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3 Powerful Online Tools for Nonprofits

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The rapid pace of the nonprofit sector and the ever-changing landscape in which we operate compels us to always stay on our toes; ready for change, ready to adapt. This has been a year of great challenges and opportunities at LLC, and technology has helped us find creative solutions to some of those challenges and identify ways to optimize the resources we already have. Here are a couple of things we have learned along the way:


1) Wetpaint: Collaborative Website

The Challenge
When we launched our collaborative research initiative earlier this year, Leadership for a New Era, we were tasked with the challenge of developing an online platform where participants could manipulate the content (add, edit, delete pages) and engage in meaningful conversations around the topic areas. We tried using the tools that we already had, Wikispaces and Ning, but felt that if we wanted to create a clear identity for the project, we needed to offer a central place where information and ideas could be easily exchanged and discussed. Developing a brand new website from scratch was not an option, since web development is expensive and time consuming.
 
The Solution
Wetpaint saved us. Wetpaint is an easy to use free tool that enables you to create a website that combines wiki and forum functionalities, add a news section with relevant RSS feeds, upload videos and images, and more. As with other online tools, you have to pay a small fee to remove the ads from the site, but that’s really it. We are still in the early stages of the experimentation process, but have received positive feedback around the user-friendliness of the site. Another plus is that you can add Google Analytics code to track its performance, and you can also easily customize the URL by buying a custom domain.

LNE

 


2) Meetup.com: Event Organizing

The Challenge
At LLC, we organize a variety of learning circles and labs across the nation. Planning and recruiting people for the events can be time consuming. With our Bay Area learning circle coming up we had to think fast and look for other alternatives.

 

The Solution
I recently stumbled upon Meetup.com, an online tool that allows individuals and organizations to find and create groups based on a shared interest, and decided to experiment with it. Some of the benefits of this tool include: a) it’s easy to customize (you can add your logo, select the colors of your page, and edit the text); b) it allows you to track members and streamline the event registration flow; and c) it helps you promote your event – Meetup has over 5 million members! By using Meetup.com we doubled our participant base and minimized staff time on planning, tracking responses and soliciting feedback.

 

You do have to pay a small monthly fee but it’s a tool worth experimenting with, especially if you are trying to increase the reach of your events.

meetup

 


3) Ning.com: Online Community


The Problem

Earlier this year we had our annual event, Creating Space, and in the spirit of self-organizing, decided to open up the design team to all community members who were interested in planning the event. We were thrilled by the 20 plus responses we received but were concerned about having such a large group of people –many of whom were fairly unfamiliar with the event– plan the event. We stepped up to the challenge and decided to accept all the volunteers and leverage their multiple perspectives and ideas. The date of the event was approaching and we needed to find a way to organize the planning team in the best way possible.

 

The Solution
We used Ning as a key addition to the wikis we have used in the past to successfully support the planning and documentation of events. Ning is one of my favorite tools because it lets you create a fully functional and customizable social network in a couple of minutes and at no cost (although there is a small monthly fee for removing the ads). We created a social network and invited the planning team to exchange ideas about the logistics, content areas, etc. The response from the team was very positive, and some members even took the initiative to create sub-groups around specific work areas, such as Technology and Outreach, to streamline the information flow. Overall, the combination of the wiki and Ning helped us harness the power of collective thinking and ultimately organize and coordinate our national meeting.

ning

 

Whether you are looking to organize an event, create an online community or lay the foundation for a collaborative project, these are tools you may want to consider. There are many others out there and some of them may or not work for you, but it’s important to be aware of the different options you have – especially considering that most of them are affordable. Do you have other tools to recommend? Please share your stories!