OT: Recommended collaboration software for a nonprofit?

Submitted by Undefeated dre… on April 17th, 2017 at 2:24 PM

This is very OT so hoping it'll fly after the Spring Game, but understand if not.

I'm on the board of a non-profit. The way the board is structured, people generally serve for two years and then cycle off. Most people on the board are in their 40's, and tend to communicate via email.

We have a big issue with record retention and reinventing the wheel. E.g person X is president of the board one year, has all the docs on their hard drive, and then cycles off. Person X emails Person Y all the stuff. Person Y then has all the docs, but needs help from Person Z, more email, etc. Email exists on everyone's own account; there is no lasting record of email conversations unless somebody takes the time to document it and save it out as documentation.

I'm looking for a collaboration site that would allow for calendaring, document sharing, centralized communications. If this site could be free, all the better.

I know MGoBlog is a Slack-house (?), and I've used it for work and liked it, only 5% for corgi-bombs. As a plus, non-profits can apply for a Standard license for free (up to 250 users).

Is Slack the way to go? Are there other alternatives people suggest? Could we do it all through Google docs/sheets/gmail?

Any advice/comment appreciated.



April 17th, 2017 at 2:41 PM ^

OP, what emails are the people using? Personal or non-profit board issued? If company issued, couldn't the emails be archived (like in an Outlook PST file) at the end of the person's tenure?


April 17th, 2017 at 2:37 PM ^

and as GoBlueDenver hinted, it can integrate Trello, DropBox (which is relatively unsecure in fact) etc.


Discord and HipChat are other Slack-like options.


April 17th, 2017 at 2:41 PM ^

Use google docs as your main doc collaboration tool or as your doc backup tool.  I have millenials to people in their 60's. GDocs is the best way we've found to minimize the "how do I do this again" conversations. 

Undefeated dre…

April 17th, 2017 at 2:48 PM ^

May be a dumb question -- can the group "own" the docs? So when one president rolls off and the next one rolls on, you can just transfer that way?

One challenge is that most people do NOT have gmail addresses or are gmail users. Some people are using their work (!) email for it as well.


April 17th, 2017 at 2:48 PM ^

I'm on two Boards and it works great.  Easy to use and reference and solves the exact problem you're having regarding documentation and referencing of past events.

And being 57 I'm pretty close to the top end of of mcd2005's date range and can attest he's right.


April 17th, 2017 at 3:17 PM ^

I do, and we have an orginization of 10k plus on them all with work email addresses.  At some point you have to get a google account, so there is that requirement of your board members to get over. But the 30 seconds to signup is well worth it and after that point they can choose to login with their work email or their gmail account.

Whenever you import or create a doc you have the ability to set view, comment, or edit rights. When people transfer in or out of the group you can add or remove their rights to drives, folders, and individual docs.  It also takes care of importing documents in other formats (PPT, Word, etc) into an online Gdoc so you can start archiving what you have seen in the past.

If you want to get really complex you all can download google drive to your computer and allow it access to any files and emails you want it to archive. You can choose what you share with the group vs keep for yourself.

I personally back up everything to google drive because it makes all my files vrtually accessible from anywhere and is a pretty reliable backup the next time you drop coffee on your computer or your phone in a lake.


April 17th, 2017 at 2:55 PM ^

Does anyone have any experience with Microsoft Teams? I work at a massive company that uses Skype for virtually everything but recently got access to Teams. I would be open to trying something new for a project I'm leading but don't know what I might be missing by sticking with Skype.

Doc sharing or voice/video aren't anything we use much, mostly just text based collaboration and discussion.


April 17th, 2017 at 3:14 PM ^

I know Sharepoint really well, and I was hoping that Team would be like a Slack plugin for Sharepoint, but that is not what it is. It is basically a whole new collaboration suite with  its own way of storing documents, communications, etc. 

This is after trying to push OneNote as a one stop shop collaboration after Sharepoint (I much prefer Sharepoint and would use Confluence before I start using OneNote).

If your organization has not infrastructure to begin with, I think Team is a pretty good tool. It is basically Slack on steroids. And it is included in Office 365 subscription. You can get very good deal for O365 seat license if you are a non-profit, so you should definitely look into that as well.


April 17th, 2017 at 8:18 PM ^

I think it's a very good tool, I just haven't figured out exactly how to use it along side Skype for Business.  It's a more featured IM/Slack competitor with sharepoint on the back end.  I set it up for my team, but it just seems like another thing everyone has to check along with email.  I think eventually it'll replace Skype for Business as the chat client, but it's not quite there.

If I was starting from scratch, I might use it, along with Sharepoint for a project.



April 17th, 2017 at 3:06 PM ^

I just started with a new company and we use basecamp for projects.  Seems to work well, not sure if they have a discount for non-profits.

late night BTB

April 17th, 2017 at 3:14 PM ^

Good God, I'm 30 so hearing people in their 40s storing things on their own hard drives, using Yahoo email addresses, and other tomfoolery makes me cringe.

Life, and technology, come at you fast.  Yeesh.


April 17th, 2017 at 3:18 PM ^

As a nonprofit you should be able to get everyone up and running on Google Apps for free.

This will address document management way better than Slack.

I love Slack, but using it for more than community chat isn't the use case.

My suggestion: Google Apps (spreadsheets, drive, etc) for Document management and Slack for chat.

I love Trello for agile task management.


April 17th, 2017 at 3:19 PM ^

Slack and Trello and all that work, or go to Google Docs if that level of functionality is suffcient.  The other possible option is something like Office 365, which has nice non-profit rates (either free or like $5/mo) and gives you a suite of both offline and online options.  For users who might not be as tech-savvy, this can be great because it's software you're used to working on and (compared to some of Google's offerings) a bit more robust.  


April 17th, 2017 at 3:54 PM ^

I work in Collaboration software (seriously, I do).  Yammer is terrible and MSFT is basically killing it and hasn't done any major coding or upgrades on it since they bought it.  Don't invest in it unless you are already on 0365.

Slack is basically an activity stream so its true collaboration efforts are limited at best.


Igloo is been coming on lately but they are very limited in capabilities and their non-profit pricing is something letf to be desired ($10 a user per month)


Jive Software is the priemer Collaboration Tool (I implemented this at my last company) and it integrates with everything, but at times, it can be like bringing a Bozooka to a knife fight.

PM me if you want to talk further as this is what I do for a living, more than happy to go through your use cases, and help you determine which option is the best for you.


April 17th, 2017 at 5:14 PM ^

Google Apps for Non-Profits would seem ideal for you, IMO.  I run a 501(c)(3) myself (www.partnershipfordads.org) and implemented this solution some time ago.  It is free and since you already use Google, you should be familiar enough to integrate it with what you're already doing.


April 17th, 2017 at 5:54 PM ^

with a STRONG focus on security & encryption. It's extremely user friendly; much cleaner than Slack/Teams/Etc and we can do everything they can and actually more in some situations. We were built to make communication/collaboration more efficient for companies so text based discussion is our bread & butter (though obviously we have doc sharing voice/video collaboration built right into the API). Happy to talk to anyone who wants to take a look?


April 17th, 2017 at 8:33 PM ^

I work in the public sector we use and I cannot say enough good things about slack and smartsheets. I would create a non-user email account to own the accounts and make sure at least 2 board members have details on that account.

Undefeated dre…

April 18th, 2017 at 8:37 AM ^

I appreciate everyone's thoughtful responses -- far more, and more informative, than I had hoped for, in under 24 hours!

We're going to pursue a non-profit G-Suite (Google) setup first. Mainly because at least some people have familiar with Google docs/sheets and have Gmail, and because if we went with Slack we likely would be integrating with G-Suite anyway. So we may go Slack at some point, or at least when the board members consist of people who grew up with What's App and Slack, not Compuserve and AOL. :)


April 19th, 2017 at 9:54 AM ^

Also take a look at Podio. It's a project management software like Basecamp, only much better. Nonprofits can get Enterprise level for free. I've used it at several NPs for years, and it allows you to collaborate not only with board, but also staff and outside contractors.

Podio not only allows you to upload and store resources and files of all types, but connect them to their related projects or initiatives. You can also set up process markers (e.g. under review, complete, etc), so you know the status of given projects. There's facebook style chat logs associated with each project so you can track conversations associated with specific projects, and each member of the project team is notified whenever actions are taken on the jobs. Notably, you can assign (or omit) any board members from specific project teams, controlling access and notifications.

By setting up your board using a project management approach, you can collect all/only relevant documents to streamline workflow.

Podio is incredibly powerful, and free for nonprofits.