The Best Free Ways to Collaborate Online

Are you sold on the many benefits of collaboration and want to start working more closely with other organizations and individuals to advance your cause? Chances are they won’t be right across the hall from you, so making the most of your e-time with your partners will be essential to success.

Instead of trying to manage everything by email and wanting to tear your hair out whenever you get a new Outlook alert, try these free tools to make your productivity soar:

Holding Meetings Online
Google+ Hangouts
Google+ may not have lit the social media world on fire, but it excels unquestionably in its video chat Hangouts feature. Up to ten people can log in and take part in a single hangout to have those face-to-face meetings that can’t be in person. Plus, apps are included that allow features like screen sharing, note taking and mind mapping, to make your video chat a true multimedia experience. Oh, and you can give yourself a pirate hat, in case your meeting’s in need of a little levity.

File Sharing
Dropbox
A bane of email is the large attachment that either refuses to send or causes havoc in your Inbox when it does. No more! There are lots of 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 it for you in the background. You can then share those folders with whomever you choose!

Project Management
Zoho Projects
Along with having its own document collaboration suite, Zoho’s Projects app has all the nuts and bolts  you need to keep projects on track: assignable tasks, milestones, a calendar, documents that can be synced with Google Docs, and forum and chat features. You can get one project with unlimited users and 10 MB of storage for free, but more projects with multiple bells and whistles will require an upgrade.

If you like these tips, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the summer issue of MCF’s Giving Forum, coming soon to your mailbox and the MCF website.  There you’ll find three more online tools plus a wide variety of other strategies for grantmakers and nonprofits to work together best. And while you’re waiting, be sure you’re caught up on the spring issue, which includes stories of community philanthropy from around the state.

-Chris Oien, MCF web communications associate

Photo cc George Papaconstantinou

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