The Cost of Free: Why Nonprofits Need to Invest

Kevin D. Hendricks
The Cost of Free: Why Nonprofits Need to Invest

Shrinking marketing budgets are a constant challenge for nonprofits. That makes free tools and resources very tempting—but there’s no such thing as free. Let’s look at the cost of free on nonprofit marketing budgets and why it can be smarter to pay for the right tool than try to save money with a free tool. 

No Such Thing as Free

So your nonprofit is tackling a new marketing challenge, and you’ve found a free tool to help you make it happen. Maybe it’s email newsletters, social media scheduling, graphic creation, texting, or more. The exact tool doesn’t matter—it’s free, so you think this won’t be a drain on your marketing budget. 

But nothing is free. 

There are a number of hidden costs you’re signing up for, even if you’re not handing over the credit card:

  • Cost of free: Every free tool has a monetization plan, so even if you’re not paying up front, you’ll pay eventually. They might be locking you in by letting you see how useful it is and then you have to pay for additional storage or access to the right sharing tools. They may pump in advertising that works as an attention tax, distracting you and slowing you down. They often sell your data! The bottomline is there’s always a cost.
  • Cost of new: Simply by using a new tool you’re investing precious time and energy to figure it out, set it up, and get it working. This is time you could be doing something else. Even if you’re not paying for the tool, your nonprofit is paying with your time and attention (and that’s valuable!).
  • Cost of wrong action: Most free tools are pretty bare bones and don’t come with a lot of help. That lack of guidance can lead you to make mistakes. You might use the tool wrong or not understand the guardrails and miss your target. Now you’ve not only used your time and energy on a failed strategy, but there’s potential fallout. If you’re spamming your social media followers with useless messages—unfollow. If you misuse texting, you might really upset people. You might be losing your audience. 

There are a number of hidden costs associated with free tools. Buyer beware.

Cost of Inaction

OK, fine. We won’t use free tools. Beware the cost of inaction. 

While free can be problematic, you also don’t want to fall into the trap of doing nothing. Not taking action—really the failure to innovate—has left many nonprofits in the dust. 

‘That’s how we’ve always done it’ is the mantra of dinosaurs.

As challenging as it is, nonprofit organizations need to be investing, learning, and growing.

Success Requires Investment

The reality of modern marketing is that any kind of success requires investment. You need to invest in the right people (you!), the right resources, and the right tools. That means paying for them.

You can’t hope to skimp by on cheap and free. 

Any business leader knows this. They invest in their marketing, track the results, and look for a solid return on investment. Nonprofit marketing is no different.

This doesn’t mean you don’t scrutinize costs or spend lavishly. We all know those nonprofit marketing dollars are rare and precious. This means you need to invest them wisely. 

Rally Can Help

Rally doesn’t have a free option because our incredibly powerful and useful tools require investment. We’re confident you’ll see a positive return, but you have to make that investment.

We’re so confident we’re willing to help. That’s why Rally is always available to help you figure out how to make the most of our tools. We’ve got a success coach at onboarding, Zoom support, webinars, videos, templates, blog posts, and more—all to help you make it work.

Get started today to see it in action.

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