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Unless you’re employed by the Association of Do-Nothing Trust Fund Babies, the volunteers who serve on your committees and boards are probably busy, successful professionals who are challenged to find time for the important work they do for your association. Here are 10 outstanding (and free!) collaboration tools that will streamline communication and save your volunteers time and energy.
Schedule a meeting without email tag
Ever heard the old joke, “How many emails does it take to schedule a committee teleconference?” Stop the email volley of trying to find a time to meet by using Doodle (www.doodle.com), an online meeting scheduler. Without ever entering your email address or any personal information, you can set up a grid of possible dates and times for meetings. They generate a link for both your admin view and the participants’ responses. Also try www.whenisgood.com or www.timebridge.com.
Bring everyone to the table at once
Hold a virtual committee meeting with free desktop-sharing tools such as join.me. In just a couple of minutes, you can start an online meeting for up to 250 participants with online chat, a free teleconference number, multimonitor support and more. And for just $29 a month, you have more tools, including a meeting scheduler (great for presenting educational webinars!). Plus, check out desktop-sharing capabilities of Skype (www.skype.com) and Yugma (www.yugma.com) for smaller committees.
Stop chasing down attachments
Keeping track of document versions can be challenging when you distribute and collect info via email. Use your free Google account to share documents via Google Docs (www.docs.google.com) for easy online collaboration. Changes and collaboration are tracked, making it easier to hold volunteers accountable for their tasks.
Manage projects like a pro
People who earn degrees in project management know their way around Gantt charts and resource assets to manage really big projects like building a rocket. But for those of us who simply need to launch a new website, high-priced project management software is overkill. Try a do-it-yourself platform such as Basecamp (www.basecamphq.com) or Pelotonics (www.pelotonics.com), both of which have basic free versions. These project management systems let you set up milestones, add people to projects, assign tasks, share files and track emails - perfect for a project that involves several volunteers and lots of coordination. Can’t live without your Gantt chart? Try www.tomsplanner.com.
This is the first in a series by Ziesenis, "your own personal Nerdy Best Friend," who keeps up with new online applications and downloads that can help your association look like you’re working with a team of experts. See the tools at www.askbethz.com/tools. Also see "Browse 300+ Tech Tools" in her book "Upgrade to Free: The Best Free and Low-Cost Online Tools and Apps," available at Amazon.com. http://amzn.to/Upgrade2Free.