3 Tools Every Remote Staff or Board Member Needs

remote

Shh… I’m going to let you in on a little secret about Joan’s business while she’s not paying attention… Let’s keep this between you and me.

I’ll start with what you probably already know – Joan is a busy woman. Really busy.

It’s kind of amazing how much she gets done.

In addition to writing this blog, she has an uber-popular podcast. A gig on a weekly network television show. A best selling book. An engaged (and free) Facebook group called “Thriving Nonprofit.”

She consults nonprofits and coaches a few lucky individuals. She’s a keynote speaker at major nonprofit events.

Plus, she recently launched the Nonprofit Leadership Lab where nearly a thousand leaders – staff and board – are getting much needed and ongoing mentorship, training, and support. Joan creates much of the content for the Lab and is a constant presence in the Lab’s community.

[As an aside, we’re opening the doors to the Lab again soon. If you’re interested in learning more about it or joining the waiting list, click here.]

So yeah, she’s busy.

She’s able to do all of this because she has the right people on her bus.

But here’s something you might not know. For the most part, her company is “virtual.” What does that mean?

My daughter tells me to never use Wikipedia as a source (that’s what they taught her in school) but she doesn’t read the stuff I write, so…

Wikipedia says a virtual organization is “an organization involving detached and disseminated entities (from employees to entire enterprises) and requiring information technology to support their work and communication.”

In the nearly five years since Joan first hired my company to help her launch her business and build her brand, we probably haven’t been in the same room more than ten times. In fact, we worked together for more than six months – quite successfully – before we ever met in person. And that only happened because Joan invited me to guest lecture for her class at the University of Pennsylvania.

Oh yeah… did I mention that on top of everything else, Joan is also an adjunct professor at an Ivy League university? Busy.

It has become increasingly common for any organization to have remote staff and run virtually.

And when it comes to nonprofits, it’s in the DNA. After all, even if you don’t have remote employees (and you probably do) board members don’t typically work at nonprofit HQ.

Several folks in the Nonprofit Leadership Lab recently asked if we could recommend the best tools to help facilitate communications and project management when people aren’t in the same physical space.

And so today I’m going to share with you the three most important tools we use at Joan Garry Consulting, all of which are quite affordable.

Each of these tools can have a big and positive impact at your nonprofit.

FOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT: ASANA

We use Asana to keep everyone’s projects and tasks organized.

Asana is flexible and responsive. You can mold it to your organization’s particular needs. It’s particularly good for keeping track of everybody’s “to-do list”. People can assign tasks to others and track the progress of all the different projects going on in the organization.

One thing we love about it is its simplicity. This is not a hardcore project management tool that requires tons of overhead and attention just to use the system and keep it up to date. For good or bad, there are no Gantt charts here (though you can have features like task dependencies if you pay for the more advanced version.)

Asana integrates well with other tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Slack (which I’ll talk about below.)

Plus, you can use it for free for up to fifteen people, so that’s pretty cool.

If you want a straightforward way to keep track of what everybody is working on, when things are due, and to facilitate collaboration, you can do a lot worse than Asana.

FOR MESSAGING: SLACK

Slack is the messaging tool that gets you, finally, out of your email inbox. It gives you real-time chat, channels (to keep conversations on topic), and a powerful search capability to help you find older conversations.

Within Slack you can easily share documents and conduct private or group conversations. You can invite specific people into different channels. For example, you can have a “board” channel where only board members can communicate. You can set up channels for specific departments or individual projects.

Slack is also great as an informal “water cooler.” Remote workers can sometimes feel isolated and a tool like Slack can be important to help facilitate connections and build your organizational culture.

FOR MEETINGS: ZOOM

Sometimes, online chat isn’t enough and we need a “face-to-face” meeting. But getting everyone in the same room just isn’t possible.

And so we use the powerful video conferencing system, Zoom.

Zoom allows our entire team to see each other and speak in real time. It really makes it feel like we’re in the same place. We can even share and draw on each others’ screens, enabling real-time collaboration. The video quality is usually fantastic.

We also use Zoom to deliver trainings and webinars and to broadcast Facebook Live videos, though these features come at an additional cost.

YOUR TURN

There are no shortage of tools available to help facilitate remote work (though that wasn’t really true when my company went entirely virtual back in 2006). Remote work has come a long way.

What are some of your favorites? Are there any you prefer over Asana, Slack, and Zoom? Are there any you consider indispensable?

Let us all know in the comments below.

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Scott Paley

President at Abstract Edge
Scott helps nonprofits and nonprofit consultants develop magnetic brands, build huge audiences, and grow and monetize their communities online, so they can have a bigger impact on the world. Scott, a life-long Mets fan, co-founded the Nonprofit Leadership Lab with Joan Garry, even though she's a life-long Yankees fan.
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