If you work at a nonprofit, efficiency is probably one of your top priorities. Nonprofits don’t have much time to waste, and it’s important that everyone is working toward a unified goal and getting s**t done. Lots of nonprofit professionals wear many hats and have job descriptions that span multiple areas of the organization. It can be difficult to keep track of changing roles and make sure that work is completed in a timely manner.
Luckily, there are some simple and easy-to-use project management tools out there that can help you organize and prioritize tasks. These tools are collaborative, too, which means you can share across the organization. Creating transparency around the work that needs to be done enhances teams’ ability to work together. It also makes it easy for project managers to assess progress.
Agile project management is a strategy that originated in software development and engineering. Teams work in short, iterative ‘sprints’ or ‘scrums’ to produce a product. At Whole Whale, we’ve adopted the theory of agile project management and adjusted it to fit our needs. Traditional agile project management doesn’t translate 100% to the work we do, but we do adhere to these characteristics:
- Break work up into short (2 week) sprint periods
- Assign tasks to each sprint period and complete all tasks by the end of the sprint
- Review performance after each sprint to assess work planning and completion
This agile-ish format motivates team members to get work done in the allotted sprint period. It creates transparency throughout the team so that we’re aware of everyone’s current workload and capacity. It holds team members accountable at the end of the sprint. It allows us to check up on ourselves, and ensures that each Whaler is pulling their weight and not sinking the ship!
Want to introduce agile-ish project management to your team, but not sure where to get started? Here are some free tools (or tools with a free version) for your nonprofit to try.
1. G Suite
Simple but powerful, G Suite is a great intro to project management. Use Gmail, Google’s email service, to create a custom email addresses for internal and external communication. Schedule meetings, events, and due dates using Google Calendar. Set reminders for yourself and others to keep track of what needs to get done. Shared calendar access lets you keep track of other team members’ schedules. Google Hangouts is a simple and easy video conferencing tool – to join a call, just share a link.
Google Drive is the place to create, store, and share documents and presentations. Upload files from your computer to give access to others. Create editable slides, spreadsheets, and documents that allow for real time collaboration. Document permissions can be set at the individual level, and you can download static copies of your work to share with external stakeholders. The G Suite products work together seamlessly, and this free solution may be enough to meet your organization’s’ needs.
Asana is a project management tool that allows you to create projects, log and assign tasks, and track progress over time. You can create custom dashboards and start conversations within Asana to discuss work. Check project status, schedule meetings, and make updates to notify team members – all without sending emails. Configure your inbox so that you only get updates that are relevant to you. Asana offers tons of customizations for project and task structures. You can upload and share documents and set due dates and times.
The free version of Asana includes all of these functionalities and allows up to 15 team members. Feeling fancy? The premium version has advanced features like custom fields, integrations with Chrome and Google Drive, and unlimited dashboards. Find out more at asana.com/product.
Trello is a visual and collaborative tool for creating boards, lists, and cards to organize projects and tasks. The Trello hierarchy looks like this: cards are tasks to be completed, lists keep cards organized at their various levels of progress, and boards represent the overarching project. Team members use boards to collaborate and keep each other up-to-date on progress and activity. Trello is extremely visual, and provides a picture of your workflow. Ever outline the steps of a project with sticky notes on a whiteboard? Trello is the clean, customizable, digital analogue. Communicate via Trello cards, as well, to avoid bogging down email inboxes. Find out more at trello.com.
Producteev is another task management solution for teams. Create projects, assign and schedule tasks, and stay on top of progress. It’s simple to convert conversations into tasks on the spot, which cuts down on time spent scheduling work after meetings. Organize your work with labels and priority levels. Have a team that’s remote or spread out? That’s no problem either – Producteev has desktop and mobile versions and apps for both iOS and Android. The free version allows unlimited members, projects, tasks, and subtasks. For personalized support and custom colors and logos, consider a paid version from producteev.com.
Slack is a communication tool that organizes your conversations into designated channels. Set up channels however they work best for you – for a team, project, or anything else you want. At Whole Whale, we use our Travel Channel to share awesome pics from Whaler trips (Exhibit A, the Galapagos sea turtle above). Slack also lets you create private channels for sharing sensitive information. Use the direct messaging functionality for one-on-one or small group communication. Easily drag and drop to upload files and create editable posts to share ideas within a channel. Slack has other cool functionalities like voice and video calls, reminders, and your very own personal assistant – Slackbot. Slack has integrations with tons of other apps like Google Drive, Asana, Twitter, and Dropbox.
The free version works great – we recommend checking it out at slack.com. If your team needs more, consider upgrading to a paid version. They offer premium features like group calls, guest access, and custom message retention policies.
There you have it – five free project management and communication tools for your team to consider. There’s no one size fits all solution for project management. One of the tools we mentioned may be the best fit for your org, or maybe it’s some combination of the above. Test it out and see which process works best for your team.
One thing’s for sure – tracking task completion and project progress will enhance accountability and productivity for your team. Nonprofits have some of the hardest working and dedicated teams we know. Use the data to assess your work, motivate your team, and increase your impact.