You’ve put in a lot of work to get your new charity set up. Technology is unavoidable and used well, can help you in your mission. Here’s some of our top tips for new non-profits: where to get discounted or free apps; our top 3 security starters; simple strategic thinking; and why you need to think about data protection.
1/ Discounted Software
Don’t pay full price for standard software (anti-virus, Office, Windows etc). Charities can get software at vastly reduced rates via Charity Digital. Software companies are happy to provide it at reduced prices, but don’t want to administer it, so Charity Digital do so for a mostly fairly nominal admin fee (it varies by provider/product).
Google Workspaces also has a free offer for non-profits that will work for some, providing free email, office software, and shared storage.
You can also use Open Source software which is free to use. Ubuntu is a good operating system (instead of Windows or Mac OS) and Libre Office is a pretty good replacement for Office. You can use Libre Office on Windows or Mac, too, so you can pick and choose a bit. There is plenty more software available, but those are good starters.
2/ Online Apps
Unsplash has a pretty good library of images licensed to be used for free (although they appreciate a shout-out). If you need stock imagery for websites, blogs, newsletters etc. it’s a decent place to go, and the search is better than some.
Canva.com makes design quick and easy for a wide range of formats and purposes. It’s free for registered non-profits.
If you need to send out email newsletters, mailchimp.com is great for smaller charities (free for 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails/month, plus a 15% discount for non-profits on paid plans). It’s got a decent range of features and is fairly easy to get up and running. If you’re going to be sending a lot, or have more complex requirements it may not be for you.
And to help with words, Hemingway App is an editor: it will help you to write clearly. It highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors in your text. Chat GPT can generate text that you could try as a basis for website or email copy, amongst other things. Both use Artificial Intelligence and are free to use.
3/ Security Basics
Imagine being told that everything you’d done up to now was gone. All of it. You’ve got to start again, from scratch. It’s bad enough when Word crashes and you lose an hours’ work. Or you have to email your donors to let them know their contact details have been stolen from you.
Good Information Security is about avoiding those kinds of terrifying moments. Here’s our top 3 small changes and simple habits, that can make a big difference to keeping your data safe.
- Backups: what’s valuable to you? Keep a copy of it somewhere else secure. How you do that depends a lot on how you work and what systems you use. But do something – more tips here.
- Anti-virus and updates: Make sure you have anti-virus (aka anti-malware) software turned on, and auto-updates turned on. Automatic updates should be turned on for Windows / Mac OS and your anti-virus software.
- Passwords: Use good passwords (three random words), including on the device itself. Consider using a Password Manager – there’s a great article about this one the NCSC website. We’d also suggest using two-factor authentication on your email (at least), because if someone gets access to your email they can probably reset passwords to everything else.
There’s plenty more to it, and the National Cyber Security Centre provides lots of guidance and resources, including training materials.
4/ Start thinking Strategically
Or, how are you going to use digital technologies to help you meet your charitable objectives?
Do you need “a strategy”? Well yes – but for now it probably doesn’t need to be very complicated. It really depends on your plans over the next year or so. But for most small charities just getting started, your “digital strategy” is going to be pretty simple.
Most technology is about communicating with people. So start thinking along those lines and your digital strategy won’t take too long.
- Who do we need to communicate with?
- How do we communicate with each of them?
- What sorts of information?
- Has it worked?
If you’re starting out, keep it simple, and learn as you go. Digital Candle can offer free help to charities on this and all things digital.
5/ Do it All lawfully
The Data Protection Act 2018 sets the framework for data protection. The UK GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) sets out the key principles, rights and obligations for processing of data in the UK. The ICO is the regulator for this and has loads of really useful resources.
These are the principal laws you’ll almost certainly need to comply with. The law applies to any ‘processing of personal data’, so if you have names of supporters, or beneficiaries, or volunteers, staff and trustees and do anything with them, you’ll need to comply. Being a charity doesn’t automatically exempt you.
You probably need to register with the ICO and pay an annual fee (£40 – £60 for small organisations).
We’ve got a three-part workbook to help get you started with thinking about your data protection and GDPR obligations. It’s especially designed for smaller or new charities. Sign up here and we’ll send you three emails over the course of three weeks with the resources.
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Lamplight is the complete case management system for charities and non-profits. All your data in one place combined with powerful reporting helps you make an even bigger difference. Since 2004 we’ve been working with hundreds of small but vital charities, because we want them to thrive, because we see the difference they make. If you’re ready to think about how you store your data, get in touch to book in a demo.