Collaboration Software for Non-profits: Your Quick Guide

If you are looking for collaboration software for nonprofits, you will be happy to know there are a lot of good options. There are many types of collaboration software solutions for nonprofit organizations that you can check out and review to fit your needs.

So, which collaboration software for nonprofits is the best for you? The best way to do this is to look at the top collaboration software features based on most common working scenarios in your office. Also, if you’re a newbie user, check these best practices in collaborative software use or know its basic functions and types that can help your organization.

For meetings, presentations, and conversations

  • Conference calls – collaboration software tools that can connect multiple callers on just one phone line, such as
  • Video conferencing – conference calls that display video of one or even all the callers, including WebEx as well as some hardware solutions
  • Online conferencing—calls with an additional online component, including shared slides, videos, documents, and/or screen sharing. Some examples include GoToMeeting and WebEx.

For information sharing

  • Collaborative documents – collaborators or users can share and edit documents or data online, whether in real time or over time, in a cloud-hosted software tool such as Google Docs
  • Email discussion lists – electronic mail (email) groups, which are facilitated by tools, such, as Yahoo! Groups, which allows participants to mass email everyone or select members in the group
  • Social networking sites – web-based and free networking sites, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, allowing users to create social network profiles as well as connect with other users
  • Message board – simple online forums featuring a question-and-answer format, including tools such as vBulletin and phpBB

For structured collaborations that are for longer-term

If your nonprofit is working for projects over a longer period of time, it is recommended that you get or create a collaboration environment that is more sophisticated. These tools, some of which may have demo versions or cheap subscription, will probably take a longer time to create and to understand, but may give more structured functionality for your organization and team members to work together more effectively.

  • Online project management tools – collaborators or users can share documents, tasks, calendars, and structured conversations, with software tools such as Basecamp or Central Desktop
  • Online community – collaborators can share documents, profiles, calendars, message boards, among others.  Web-based applications such as Ning or KickApps can let you create this kind of custom community.
  • Wiki – a collaborative site, allowing users to view and edit, using tools such as Confluence or MediaWiki.
  • Blog network – an online community of linked web blogs where people can discuss using posts and comments. Any blog tools such as WordPress or TypePad can support this.
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How to choose

So how do you choose? On one hand, a collaboration software for nonprofits that is easy to use may not allow fast documentation or archiving of conversations. On the other hand, a more structured one may need significant and longer up-front time to create and customize the processes for your organization’s needs.

Before you get a software solution, it is really crucial that you study some considerations to get the best solution for your needs. Consider the following areas:

  • The cost of software. For nonprofits especially, cost will always be a factor. Many nonprofits do not have the financial resources for their various advocacies and resources (such as staff and equipment), let alone for collaborative software tools. However, do not fret: many collaborative software tools are free, while some, though they cost money, won’t break the bank. However, always keep in mind that there can be some huge differences between the free account you will be getting or the basic one you will be thinking of getting and the price you will need to shell out for a fuller version of the tool.
  • Discussions in real time. For certain meetings or conversations, it is sometimes important (if not critical) to get all team members together at once. But in some situations—for example, to adjust with the different schedules of your team members or differences in the time zones—it is best to let the team members think and discuss at their convenience.
  • Ease of setup. Some collaboration software tools methods almost need no setup—you may just need to pick up a phone or go online and register and you are good to go. Other collaboration software tools however may need days or even weeks of elaborate planning, specially to define and customize the processes your nonprofit needs to make sure you have successful collaboration.
  • Participant’s ease-of-use. The quicker a system and the process are for you and your organization’s members, the more likely you and the rest will actually use the collaboration software tool. Do not forget to consider the amount of work, time, or commitment you need to train yourself and other users, and get everyone to use a collaboration software tool that will force them to adopt unfamiliar tools or even modify their current processes.
  • Central document storage. If you are planning of creating or sharing documents, videos, photos, or other multimedia files across your team members, it may be useful to get a central place to store all the data. A number of collaboration software tools allow you or your team members to post links as well as share files, and some may also even help you organize or look for them again later.
  • Conversation archive. Look for a collaboration software tool that has good archiving and documentation features in order for you to store conversations or discussions and then access them again later when you need them.
  • Structured conversations. The capacity to get all discussion or interaction about a topic in a place, or to analyze a discussion into several component parts, can be especially useful to those who want to get a collaboration software tool to help the nonprofit to keep input as well as make decisions.
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To learn more about online tools, Nonprofit Tech for Good lists 111 low-cost or free online tools for nonprofit organizations. Idealware also has a quick guide to essential software for your organization.

If you want to know more in finding out how business software tools can help your nonprofit organization and more discussion on how to select the best tool for you, please feel free to check out our guide how to choose the best CRM software program.

Category: Collaboration Software, Questions & Answers

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