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Top 3 Project Management Tools for Non-Profits

There’s nothing worse than lack of cohesion and coordination. People should know exactly what action steps need to be taken to carry a project into fruition, otherwise there will be confusion and stagnation. Plans of action are usually discussed in group/committee meetings. But what about the people who can’t physically make it to the meetings? They need to know what’s going on too!

Every organization has different needs. Pick what’s right for you and stick to it. Use it consistently and proactively. Your work will be easier to manage and coordinate, especially when the project gets bigger. 

Here are Valhalla’s Top 3 Options:

1. Basecamp (http://basecamp.com)
Perfect for large organizations with lots of members and a need for work synchronization.

The first project management tool that we tried was Basecamp. It is a very comprehensive and easy-to-use platform with plenty of features, perfect for organizations that have lots of members and a need for complete work synchronization. Some of the most useful ones include:

  • division of project into categories
  • different access for all people involved, including clients, press, volunteers, general members
  • project calendars
  • to-do list and task manager (you can assign tasks to people)
  • discussion boards
  • upload and share files

Depending on how many projects you have, Basecamp will cost you $20-150 per month. For $20 you can manage up to 10 projects at once with 3GB file storage, which we found to be enough for our needs. You can try Basecamp for free for 60 days.

Popular Alternatives to Basecamp:

 

2. ActionMethod (http://actionmethod.com)
Perfect for small to medium-sized organizations.

ActionMethod is a simple and streamlined task management platform that focuses on organizing action steps (tasks) by project. You can:

  • assign tasks to specific people (they even get email notifications!)
  • set due dates
  • attach files
  • post messages
  • add notes
  • access your account via iPhone, iPad and Android

There’s a FREE basic version that allows you to create up to 50 new action steps, unlimited projects. You can accept, reject, and complete action steps that are assigned to you. The PREMIUM version allows you to do all of the above plus the ability to collaborate on projects with other people, upload files & attachments, and create unlimited action steps. It costs $9/month, which we find to be very reasonable.

The best part? Non-profit organizations can open premium accounts that are heavily subsidized (or even free!). Just contact them (http://www.actionmethod.com/nonprofit) and they’ll set you up. Now that’s love :)


3. Wunderlist (
http://wunderlist.com)
Best for small groups and individuals.

Another simple yet powerful task management tool. In Wunderlist, you can:

  • create, star, and clear taska
  • set due dates and reminders (turn on notifications!)
  • set subtasks
  • add notes
  • unlimited projects/lists
  • share lists
  • add tasks using the Wunderlist browser extension
  • sync across web, iPhone, Android, iPad, Mac & PC desktop apps
  • assign tasks and attach files (for Pro accounts)

Wunderlist is completely free for all platforms! They offer a PRO account for $9/month, which allows you to assign tasks to people and attach files. It’s a pretty handy upgrade for those who want to collaborate and intimately share lists, but I find that the regular Free version is more than enough for personal usage.

Other Useful Tools:

  • Dropbox – https://www.dropbox.com (you get 2 GB for free, or you can get Pro and Business plans starting at $10/month)
    This is a great website/desktop app that lets you share folders and files with anyone. They provide a good amount of free space as well as opportunities to gain even MORE free upload space. Reliable mobile apps (for the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android).
  • Desk – https://desk.com (free trial for 30 days, then $39/month or $348/year)
    Desk.com helps organize all your emails and social networking messages into one convenient site. It comes with customer support as well as mobile apps.
  • Jolidrive – https://drive.jolicloud.com/welcome (free)
    Jolicloud is an online cloud storage service that lets you access all of your data from Dropbox, Box, YouTube, SoundCloud, Instagram, SkyDrive, and Google Drive from your browser. Very useful for aggregating all your files in one place!

 

Why do I need an application/website to organize my projects?

Coordinating communication and tasks between members is very important–you want to make sure that all members are kept accountable and in the loop. It shouldn’t be overly complicated and rigid, but it should serve your particular needs. Don’t get a fancy shmancy project management platform with tons of extraneous features if all you need is a simple to-do list manager or file-sharing application!

Consider the following:

  • Internal communication and timely (real-time) updates on news or progress.
  • Communication with other people interested in the project OUTSIDE of social networking.
  • Project file sharing between members.
  • Collaborative tools
  • task manager
  • Project calendars and individual calendars

Which one should I choose?

What’s best for your group is largely dependent on how your members organize their work. Some people are more efficient using pen and paper/pad. Others might already have their own preferred set of applications.

At Valhalla…

We used Basecamp in the past but now we use ActionMethod. We didn’t stick with Basecamp only because it was difficult to get people to update and check it regularly. Basecamp is effective only when every member uses it diligently and consistently, otherwise outdated tasks and updates simply pile up and become disorganized.

We decided to go with a system where only one member organizes all the project tasks. He/she touches base with the project leaders (usually during committee/group meetings) to find out what the action steps are and then updates ActionMethod with all relevant information. All members can access the AMO account to check up on the projects. This way there is still a centralized list of all our group tasks and members are kept accountable.

We’ve found this to be an efficient and easy way to organize our projects so long as we held regular meetings for talking points and discussion. Organizing your work in a transparent way will build trust and reliability. People can stay accountable for what needs to be done in a timely manner. Need we say more?