NGOs are always hard pressed for cash so they can always make better use of technology provided they know what to do. Every office these days has computers and a broadband connection. It’s the software and additional technologies that are often very costly and hence act as a deterrent towards a better use.
Whether it is communication or collaboration as the cash-strapped NGO you don’t need to spend much money on them. Listed below are the free resources that help you make better use of technology.
It’s amazing many people working in NGOs don’t know that in order to collaborate they don’t have to be at a single location. Google docs allows you to collaborate from multiple locations. Even from different cities, different states and different countries. Your team members can work on a single document simultaneously. Whether you’re looking for word processing to create reports and articles for your maintaining spreadsheets, or even if you are preparing presentations, multiple people can work from their respective locations on single documents.
Free video conferencing
With web cams easily available (some computer monitors and laptop monitors have web cams embedded into their frames) video conferencing is not an expensive affair. You can either download and install Skype on your computer or you can also use Google Hangout. In fact Google Hangout is much better when many people are involved in the video conference from multiple locations. So the next time you need to meet the members of your NGO who are at different locations, all they need to have is a computer or a laptop with a broadband connection and a web cam and you can have face-to-face conversations. People can even participate from their web enabled smart phones and tablets. You can also video conference while collaborating on documents, for that matter.
Another benefit of using Google Hangout is that you can record the entire conference and save it on YouTube so that people who are somehow unable to attend the conference can view it later on.
While video conferencing or collaborating on documents if you need to save web clips and other information you can use EverNote. It is the most famous notetaking application.
Storing commonly accessed files in the cloud
Sometimes many people need to access your documents and it doesn’t make sense to email them to and fro. You can save all the important documents needed by everybody in Dropbox or Google Drive. Both come with introductory free accounts with sufficient amount of space. You can install interfaces from both of them on your local hard drive so that you don’t have to access the web each time you need to access your files. They are automatically kept synchronized across multiple devices
YouTube is not just for killing time and watching cute cat videos. You can upload videos of your NGO activities. Suppose you are attending an important workshop and you would like other members to listen to a particular presentation or a lecture. You can record a video and afterwards you can upload it on YouTube at no extra cost. You can also create a YouTube channel for your NGO for broadcasting similar videos regularly.
Open source operating system with every possible application you may ever need
If you want to save money on license fee you can download and install another operating system on all your windows-based computers and laptops. Ubuntu is a great GUI-based operating system that many consider far better than Windows. All the applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, video conferencing, chatting, image editing, etc. are available in Ubuntu. All you have to do is download an Ubuntu ISO file, burn it on a DVD and then use the same DVD to install the operating system on multiple computers. You can also run it parallel to your existing Windows operating system.
Want to instill a sense of focus, accountability and urgency among your NGO members? One of the best free project management tools is do.com. You can create new projects, include members in the projects, assign tasks to different members, set deadlines, and track their individual performances without any cost.
Free web hosting and site building[h]
Google Sites allows you to build basic websites and even host them free of cost. So if you have been contemplating getting a website for your NGO, you can use this free Google service and have a website within a couple of hours, or even less, depending upon your immediate requirement.
Free branded email
Branded email makes more impact compared to free email services such as Yahoo mail and Gmail. Suppose you are running an NGO website called http://myngo.org It makes more sense to have an email something like firstname.lastname@example.org rather than simply having email@example.com. Google apps allows you to do that. Setting up a branded email ID using Google apps requires some degree of technical help, but a little bit of documentation can help. You may like to read How to use Google apps to manage your business email (nothing to worry about business, you can apply the same information for setting up your NGO email ID)
Using VoIP to make free telephone calls
This might not be as handy as it may seem initially, but if both the caller and the call recipient has Wi-Fi as well as smart phones such as the iPhone or one of the Samsung galaxy phones, Skype can be installed and used to make Skype-to-Skype calls.