Source: Minnesota Council on Foundations 07/26/2012

This issue of Giving Forum is full of information about organizations working together, ideas about when it makes sense to do so, and benefits partnerships can offer. Now let's take a look at some free online tools that can help your joint efforts go more smoothly.

These six free tools will reduce administrative work, cure your technology headaches and let you focus on what's really important "“ doing the work.

Scheduling Meetings
Is there anything more frustrating than trying to schedule a meeting by email? Next time, try Doodle instead. You simply enter a few suggested dates and times, let everyone select which ones work for them and choose the consensus winner. Your inbox will thank you!

Holding Online Meetings
Google+ Hangouts
Google+ hasn't lit the social media world on fire, but its video chat Hangouts feature is definitely worth checking out. Up to ten people can log in and take part in a single Hangout for a face-to-face meeting. Plus, apps are included that allow screen sharing, note taking and mind mapping, to make your video chat a true multimedia experience.

File Sharing
Another bane of email is trying to send a large attachment that either refuses to send or gets caught by a firewall or spam filter. No more!

There are many file sharing sites, but Dropbox is one of the best, because there's no tedious uploading involved. Just add your files to a Dropbox folder on your computer and the software takes care of the upload in the background. You can then share your Dropbox folders with whomever you choose. And, if you need someone to send you a file, tell them to put it in a Dropbox folder that you create and share with them.

Project Management
Zoho Projects
Along with having its own document collaboration suite, Zoho Projects has all the nuts and bolts you need for keeping projects on track: assignable tasks, milestones, a calendar, documents that can be synced with Google Docs, and forum and chat features.

One project with unlimited users and 10 MB of storage is free, but additional projects with multiple bells and whistles require an upgrade.

Document Collaboration
Google Docs
When you need to work together on creating a new document, turn to Google Docs. Multiple people can edit and comment on a document all at once, and there's an in-document chat feature where collaborators can talk to each other in real time. In addition, the Revision History option lets you track changes so you'll never be in doubt about who changed what.

Long-term Collaborations
If your collaboration will be both long distance and long-term, your best bet is a wiki "“ a web site developed collaboratively by a community of users that allows any user to add and edit content.

A wiki can serve as your collaboration's internal website and offers a structured area to house documents and create and edit agendas, notes, meeting minutes and more.

PBWorks offers the best wiki platform around, with many free features and an intuitive interface that will get your whole team comfortable and contributing in no time.

Thanks to Chris Oien, MCF web communications associate, and Cary Lenore Walski, technology education and outreach coordinator, MAP for Nonprofits, for compiling this list.

Categories: Community & Public Foundations,Grantmaking,Grantseeking,MCF News,News
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