Here at the Rio Texas Media Center, we get to use a lot of high-tech tools to do our work. Some of these tools cost money, either to purchase or license. However, some of our tools are absolutely free or have free versions that your church can use. I know from experience that churches work with really tight budgets and we are always trying to be good stewards of the gifts people share. So, I thought I would list some of them for you.
We use Zoom for all of our Video Conferencing and Webinars. In September, that added up to 33 different meetings with 178 participants and nearly 10,000 meeting minutes. We love Zoom, and you can use the same platform we use for free. At no charge you get:
- Meetings with up to 50 participants
- Unlimited number of meetings
- Unlimited meeting duration for 1 to 1 meetings
The only catch is that there is a 40 minute limit on group meetings. But that is not a bad for free. You get all the bells as whistles as the paid plan: HD video, meeting recording, private and group chat, screen sharing, breakout rooms, whiteboarding and lot more.
You can check it out and sign up and www.zoom.us.
Sometimes it is easier or more convenient to meet via phone. We use UberConference for those occasions. They offer paid plans for heavy users like us, but they also offer a great free plan. For $0 you get full featuring teleconferencing with unlimited conferences, up to 10 participants, call in via phone or computer, screen and document sharing, call recording and more.
You can learn more and get a free account at www.uberconference.com
For a lot of our image and graphic work, we use Photoshop. I also use a free piece of software called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). However, for a lot of day to day work, I have come to love Canva. Canva is a free, online, graphic design platform that helps you design great looking graphics. Need a graphic to promote an upcoming sermon series, event, or program? Whether it is for your website, worship, or printed material, Canva helps you with layout, images, fonts, filters and more. The service is free though they do charge for some images, backgrounds, and designs. However, there are plenty of free options, you can upload your images and, even if you do want the paid options, most of them are only $1. If you like Canva, you might really like Canva for Work, their paid service. And good news, for non-profits, that is free as well.
Take it for a spin at www.canva.com
The annual conference uses a lot of forms. Likely even more than you can imagine. Whenever possible, we are making these forms available online. To make sure those forms are easy to use, both for users and the staff here on the other side, we use Wufoo. Wufoo allows you to create great looking online forms with all sorts of features. You get to design forms with text fields, multiple choice options, drop-down selections, check boxes and more. They even have built-in logic branching, a fancy way to say your forms can change based on user input. You can set up notifications when someone fills out a form, send a custom email response and access all the data online or export it to a spreadsheet. We use a paid version because we have a lot of forms but Wufoo gives you access to three forms, ten fields and 100 entries for free.
More information at www.wufoo.com
Our weekly Unidos e-newsletter goes out to nearly 4000 email addresses each week. To facilitate this, we use MailChimp. MailChimp is a full-service email platform that helps with list management, design, and sending. You can have multiple lists and segments. We have a master list, but we also have separate lists and segments for groups like clergy, church offices, lay delegates, etc. We have to pay for the service since we have a big list but your church can use it for free. MailChimp offers a free plan for up to 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. That is plenty for most churches.
Learn more at www.mailchimp.com
These aren’t even all of the free services out there. Do you use one I didn’t mention? Feel free to let me know in the comments.