Overseeing the operation of a ministry requires many business processes.
Some of these processes can and should be kept in house but often, outsourcing a service can be more affordable, efficient and effective.
As a church grows, particularly when it is in the planting phase, there are limited resources to pay for some of the products and services every ministry needs.
For example, every church needs a website which requires having a logo and a lot of content creation. Services like this can be expensive if you don’t do your homework to try and find the best value.
I’ve used many online freelancers and businesses to help with those things that are beyond my skill set. Many of these services are very cost effective, time efficient and customer focused.
Whether you need help creating a design, logo and look for your website, or help creating an email distribution process for members, there are many affordable solutions that will do a great job.
And if you have a 501(c)(3) status, you may be eligible for lots of Free or discounted products.
10 FREE (or almost Free) Resources For Churches With A Limited Budget
Upwork has freelancers to help with those projects that your team may not have the time or skill to pull off.
Whether you need help with IT/programming, logo design, writing, editing, marketing or administrative help, there are thousands of hungry freelancers ready to work at a reasonable price.
I’ve used Upwork for countless projects and have had great results!
You can post a job and have freelancers bid on it or you can say “I need X done for $25” and ask if there is anyone interested.
Tip: The bids you receive will be all over the map so I usually look at the person’s resume and portfolio to see what kind of training they’ve had, what other work they’ve done and I also read comments from people who have used them before.
I occasionally go for those with the lower bid because those are usually the newbies and they are hungry and motivated to do a good job just to get paid and a positive review.
Their escrow payment system holds the funds and ensures that you don’t pay for a job unless you are completely satisfied.
No it’s not as good as one I would probably get on Upwork, but still, five bucks was a great deal!
It’s definitely a resource for those of us with a limited budget but you need to count the cost-benefit.
Many of the products out there are cookie-cutter which is why they can be done so cheaply but if it’s a business card or even an eBook cover, it might be worth it!
You can always upgrade the design once there are more available church budget dollars.
Communicating with church members is an ongoing challenge but fortunately, there are tools and resources to help.
With can spam laws, it is imperative to have an email distribution service to manage your online communications.
Mailchimp is an email marketing tool that can help you manage your email distribution to church members for FREE. The Free plan is for up to 2,000 email subscribers.
MailChimp has premade templates to make your emails look professional.
The software also has great analytics that allows you to track how many emails were clicked and opened.
4. Google For Nonprofits
Google has dominance with the online world – we all know that. But they do have some great tools that can help with lots of the functions we perform every day.
The good news is Google offers a program to eligible nonprofits that give access to premium apps and services at no cost.
You do need to qualify for this program by being registered as a charitable organization in one of the qualifying countries. You can see what the eligibility requirements are by country.
You can request a Google for Nonprofits account to get set up.
Once you qualify and get an account set up the benefits are huge!
GSuite for Nonprofits
What it gets you:
- Unlimited Gmail accounts that end in @yourdomain.com, vs @gmail.com
- Google Drive, docs, sheets, slides, etc. All those fun little apps
- 30GB of space (up from 15 in personal accounts) for Drive documents and email hosting
- 24/7 actual person support via phone, chat, and email
- Admin access over all your organization’s accounts
Google Grants (Google Adwords)
This one may not be as applicable to the local church but could benefit churches that have expansive outreach programs that advertise outside their geographic location.
What it gets you:
- $10,000 / month of free money to spend on pay-per-click advertising.
- Unlimited cost-per-click, if you install a tracking code
- Ads are text-only and run only on Google.com, not any search partners or ad networks
- The full Google Adwords platform to manage and measure your campaigns
- Access to Adwords express, for those who don’t want to actively manage PPC campaigns
Again, this is more for the support of global missions.
YouTube Donation Card
This is an amazing free tool for nonprofits that use a lot of videos to promote what they are trying to do.
If your church posts videos on YouTube, this could be a great way to solicit more donations for the cause.
What it gets you:
- The ability to have “donation cards” and “link anywhere cards” on your videos. These are beefed-up YouTube annotations that make your videos an interactive experience.
- ZERO transaction fees on any donations processed by YouTube
- For channels with 1,000+ subscribers: access to YouTube Spaces, Google’s professional production studios located around the globe
Eligibility – Most 501(c)(3) status are eligible for Google for Nonprofits. It doesn’t hurt to apply and it may be a significant benefit for your church.
5. Canva For Nonprofits
Canva is one of my favorite tools for images. I love it so much that I have the Canva for Work plan.
However, Churches that hold a 501(c)(3) status may be eligible for a lot of free things from this platform!
If you are not familiar with Canva, it is a platform that is used to design images. What I love about it is the vast library of image templates for just about everything.
There are countless templates to use as well as a library of free photos, elements, and backgrounds to make your design unique.
The readymade templates make the design challenge easy because you can simply change out the color, photo, and font to make the image your own.
But one of my favorite features is the ability to change the image size for the social platform of your choice.
I pay for these upgraded features but if you apply and get the nonprofit benefit you could get these features for free!
You do need to meet nonprofit requirements, so you can see how to apply here.
WordPress is website software that offers two solutions.
It has some amazing free themes that you can choose from to make your website look professional without coding.
There are countless plugins to help you customize the functions and features of your site.
You will need to have to choose a company to host your site. There is a fee for the hosting but the software is free.
There is a bit of a learning curve but there are lots of how-to guides that can help you get set up quickly.
If you want to bypass the setup, you can choose WordPress.com which also offers a free option.
The free option has limited capabilities but if you simply want to test the waters, and see if you can build your own site, this might be a good place to start.
You can upgrade and add paid features to your plan as you expand your site.
The biggest difference is the speed of setup and the support you can get from a paid plan.
Paid plans start as low as $3/month.
There is a time commitment to getting this setup, but if you have a tech-savvy volunteer who is interested in learning how to make a website it could be a win-win for the church and the volunteer.
If you are building your own website then you might be interested in knowing that DreamHost offers free shared hosting – which includes email hosting – to 501(c)(3) organizations.
Shared hosting comes with its limitations but if your church is just starting out and you need website hosting, this might be a great way to save a few church budget dollars.
DreamHost also offers other discounts for non-profit organization which remain active for the life of the DreamHost account.
You can see what those other discounts are and instructions on how to apply here.
Your church may outgrow a shared hosting plan, but this might be a good way to get off the ground.
8. Wix Websites
Wix is a great tool for churches that simply need a professional website and can’t afford to have one built.
It is similar to WordPress.com in that you pay for the features you use which include the hosting.
Wix has countless easy to use templates that help you get up and running quickly.
Their features are extensive and include:
- free hosting
- personalized email
- analytics to track website performance
- live chat option
- social tools to connect all of your social accounts
- SSL (secure website)
- contact management
- member login
- SEO to get you found on Google
- email marketing
The best part is Wix has a free website option. There are limitations but a great way to get started.
Paid packages start as low as $11/month.
A professional looking website is no longer an option for churches, particularly if you hope to gain exposure from online search.
If you share content, images or church updates on the social platforms, Buffer could be a great tool for your church.
Buffer allows you to schedule postings to a wide variety of social platforms.
You create the schedule with your preferred delivery times. Buffer then publishes the posts according to the schedule you determine.
A great Buffer feature is its Analytics.
You can use this tool to monitor your social media performance and determine how to improve the results.
It is a pretty quick set up and then you can set up your posts and let Buffer run the schedule for you.
Buffer does offer a free limited account. However, a registered nonprofit organization can qualify for a 50% discount for the upgraded Buffer Publish plans.
You will need to submit documentation for your 501(c)(3) status.
10. Unsplash Free Images
Whether you are building your website, creating a mailer for the upcoming event or creating service graphics you will need images.
Images can be expensive.
Unplash is a community of photographers who share high q-ality images.
There is an easy search bar that sorts images by keyword.
The only ask is that you give credit to the photographer by saying thanks and linking back to the photographer.
A great trade-off for free high-quality images!
Do Your Homework
One thing that annoys the heck out of me is seeing churches and nonprofit organizations get taken advantage of by businesses that prey on their innocence and vulnerability by charging them for services that they might otherwise get for FREE or at a reduced rate.
Taking the time to identify what help you need and researching cost-effective solutions can help you save your church valuable financial resources.