Facebook Workplace describes itself as helping “some of the world’s most recognized charities, educational institutions, and emergency services build a better future” and is used by charities including Comic Relief, RNIB and UNICEF. Facebook Workplace is available for free (or at a heavy discount) to eligible charities as part of its Workplace for Good programme.
Rapid staff updates
The situation can change overnight, and over the weekend. Having a staff chat group on WhatsApp or a mass SMS list of employees can help get changes to policies and working practices across quickly, particularly if the situation develops outside the working day.
WhatsApp is free, and easy to set up and invite people to by using their phone number or – easier still – emailing them all a link or QR code for them to click or scan to join the group. Doing it via a link or code also allows them to decide if they’d like to be contacted in this way.
Let people know that joining a whatsapp group shares their phone number and the name and profile image they’ve set in WhatsApp with everyone else in the group. These safeguarding and GDPR considerations can put off charities from communicating with service users and volunteers, though charities including Leukemia Care and Asthma UK already use WhatsApp to speak directly to their service users and there are plenty of other tips on getting the best out of the platform.
Slack and Microsoft Teams both allow you to make video calls, which makes it easy to meet face to face when everyone is working from home or is in social isolation.
If you can’t use these, there are other third party services like:
- Whereby (formerly appear.in) offers a free tier for a single user to host a meeting of up to four participants, then increases to $9.99 per month for a Pro package for more meeting rooms and larger meetings.
- Zoom: only the host needs an account in order to set up meetings and invite participants. Discounted licenses are available for individual users or for groups from the Charity Tech Trust.
People may already be familiar with and comfortable using tools such as Skype, and may prefer to meet that way. However, Skype can incur calling fees and is better for one-to-one meetings than videoconferencing. The business version, Skype for Business, has recently been retired in favour of Microsoft Teams.
Naturally text, emails and the good old fashioned phone call can do a lot here. However, tech can facilitate one on one video interactions that can help keep the rapport going and give you a window (literally) into how your service user is looking and feeling.
Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime is easy but only for apple users. Keep in mind safeguarding issues, though, if that’s relevant.
You can lessen safeguarding issues by using a service like Whereby that allows people to join a virtual conference call by clicking a link instead. Someone needs to send them the link somehow, though.
There is a course on Learn My Way outlining how to video call using different platforms.
Remote management and collaboration
A simple Google Sheet can help you keep track of tasks and progress, individually or in a group environment. There are plenty of free or inexpensive personal productivity tools, too. while more advanced online tools like Trello, Microsoft Planner and Asana let you manage group tasks too. Microsoft Planner is included in some versions of Office 365 while Asana offers a 50% discount for nonprofits.
Using the agile project management trick of having a 10 minute daily stand up (or video call) where everyone is looking at the todo list can help you see where everyone is up to and if anyone has anything stopping them working. It also builds in some social interaction at the start of the day.
There are more complex enterprise-level project management tools such as Basecamp and Microsoft Project. Basecamp Free offers basic functionality for small teams and projects while Basecamp Business replaces the need to use several other collaboration tools and it offers discounts for nonprofits. Microsoft Project is available as either a cloud-based or desktop app for a discounted price through the Charity Tech Trust
If you like to collaborate visually, tools such as Miro, Microsoft Whiteboard, and Google Drawing can provide a virtual white board to place and move around items on a digital canvas that multiple people can see and contribute to. These tools even let you stick up some virtual post-it notes to really recreate that team meeting feel. Email Miro to find out about their special pricing for nonprofits.