The best productivity tools for charities (Part 2 of 2): Favourites revealed

What productivity tools are favourites of the charity sector?

Chloe Green | 9th May 17

Last week, Charity Digital News reported on a recent NetSquared London Meetup that investigated the IT tools that can be used to get charity operations done cheaply and effectively and how charities can tackle the process of finding the tech that helps the most when you don’t necessarily have the time to research. In Part 2 we look at the favourite tools of those at the meeting

The 50-plus people who attended the recent NetSquared London Meetup all had a chance to nominate and vote for their favourite productivity tools. was used to collect votes and, from the findings, a word cloud was produced showing the popularity of various tools.

NetSquared London co-organiser, Kate White of Superhighways, also put together an eLink list of all the tools that were mentioned in the Show & Tell section.

Here’s a round-up of some of the ones that generated the most discussion:

External comms and social media:

  • If you’re looking for an alternative to Meltwater’s media monitoring capabilities, check out the list of PR tools on
  • Tweetdeck – an old favourite, and entirely free for nonprofits. Allows you to filter through engagement of Tweets. Also worth following Nick Pickles as he tweets about this stuff a lot.

Open source tools:

  • Open Data Kit helps you collect and manage data through a mobile app that works offline.
  • Open Function, an automated data integration tool that connects anything to anything (think internet of things sensors connected to water pumps in mines).
  • Popular open source CRM, CiviCRM and a new product by its creators, CiviHR, an open source HR platform for charities.
  • Open source platforms allow scalability and greater control, but aren’t necessarily right for everyone. Check out the Open Charity meetup if you’re interested in learning more about open source technologies.


  • You can link XERO with Expensify (an expenses tracker with a nice mobile app) and ReceiptBank (for tracking more email-based regular invoices and payments) via XERO’s app store.
  • Expensify could be good for volunteers who are notoriously bad at losing receipts!
  • Some charity CFOs might be resistant to using digital tools if they’re quite traditional. So it’s important to make a business case for whatever you opt for.

Internal comms:

  • It’s sometimes hard to explain why Slack is such a valuable tool. It’s free for up to 250 people and provides 85% discounts to charities beyond that. It’s not only a messaging tool but also a control centre for your charity, as you can link it up to all sorts of other tools and automate many tasks. It glues together several disparate services, which means that non-technical people can easily get the information they need from technical tools. Slack’s bots tend to be under-utilised in the charity sector, but you could set up something where, for example, a server runs and checks data and delivers beautiful reports automatically. Take a look here for some inspiration.
  • Franz bundles all your messaging apps in the one app, be it different Slack channels or Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and even Gmail, which is very handy when you’re a member of too many Slack groups.
  • Lots of people were using different video conferencing tools. Zoom offers high-quality hangouts, desktop sharing with chats and breakout rooms – unlimited 1-to-1 chats then pricing beyond that and one attendee ran a conference with 150 people over it.
  • is a beautiful in-browser video conferencing with no login needed. It’s good for smaller groups of people. Microsoft Teams is quite good in terms of stability and video chat.
  • Rather than use the GoToWebinar product, Woodcraft Folk use GoToMeeting (discounts available to charities through Charity Digital Exchange) to host volunteer chats as a cheap and already-existing alternative to a webinar.
  • Microsoft Oultook only costs £6 for charities on Charity Digital Exchange and charities can also access Gmail for Business through Google For Nonprofits, or Outlook 365 through Office 365 Nonprofit.


  • We all miss Sunrise! RIP. However, there are some alternative calendar tools. Calendly enables people to book meetings with you at times when you’re free.
  • You can also block out appointments in Google Calendar itself.
  • FindTime is part of Office 365 and does this too.


  • Canva is a popular and free illustrator/graphics tool. Also Desygner is great if you’re on the move designing.
  • Sketch is handy for web and mobile designing. It’s not free but does offer what’s essentially a more digital-oriented version of Photoshop. And it offers up to a 50% discount for nonprofits if you contact them directly.
  • Photoshop/Premiere Elements donations are available to charities through Charity Digital Exchange – so charities can get both for a bargain £24.
  • Invision and Marvel are prototyping tools where you can have many people contribute and leave comments, like Google Docs for design. Balsamiq and Moqups are also great for beginner wireframing.
  • The Noun Project has a fabulous supply of free icons.
  • Real Time Board is a super useful a real-time collaborative whiteboard to host your whole project – including text, images and comments.
  • Piktochart is the easiest free tool that people have used for quickly creating infographics.
  • There are loads of articles on the web with lists of other great free design tools, including stock photos and infographic templates – here’s one example.

Web analytics

  • Google Analytics is probably the easiest and most widely-used analytics tool, and formidable when combined with Webmaster Tools. A must-have for all charity websites. Google Tag Manager helps you add little bits to sites, e.g. track conversions from social media onto your site. And check out Google Data Studio while you’re at it – tonnes of useful tools in there, as used by Action for Children.
  • Hotjar and Crazy Egg show heat maps that help you improve usability and user experience (but do make sure your privacy policy covers these!)
  • Optimizely is free for most organisations. It offers A/B testing without the need for any real design, including card sorting and tree tests to help you decide on your website navigation structure (and help people find things on your website more easily).
  • Instapage / Unbounce are both quite expensive but if you’re getting a lot of traffic and want to improve conversions, they might be worth investing in.

Web outreach

  • Having a Trustpilot rating gives you more real estate in Google Search and helps build/showcase trust in your organisation. Feefo is a cheaper alternative with similar functionality.
  • A note of caution if you use Hubspot or Buffer to post to Facebook – people have found that posts don’t show up as much as if you post directly.
  • Social media ads and Google AdWords remain popular, and there are rumours that Google is building a new tool that enables nonprofits to have everything done automatically… Watch this space!

Email marketing

  • Mailchimp is good for small organisations, but not enterprise-level. It’s also not EU privacy compliant so be careful and assess your level of risk – look for the shield to find services that are!
  • MailJet offer better data protection compliance as it’s a European version
  • Charity Digital Mail, Charity Digital’s charity-specific platform, has servers based in the UK and also gives charities discounted access to dotMailer’s enterprise-level system, which is better than the paid plans of Mailchimp.

Don’t miss: Find out how charities can tackle the process of finding the tech that helps the most when you don’t necessarily have the time to research in Part 1 of productivity tool special – click here to read more.


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