Clichéd but true: the best things in life are free or, in this case, at least highly affordable. With more organizations chasing the same limited sources of funds, leaders are constantly faced with the challenge of increasing visibility, improving efficiency, and reducing costs. Technology has become an essential component in achieving such results, but purchasing corporate technology solutions and hiring an IT team to manage them are incredibly expensive and out of the question for most small to medium organizations as well as nonprofits.
Luckily, almost every useful service has received an innovative makeover by tech startups that are creating new, totally accessible web-apps and are taking the world by storm.
This third post in our web series is going to tackle productivity tools which organizations need to make their work more effective, efficient, and transparent. If you are a professional managing teams in a challenging environment: you’re most likely constrained to work with limited time and resources and to collaborate with diverse and often remote teams to achieve optimal impact. We know you don’t have time to research and test the overwhelming number of tools that could allow you to optimize your work, so we decided to do that work for you.
Several free and low cost tools are available out there; here’s what we recommend you start with so that your organization can save time and boost productivity:
Image source: www.crx4chrome.com
After we've discussed in the previous post how to get your message across to the general public through your website, it is important to make sure that your internal communications are functioning properly. Several studies are showing that email and meetings have become controversial topics when it comes to efficiency and getting things done. Having moved more than 90% of our internal online conversations from email to Slack, our team can’t really remember life without it and our inboxes are no longer out of control. Slack allows private messaging as well as group conversations, segmented by topic using channels. You can easily share files, integrate with third-party apps, and all your data is fully searchable and archivable.
Image source: workflowy.com
Active teams are in a constant state of brainstorming and creation, coming up with ideas that will require organization and follow-up. Mind-mapping is the first step in any productivity workflow and Workflowy is the tool you need to move your process to the digital realm: it helps in structuring your thoughts and prioritizing your tasks. With collapsable subheadings, tagging, and other simple features, it can organize your lists much more effectively than simple documents and will make you more efficient and focused on your goals. The only way to actually get all that is to give it a try; you’ll see, it’s quite intuitive.
Image source: trello.com
When brainstorming sessions start taking life and ideas turn into tasks that can be grouped in themes and shared with the rest of the team, it is time to move from Slack and Workflowy towards more structured project management apps that save your team time and stress. Trello is such an tool, and is loved by many for its flexibility, ease of use and minimalist interface. It allows you to visualize all your projects, share lists with your team members, assign tasks and leave comments. It is guaranteed to save your inbox from streams of emails. Most importantly, it is free. More advanced project management solutions exist for more complex teams; we’ll be looking into those in more detail at another time.
Impact and finances reports are the primary indicators of your project’s success. Focusing on the financial axis, have you ever missed the deadline for preparing and submitting your reports? Are you using Microsoft Excel and an expense tracking system that are driving you crazy? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘yes’, you probably need to check out Jellyfish! It will allow you to have access to your financials anywhere and at anytime to generate reports and make informed decisions based on your real-time financial state. All this without having to refer to your accountant every single time. You can sign up for free here!
Image source: google.com/forms
There are fancy survey forms builders and there are simple survey forms builders. Google Forms are the latter, and with their latest design remake, they’re looking pretty slick. Some of the best features are:
They’re 100% free - all you need is a Gmail or Google Apps account.
You can customize them with different theme options and add your logo.
It’s possible to easily embed the form in your emails or website for more seamless data gathering.
“Skip logic” and page branching can be used when you want to send respondents to different parts of the survey depending on their specific prior answers.
* Among the different survey-building sites, Google Forms are the only app providing this feature for free. This alone makes them the first pick for many organizations!
Survey answers are automatically collected in a Google Sheet and aggregated in a neat online reports with graphs and charts.
Image source: doodle.com
Are you and your nonprofit wasting precious time going back and forth with different stakeholders, coworkers, donors, or suppliers deciding on a meeting date, an interview, or a location for the next fundraiser? Do you wish you could spend less time attempting to schedule meetings and gathering answers and more time actually collaborating to serve your organization? You should definitely give Doodle a try.
This is just a short selection that we are sure would help you focus on what matters and increase the productivity of your organization. We’d love to cover more tools in future posts, probably with more focus on project management and CRM solutions that can help you keep track of your project’s objectives and your beneficiaries’ data. Let us know in the comments below (or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org) what you think of our suggestions, if you have other recommendations you’d like to share, or what you’d like us to focus on next.
Till next time!