Top tools your charity should use if your staff work remotely

Many charities have staff and volunteers who work remotely, whether that’s working from home, in the field or abroad.

There are a range of platforms out there that can help charities to do this, so the problem becomes picking the best tool possible for the job.

Fortunately, a lot of platforms offer special rates for charities. In this article, we run down some of our favourite tools for every element of remote work life.

 

For organisation-wide use: Office 365

Many charities have already made the move across to Office 365, but others are still sceptical about the transition to the cloud. The two main reasons are security and training:

Security:

“I am worried that I’m much more vulnerable to hacks if my information is all stored in a shared space.”

Microsoft have designed Office 365 with specific security principles in mind that you can read up on here. This takes into account a range of situations, including processes for when employees leave your organisation.

True, it doesn’t nullify the risk of human error such as losing your device without password protection. These risks apply regardless of whether your information is cloud based or not though.

Training:

“We are concerned that training all our staff and volunteers will take up staff time that we simply don’t have.”

Microsoft offer free 365 training tutorials to help both set up and using their services afterwards.

Many of the tools included in the Office 365 collection will be familiar to staff who are used to the traditional office suite. As a result, there are few differences you have to adapt to; it’s just an increase in functionality and ease when working on different devices.

Beyond those concerns, it’s time to explore some of the benefits. For any size charity, these capabilities have very useful applications. Some of the main selling points are:

  • Access your documents anywhere: It doesn’t matter whether you require access from your desktop, mobile or tablet. You can perform tasks on the go or at the office, and if you have an unplanned work-from-home day, you’ll still have everything you need.
  • The familiarity of the software without the storage use: As Office 365 is basically a ‘cloudified’ version of the Office Suite that you’ll likely be used to, you won’t feel like a total fish out of water when you make the switch. Better yet, the cloud-based nature of O365 means you don’t need to bog your device down with the storage space.
  • Complete control to avoid and correct any errors: Microsoft have ensured that IT administrators can control their environment, which is particularly useful on the off-chance that any errors occur. It means things can be addressed from a central point, regardless of where you are working with your device.

 

For internal communication: Slack 

While email is useful for formal conversation, the back and forth can be a little slow when trying to collaborate effectively or work to a deadline.

This is where a channel like Slack can be very useful. It offers:

  • An instant messaging service to have a quick back and forth with colleagues.
  • The choice to join broader teams with just a URL; for example with people within your sector or with a shared goal.
  • The capability to upload an share documents and media with ease.
  • The option to search specific terms in each chat to find specific information; handy when you have two+ members working on different elements of one project.

You can share and discuss your ideas and creations, refer to and segment earlier points in the conversation and add additional members along the way if needs be.

Beyond this, Slack can integrate with other tools to help you maximise productivity. For example, it can be integrated with Asana (a task management application) so that you can keep on top of the work your team have done or are yet to do.

Additionally, you can integrate tools such as:

This way you can get the most out of Slack. There’s a more extensive list of integrations here if you’re keen to know more.

In terms of pricing, Slack offers charities their Standard subscription for free if you have fewer than 250 members. Charities with above that can still bag an 85% discount too.

Alternatively, you can choose to opt for their entirely free plan which has certain limitations in comparison to standard.

 

For creating sharable documents: Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat is one of those essential tools that may not be the most exciting but is huge beneficial. The main features that can help charities are:

  • Convert documents to PDF: Create PDFs from any application that prints or document that can be scanned in.
  • Combine different file types: Combine numerous  file types into a single PDF.
  • Keep your documents safe: Apply password protection for document security.
  • Collect data from filled out forms: Create forms to be filled out which can be collected into searchable, sortable PDFs.
  • Collaborate on document reviews: Reviewers can see each other’s comments on specific documents.

You can read more on how these features can be useful for charities here in our list of the most-used software  by UK charities.

This is an essential tool in a BYOD environment because documents can be read without unauthorised editing. If they do require changes to be made, you can provide a specific password that offers access to specific readers and allows you to view their comments or adjustments.

If you are working collaboratively to produce administrative documents, such as writing up a contract or grant application, you can share these easily in PDF form to ensure formatting isn’t altered and the document(s) is a file type that is compatible with all devices.

 

For administrative tasks: DocuSign 

DocuSign offer a product that gets overlooked by a lot of organisations in spite of how useful it could be for the right type of organisation.

To date, the charities that most commonly opt for DocuSign are those who deal predominantly with legislative or contractual documents where signatures are needed quickly and on a regular basis. It’s currently most popular among charities dealing with:

  • Civil and human rights defence
  • Temporary aid for the vulnerable
  • Public interest litigation
  • Crime prevention

Waiting for physical signatures can often considerably drag out highly important or pressing cases. This is particularly frustrating  when there is no luxury of time. The process of printing relevant documentation, posting or faxing it to the relevant recipient and then waiting for the physical document to return can add days to a process.

DocuSign provide e-signature software that allows these types of dealings to be managed electronically; thereby saving time and resources. That way, if people are out of the office, working internationally or just simply from home for a number of days, processes do not have to ground to a halt as a result.

The standard edition offers:

  • Choice of file type and storage: Upload documents from a variety of sources. This can be from your computer or a file-sharing site like Box or Dropbox. They’re then stored in the DocuSign cloud with the option to move them to your file-sharing sites.
  • Mobile access: DocuSign have a mobile app so you can create, send or view documents on a range of devices.
  • Tags: Tag certain parts of a document so the recipient knows where to sign, initial, print name, etc.
  • Templates: Create reusable templates that save tags and field placement, workflow routing, custom branding, and other settings.
  • Status and reporting: View reports on document status, recipients, and overall account activity.

Eligible organisations are entitled to take up to 5 editions of Business Pro and 5 editions of Standard per fiscal year. The major benefits of Business Pro are the sharing capabilities; you can easily send documents in bulk or attach signable forms to your website.

  • If shareability to more than a handful of clients is not an essential, the Standard edition is available as a donation (meaning it requires only a one-off admin fee).
  • If this capability is something your organisation would need, you can acquire over 75% off the fair market value of Business Pro.

 

For online conferencing: GoToMeeting

When it comes to strong communication, sometimes text-based solutions such as email or instant message aren’t effective enough. This is particularly likely when there are multiple people trying to reach a specific decision(s) or have an in-depth discussion.

These situations often call for video-conferencing software in order to really get the desired result. Video conferencing software can have its own aggravations at times, but selecting the best one can make the entire process run a lot more smoothly.

GoToMeeting is a web-conferencing tool that is ideal for smaller organisations. It allows up to 25 users (plus one organiser) to collaborate easily. It makes remote working a fully doable while still maintaining communication.

The software doesn’t need to be limited to online conferencing but can also be used to:

  • Train volunteers or new staff members who are working remotely.
  • Conduct webinars to inform either internal or external users about your cause or the work you are doing.
  • Chat one on one or in small groups about upcoming projects, plans or news.

The software enables users to easily:

  • Share their desktop: Other users can then follow along with exactly the same view.
  • Transfer control: Pass on control to other attendees so it is not individually lead.
  • Chat openly: A high level of encryption ensures attendees do not have to worry about security.
  • Integrate with other platforms: Collaborate on an open file from Word or Excel, etc.

For many of our registered organisations, the option of up to 25 users works well to either cover the management team within the charity or potentially all employees.

  • If this sounds like the sort of thing your organisation are after, you can find out more here.

 

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