domestic violence app is disguised as a normal icon and even has a decoy home page, so you’ll be safe if your abuser takes your phone. The most important feature of the Aspire News app is called the GO Button, which you can activate the moment you are in danger. Once activated, the GO Button will send a pre-typed or pre-recorded message to multiple trusted, preselected contacts, or even 911, saying that you are in trouble. Additionally, once the app is activated, your phone will begin recording audio of everything that is going on in the room, which can be used as evidence for any legal proceedings that may stem from the incident. Robin emphasizes that it’s important to always have your location services activated, as many of the app’s features require it. For example, the app can be used to locate the shelters and resources closest to you.” (iTunes, Google Play)

Tags: Domestic Violence

6.     The Savvy Social Worker – “Trying to stay abreast of developments in social work and human services practice? Few practitioners have the time to identify all the key sources of information on the web. This app, developed by the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, will help you stay current with new developments in social work practice, especially evidence-based practices and best practices. We bring information about key practice resources and practice research findings to you all in one place, in an e-news reader format. You select the information providers (channels) that you would like to monitor, and we do the rest. Included in our list are key sources such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Cochrane Collaboration, the Campbell Collaboration, ad Information for Practice.” (Google Play)

Tags: Social Work, Resources

7.     Suicide Safety – “Suicide Safe, SAMHSA’s new suicide prevention app for mobile devices and optimized for tablets, helps providers integrate suicide prevention strategies into their practice and address suicide risk among their patients. Suicide Safe is a free app based on SAMHSA’s Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) card.” (iTunes, Google Play)

Tags: Therapist, Suicide, Social Work

8.     The DBT Diary Card – “DBT Diary Card is the only DBT iPhone app designed and created by a licensed and DBT intensively trained psychologist.” (iTunes)

Tags: Therapist, Social Work, DBT

9.     Dialysis Finder – Dialysis Finder App quickly identifies your location and lets you choose the nearest Dialysis Clinic as well as get other information about the location. A convenient way to find a US Dialysis Clinic near you. (iTunes)

Social Workers: The Untapped Hub of Entrepreneurs

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In what many might consider the most unlikeliest of places to look for entrepreneurs, social work is actually a hub of entrepreneurial thought leaders.  Residing in this place of ideas for change with little to no funding, social workers are constantly grinding out creative ways to progress human and societal conditions.

Being kind and doing good are now viewed as intelligent and necessary traits to have in the professional world.  However, let’s remember social workers were kind even when it implicitly was taken as ignorant and the reason they were doing good was because of compassion, empathy, resilience, commitment, and determination, so essentially they are trailblazers and natural entrepreneurs.

Social workers have been “doing good” before doing good was cool.

Below is a list of 5 entrepreneurial skills that social workers embody in their everyday work.

Ability to Raise Money

Many social workers work within the nonprofit sector or within the public sector, both of which see little working capital and funding cuts.  Due to this consistent lack of cash flow social workers are constantly figuring out how to come up with funding for their clients, communities and programs.  Due to social workers being committed and determined they are brainstorming different ways to raise capital just like an entrepreneurial venture would do.

Many sectors like to think of social workers as not being financially savvy however in a world where one has to figure out how to best advocate for their clients and communities with the least amount of money, they have learned how to get very creative with fundraising.

Branding/Marketing

Much of what lies behind social work theory is psychology.  Additionally, much of what lies beneath effective and efficient branding and marketing is psychology as well.  Thus, when social workers are attempting to brand or market their program or organization they have a leg up as they can easily analyze what their audience might want by knowing the different psychological theories that already exist. Additionally, social workers are generally speaking, natural empaths.

Yes, some have to work harder at empathy but social workers don’t go into their profession by monetary motivation, they generally go into social work because they are empathetic and compassionate individuals wanting to solve worldly problems.  The ability to empathize with your audience gives you an advantage when branding and marketing because you can easily put yourself into your audience’s shoes to figure out what they need and want.

Self-Care & Resilience

If you research anything about social work, you will most likely stumble upon self-care and compassion fatigue such as Mindfulness, Self-Care, and Wellness in Social Work: Effects of Contemplative Training, Caring for Ourselves: A Therapist’s Guide to Personal and Professional Well-Being.  Once again, social workers were developing and taking trainings and discussing the importance of self-care before all the mindfulness coloring books, meditation helmets and such started appearing in popular culture.  Social workers realize how incredibly important it is to take care of yourself so you can be a more effective professional and person in all areas of life.

Additionally, resilience is something that social workers have to recognize, assess and teach within many of their client populations such as mentally ill, abused and neglected and impoverished. Due to consistently working with the most disadvantaged in our societies and seeing and teaching that resilience, it has become an innate trait for any professional social workers to embrace.

Social workers experience many failures with clients, programs and organizations but it’s that compassion, grit and resilience that keeps them doing their job everyday waiting to change even 1 person or 1 community. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries addresses many entrepreneurial obstacles and how to overcome them, one of them being failing fast and failing often to get to success.

Building Cohesive Teams

One thing that many social workers have to develop or at least review is called a strengths and needs assessment for individuals and/or communities they are serving.  Many decades ago social workers started realizing that only identifying and treating needs of persons and/or communities wasn’t treating the issue as a whole and in the most viable way. By identifying the strengths of the person, organization or community you can then more effectually address the issues.  Many entrepreneurial articles (Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Inc.) talk about the need for building effective teams as one of the most important steps in a successful venture.

Due to that being a skill set already learned by social workers, as well as some of their background training in psychology and their ability to empathize as spoken about earlier, social workers can build some of the most empowered and potent teams out there.

They realize the importance of different learning styles and how to communicate your message.

Ability to Sell

Last but certainly not least is the ability to sell.  Most everyone would think that sales could not be further from social work.  However, if you have ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie you will quickly realize that empathy and sympathy are 2 of the most effective traits to have in order to be successful in dealing with people. Additionally, having that grit, determination and resilience are other characteristics that social workers have that help them pick themselves up and keep forging on after a failed “sale”. Many social workers may not even have thought of themselves in sales before, however they actually have to “sell” themselves to their clients quite a bit.

In social services you have many untrusting people due to things such as life experiences or mental illness.  Social workers usually use the terminology “gaining people’s trust” however it is a matter of semantics because the social worker is essentially “selling” themselves or services to someone.  You have to make them believe that you are trustworthy, dependable and honest in order for clients and/or organizations to open up to you. Gaining people’s trust is one of the traits social workers have that help them “sell” their service and or product just like in entrepreneurial ventures.

So next time you are out looking for a founder, co-founder, partner or for investors looking to invest in social impact products or services; don’t look past the social worker.

Gone are the days of social workers “just” being a bleeding heart or “just” being kind…like kind implies ignorance?

Many entrepreneurial ventures that are solely motivated by money will fizzle out because they don’t have many of the other necessary skills that make a venture succeed.  Social workers naturally have these skills in them by virtue of the profession, so take a look and see what social workers have and are still accomplishing these days that could help your entrepreneurial venture out.

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