As an operational leader trying to give lift to a non-profit mission, having cost-effective tools is key to empowering our staff and volunteers. Leading a virtual team and connecting with colleagues from around the world means that I need publicly accessible and highly scalable tools to help me get the job done.
Here’s a list of some of the tools I can’t imagine doing my job without.
- Docs is Google’s free web-based word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation application. The online app allows users to easily share documents and collaboratively work on them in real-time.
- Google calendar allows me to share calendars with varying groups of people. A shared team calendar allows everyone to have a clear picture of key upcoming dates. It always means anyone can add events and meetings. The team edition has a great feature to check availability of meeting participants.
Gmail – Is a free email service with innovative features like “conversation view” email threads, search-oriented interface and plenty of free storage (almost 7GB). Message threading, filters and multiple inboxes are the features I get the most mileage out of. The gmail experience is orders of magnitude better than any other mail service I have ever used.
GCX – Is a missional tool for connecting people, resources and movements.
- A GCX community is a safe place to have discussions, share files, post news items or prayers requests. This tools is so scalable. I love that anyone can create a community, for any missional purpose. Discussing eMinistry with colleagues around the world, sharing best practices with 150 of our staff from across the country or organizing a trip to seminary training with friends this summer are all things I can do inside of the communities feature.
- GCX Project provides project collaboration software to help lead my team in making sure we do what we say we are going to do. Setting milestones, managing tasks and centralizing communication can all be accomplish with GCX Project.
DropBox – Dropbox is a software product that makes it easy to securely share files with other people, sync them across multiple computers, access them from anywhere, and keep them safe.
Skype – Skype is a peer-to-peer Internet telephony service that is free for Skype-to-Skype calls. The service also allows Skype users to call mobiles and landlines, for very cheap. Besides cheap multi-party voice communication and 1-1 video and screen sharing, my virtual team has a ongoing Skype chat window we all share, avoiding emails and allowing for efficient collaboration.
TripIT – TripIt is an intelligent travel organizer that helps travelers manage their plans so that their trips go more smoothly. I love how I just forward a confirmation email (plane ticket, car rental) to TripIt and it creates a master itinerary with travel plans and other critical information. I can also easily see which of my colleagues will be close to me on trips. With frequent travel, TripIt gives me the peace of mind that all my travel arrangements are in one place.
Twitter – Is a micro-blogging and social media service. I use it primarily as a source of news and learning about my field. By following influential people (like many of you), I can sort through the noise of the net and keep up with relevant information my network is highlighting and filtering for me.
Google Reader – Instead of needing to constantly check all my favourite sites, Google Reader brings updated content right to me. The great thing is that it’s not screaming notifications at me. This allows me to track with feeds from a number of sources when I want to. Tagging and starring items for future is a super-helpful feature of this RSS aggregator. [Learn more – Scorepoints by teaching what an RSS reader is.]
TntMPD – Is a free program for helping fundraisers manage relationships with donors. Since I have to raise funds to cover my salary and other ministry expenses, TntMPD lets me track my interactions with donors, see their giving history and coordinate communication with them. There are some crazy insightful reports you can generate to keep on top of keeping your donors engaged.
Here are two other tools that I can imagine living without, but come in really handy.
Google Wave – Is a real-time wiki chat. It’s great for taking notes during a meeting, tracking progress over multiple meetings or getting everyone’s input in real time. I especially like that I can invite someone to a wave and they can playback the whole conversation without me needing to bring them up to speed. On a personal front, my mentor and I have a wave where we suggest times for meetings, I write him questions that we’ll cover in our time together and we share links, store documents and record action points. A wave can contain a whole history of interaction and collaboration.
DimDim – Is a free web-conferencing tool. It allows a presenter to show a presentation or his screen during a webinar or virtual meeting. We usually use Skype for audio instead of the built-in one, but the ability to get a visual of what someone is talking about during a conference call is often helpful.
What are tools that you can’t work without?