• Amanda Adams

5 Tools Everyone in the Nonprofit Industry Should Use

Tools: Blessing or a Burden


Donors. Mailing lists. Donations In. Grants out. Compliance. Marketing. These are just a few general tasks that face nonprofits every day. There are SO many tools available that all claim to make your day easier and more productive. But how do you narrow down which tools will best suit the needs of your organization without adding another "to-do" to stretched staff in the name of improving efficiency?


We've put together a list of the top 5 tools that have been a blessing and not a burden to our organization as we doubled in size this past year.


Tool #1: Notion

Notion has become an essential tool in our programs. This is where we track grants, tasks, compliance dates, blog post drafts, and program accounts. We track all of this through Notion's dynamic database ability. For example, when a change is made in the grants table (pending to complete) on the Program Director's page, it is reflected on the grants table on the Chief Operating Officers page. It is critical for our team to be on the same page. Notion helps us do that.


Tool #2: Guidestar

In our charity vetting process, we check Guidestar for information. We check to see if they have been given a Seal of Transparency.  We get contact information, the tax ID number, mission statement, and the link to their website. When a grant recommendation comes in, Guidestar is one of the first places we go.



Tool #3: GIIN

With our fast expansion, the question came up: how are we tracking our progress and growth? Where do we even start? Enter GIIN (Global Impact Investing Network Inc.). GIIN is a 501(c)(3) organization that works to build and increase the effectiveness of impact investing worldwide. Through their metric program IRIS, you can search hundreds of metrics that can help solidify and simplify how you track your organizations growth and progress. By using this program, we were able to find internal and external metrics that could be adapted to our organization's unique needs.


Tool #4: Evernote

There is a constant flow of new information, research reports, updated laws and regulations in the nonprofit sector. How do you keep track of all of them? How do you disseminate the information to staff? At Legacy, we have a single research notebook that is shared by all staff. There are 3 main things going for Evernote:

  1. Whenever we find an article or resource online that we like or has good information, we use the Evernote Web Clipper and put it in the notebook. Takes about 10 seconds.

  2. When we google topics, related items in our research notebook, also appear as results.

  3. When we search the notebook on Evernote, it searches the content, not just the title.

Tool #5: Google Sheets

If it is a number, it is in Google Sheets. This year we made the transition from Excel to Google Sheets. We have been able to do everything we could in Excel for free in Google Sheets. We've also been able to automate multiple processes. Reports for that upcoming Board Meeting? Automatically filled in. Vetting information for a new grant from 6 months ago? Automatically filled in.

We have lovingly nicknamed our spreadsheet system The Monster. We invested a lot of time and not a few tears in building our system. While it gets a kink every now and then, it was well worth the time investment as it enables staff to collaborate and access up-to-date information from around the world.


In the End

Having tools in your organization's toolbox that are a blessing and not a burden to your organization and staff is essential. These tools have been indispensable in our ability to make it through the growing pains of a rapidly expanding organization.

What tools in your toolkit have become essential to your organization?

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