How to run a small non-profit core processes on virtually no budget?

A few years ago, a small group of us took the leap of faith and launched a not-for-profit organization to welcome, support, and foster the Puget Sound (Seattle’s region) French and French speaking community.

One of first thing we realized was that we had virtually no budget and very limited time to spend on it so I had to look for ways to achieve a few key goals we had set for ourselves:

  • Communicate broadly on the various media our community was using, whatever they were, in a way that was as cost and time effective as possible
  • Ensure communication was simple within the board and that this communication was archived as board members churn was expected over time
  • And finally, find a way to share content of all sort with our community.

After some tests and trials and errors we converged, thanks to the help of a few free or low cost tools, to a solution that is scalable, fairly simple to maintain, and efficient from a cost and effectiveness standpoint.

I will now list these various tools within the context of the scenarios they relate to. The name of the non profit is UFE Seattle…

  1. Branded URL for UFE Seattle website and emails, including personalized UFE emails for the board or specialized services we may offer
  2. Email and content storage for the organization itself
  3. Website and blog
  4. Communication to major social media sites
  5. Then the rest, as it was coming up.

1) Branded site and email addresses.

This is the only actual spend ($25 a year) that we needed. For this amount we opened a GoDaddy.com account that provided us with the ufeseattle.org domain (with free URL forwarding), and as many as 100 free @ufeseattle.org forwarding email addresses.

That was easy.

2) Email and content storage

For this one, as a Microsoftie, the solution was quite obvious too: Outlook.com and OneDrive.com (at that time Live.com and Skydrive Smile).

The former provided us with an UFE email, the latter, with lots of free storage, to put events photos, documents we share with the community, but also private folders shared with the board or specific volunteers for any documents we had, such as our list of French speaking babysitters.

Using the GoDaddy feature of forwarding specific emails to multiple ones, we were able to create a board-level @ufeseattle.org alias, by just having this email forwarded to all the board member’s own @ufeseattle.org alias. This also allowed us to use a simple contact (at) UFEseattle (dot) org email address instead of having to use the Outlook.com address itself.

Then, with a simple rule in Outlook.com, each email sent to this board alias is automatically moved to an “archive” folder in the organization’s outlook.com email. This allows each new board member, at any time, to go back and check every single email the board exchanged from the association launch to his or her arrival. An easy and effective way to get more context on previous discussions.

3) Website and blog

For that we went with the free WordPress.com sites. Not only it allowed us to create a blog (with its automatic sign-in for email alerts when new posts are published) but also a set of webpages with different type of relevant information for our followers.

What was trickier to manage was the lists (Addresses, etc.) that we wanted to build. As we started these were small and we needed an easy way to update them. Always updating a WordPress page was not the most effective path.

The solution to this was a small “hack”.

Indeed, a OneNote online can be private, shared or made totally public (read-only). So, from a user standpoint, pointing to a OneNote page online is just an (oddly looking) webpage. Check this out for instance: http://adresses.UFEseattle.org

<to be continued>

One thought on “How to run a small non-profit core processes on virtually no budget?

  1. Pingback: How to run a small non-profit core processes on virtually no budget? Part 2 | Olivier Fontana's blog

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