Comms Advent Calendar 2023 round-up

By Gemma Pettman

With support from all corners of our community, the CIPR Not-for-Profit group’s comms advent calendar returned to social media for the fourth year in a row last month. 

The premise is simple: a daily post on both X/Twitter and LinkedIn highlighting a free or low-cost comms resource. Rather than plucking ideas from thin air, or talking only about the resources we use, we ask our network for suggestions. This means we share tried and tested tools as used by the very people they are intended for. 

Welcome to our new followers who found us via the calendar posts. If you missed this content, here are the 24+ resources we shared during December:

1st - Christmas Content for Tiny Teams 
It has been a long year so if your creative juices aren’t flowing as they once were, Claire Colvine has come to the rescue. Christmas Content for Tiny Teams is a free resource for small charities. It includes daily ideas for what to post on social media up until mid-January, as well as more than 100 text templates for you to use and adapt. Get it here.
2nd - Platypus Digital’s assessment tool
Are you looking to improve your charity’s digital strategy? Maybe you’re not sure where to start. Platypus Digital has a free assessment tool that could help. Visit the website, answer a few questions and you will receive a personalised score and actions to improve your charity's digital strategy work.   

3rd - CIPR Crisis Comms skills guide
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. If you haven’t yet created a crisis comms plan for your organisation, or perhaps yours is due a review, our friends from CIPR Crisis Communications Network are here to help. They have produced a new skills guide that will lead you through the process, step by step. This one is for members only, sorry!  
4th -
A reliable transcription app is an excellent piece of kit for our comms toolkit. Otter has been recommended by Francesca Baker-Brooker (it’s the one we use too). Francesca uses it to easily turn webinars into blog posts (bonus tip there about repurposing your content!). You can also create SRT (caption) files that you can add to your videos. 
5th - Canva for Non-Profits
If there was an award for the most-suggested free or low-cost comms tool, the winner would be… Canva! So many of you suggested this nifty online design suite, we had to include it in our Comms Advent Calendar once more. If you’re new to Canva, you can use it to create everything from social media graphics to interactive presentations. Loads of new features have been added in recent years, including a huge image library and AI tools.
6th - Digital Charity Lab’s Guide to Social Media Metrics
If you have strong feelings about social media measurement, allow us to recommend this new guide from Digital Charity Lab. It covers everything from where to start, how to avoid vanity metrics, setting benchmarks and offers advice on formatting your reports. 
7th - Media Trust/Few and Far Websites Unlocked toolkit
If you haven’t yet unlocked your charity website’s full potential, this is the resource for you. Media Trust has collaborated with digital experts, Few and Far, to create a free toolkit specifically aimed at small charities with little to no budget. Accessibility, analytics and all sorts of other helpful guidance. Thanks to Colin Grist for the suggestion.
8th - GIMP
If you have ever needed to (metaphorically) remove a lamppost from someone’s head, or clear a pile of bags from the background of an otherwise perfect shot, you’ll appreciate how useful a tool like Photoshop is. If it’s beyond your budget, check out GIMP instead. This open-source tool allows you to embed captions, resize by measurements and edit out details in images. 
9th - The Third Sector PR and Comms Network Facebook group
Several people, including Beth Gregory, suggested we include this group in our Comms Advent Calendar. For members, it’s like having 10,000+ helpful colleagues. A source of advice, support and even job opportunities, it’s a community we love being part of. Find it here: 
10th - Publer
If you’re looking for a free or low-cost social media management tool, Stuart Bruce suggests checking out Publer. The free account lets you access three social accounts, line up ten pending scheduled posts per account and have 25 saved drafts If you need more flexibility than that, the paid accounts start at under £10 per month.
11th - Digital Candle
Imagine being able to pick the brain of a marketing expert, for FREE. That’s the premise of Digital Candle. Visit the website and post a question about your charity’s digital strategy. They will connect you with a volunteer expert who can help. No question is too broad or too niche. 
12th - SCVO’s AI Guide
If you want to know more about how generative AI tools work and what you need to think about, especially in terms of ethics, today’s #NFPCommsCalendar offering is a great starting point. The team at SCVO has created an overarching guide to AI for charities and it’s available here.
13th -
Today’s comms tool is another handy photo editor, as used by Adam Driver (thanks for the recommendation!). Remove eliminates the background from even the most detailed of photos. Make a background transparent or add an alternative backdrop with ease 
14th - Hotjar
Understanding how visitors behave on your site helps you to spot problems and prioritise the improvements that matter most. Cue today’s comms tool, Hotjar, which describes itself as offering everything you ever wanted to know about your website, but your analytics never told you. The free plan is a great starting point, but they do offer discounts for not-for-profits.

15th - Delivering Successful Campaigns on a Budget webinar
It’s quite restrained of us to have waited this long to share one of our own resources. Throughout the year our group organises various events that are free for members and low-cost for guests. Our most popular event to date remains Matt Batten's webinar on Delivering Successful Campaigns on a Budget. Catch up here.
16th - Monday
A great workflow management tool is worth its weight in gold and one of the best ones we have tried is free! You can use Monday to plan content, collaborate on a marketing strategy, manage comms projects and much more besides. Check out the templates rather than starting from scratch as they are easily adapted. The free plan offers up to three boards, unlimited documents and up to two team members.
17th - Hemingway
We comms folks pride ourselves on the quality of our writing, but even we get stuck from time to time. We know the importance of crystal-clear comms, which is where tools like Hemingway can help. It highlights clunky sentences and cracks down on common errors and the free version is free forever. Give it a try and see what you think.
18th - Image libraries
Some well-known image libraries offer royalty-free photography. These are fantastic resources, especially for not-for-profit organisations on tight budgets. However, we sometimes need images that are a little less… generic. Today’s #NPFCommsCalendar entry is a bumper crop of more diverse image libraries. We couldn’t choose between all those you suggested, so we haven’t! Usual rules apply – please read the T&Cs around fair use:
Disabled and Here
Centre for Aging Better
Gender Spectrum Collection
Centre for Homelessness Impact 
Active Images 
19th - Google Lens
 Yesterday we posted a list of diverse, but perhaps less well-known, photo libraries. If you are using one of the more generic collections available, today’s tip is to use Google Lens to check that any you choose aren't being used for big campaigns by other organisations. 
20th - Charity Comms Knowledge Hub
As we approach the final few days of our #NFPCommsCalendar, it would be remiss of us not to mention our friends Charity Comms. We particularly want to point you in the direction of their full-to-bursting Knowledge Hub. The content is tagged which makes it easy to find the templates, guides and advice you need. Whether you’re seeking inspiration for your impact report or want to know how best to keep your online communities safe, Charity Comms has you covered. 
21st - Microsoft Clarity
Each time we compile this calendar we find another Microsoft tool we didn’t know existed. This time it’s Clarity (thanks to Stuart Bruce for the intro). This free tool captures data on how people use your website plus you can connect it to Google Analytics. Find out more here and get started in minutes.
22nd - CIPR’s ESG Guide series
The CIPR’s ESG guide series is a comprehensive toolkit that will help you to build, update, or evaluate your organisation’s ESG strategies. Whether you’re an experienced communicator, or just getting started, these best practice guides offer a great overview of what each of the areas entails. This one’s for members only.

23 - Loom
‘Explainer’ videos can be great for engagement and help your audiences understand how a project or service works. Perhaps there’s a process you would like to walk your colleagues or service users through. Maybe you have launched a new tool on your website and want to offer step-by-step instructions. One of the easiest ways to create explainer videos is with a tool called Loom and yes, there’s a free plan. 
24 - Guild
We may not have reached Christmas yet but we’re already thinking about New Year’s resolutions. If 2024 is going to be the year you find your tribe, we can recommend joining the Charity, Non-Profit and Public Sector Guild group hosted by the brilliant Sara Martinez. It’s a community for strategists and practitioners at all levels to learn, collaborate, share and blaze a trail for success.
We enjoy putting the comms advent calendar together but what makes it worthwhile is when we hear from you. If our posts have led to you trying a new tool, let us know. Perhaps a resource you found via the calendar is already making a difference to how you’re working. If so, tell us about it. We would love to hear from you via X/Twitter and LinkedIn or you can email [email protected]