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This post was written by Trenton DuVal, contributing editor at NetSquared, and originally appeared on their blog.
Like any organization working on big issues, nonprofits take on
complex projects that require careful management. Luckily there are a
number of web-based tools that enable team members to coordinate and
communicate with one another as they accomplish their tasks and
complete their projects. Let’s look at some of the free and low-cost
options that nonprofits can use for project and task management.
management software helps organizations manage the complexities of
large projects through scheduling, budget estimation, team
collaboration and communication and resource organization. They equip
project leaders and team members with the tools they need, from Gantt charts to web conferencing, to coordinate the various pieces of the puzzle. Check out this TechSoup article on figuring out which type of project management software fits your requirements.
Cohuman is one of several project management platforms that offer free accounts to nonprofits. It was acquired earlier this year and looked to be shut down. In the eleventh hour, they announced that Cohuman would continue full operations, assuaging the fears of the users who rate it
highly. Cohuman’s project management approach uses assigned tasks to
make it easy for everyone on a team to see what everyone else is
working on. It allows users to create tasks, automatically prioritizes
them, makes files accessible from anywhere, and it is fully integrated with Google Apps. For more information about Cohuman’s features and to watch a couple of videos demonstrating how it works, visit their Learning Center.
Manymoon is available through the Google Apps Store. It integrates across Google Apps,
a nice bonus for users who are already using Google Mail, Documents
and Calendar. They also offer hosted versions with more capacity for a
monthly fee, starting at $19/month for 10 GB storage. Christopher
Dawson on ZDNet suggests that even this basic level may be overkill for smaller organizations. Manymoon was bought by Salesforce recently, but will supposedly continue, in both free and paid versions, as a separate product.
Teambox takes a social networking approach to keeping your team synchronized. The creators hope that the result is not only simpler, but more “fun to use.”
Teambox combines Twitter-like status updates with the usual tools for
organizing and assigning projects. It can be used as a mobile app on
smartphones, too. They offer a free plan that includes three projects
and 50MB of storage and paid plans with more capacity. The best part,
though, is that it is open-source, so anyone can host it on their own server and have unlimited capacity and full customization.
is a plugin for Salesforce that adds project management and
collaboration capabilities to the constituent management software. The
software allows for document sharing, project workflows, and Gantt
charting as well as a host of other features. Best of all, nonprofits
can get up to 10 licenses for free.
is a venerable player in the field of project management software. It
was developed to serve medium and large size organizations and it has
the powerful range of functions you might expect from an
enterprise-grade product. It is available for donation from TechSoup for eligible organizations. Despite the
donation, Project may be too much horsepower at too steep a price for
smaller nonprofits or those with occasional or informal project
management needs. Peter Campbell, the IT Director at EarthJustice,
describes five free tools for taking on projects of a much smaller scale.
is another option for project management that focuses on
collaboration. It’s what the NetSquared team uses to stay on task.
Basecamp allows for sharing files, setting project milestones and using
collaborative whiteboards. It is rich in features, but users in most
cases will have to pay for them (although there is a free option). ActiveCollab
is an open-source alternative that is based on many of the same
principles that make Basecamp so effective. You can learn more about
Basecamp from this review from Nonprofit Online Tools or the discussion in TechSoup’s forums here and here.
Huddle provides project management and collaboration tools within a
full-realized online workspace. Huddle allows users to create
discussion forums, whiteboards and presentations while keeping all of
the text in a searchable format. It has mobile connectivity for
smartphone and iPad users and you can log in through some of the more
popular social networks. They offer special nonprofit pricing,
especially to UK-based charities, through the Huddle Foundation charity program.
range of project management, collaboration and task management tools
out there can be staggering, but it also means that there are options
for all levels and varieties of organizations. What project management
tools do you find work best? What features are most important in making
your selection — price, open-source, cloud-hosted? Drop your suggestions
in the comments.
Becky Wiegand is the Webinar Program Manager at TechSoup.org @bajeckabean on Twitter
The Online Community and Social Media team tried CoHuman and it never quite caught on with anyone. Part of this was based on the social gaming-like interface (perhaps ironically, that just didn't work for us), but I also think it's hard in general to get folks to stick to systems. We're now giving Zoho (http://www.zoho.com/) a whirl. The interface seems a bit cleaner and more serious -- maybe just the type of environment needed to get everyone in line.
Thanks for this roundup of tools. I'd love to hear folks' direct experience with these or other tools, in particular getting teams on board with them and impact on results/workflow.
Thanks for the feedback on your experience, Michael.
I've personally only *really* used Basecamp, MS Project, and Mingle (which isn't on this list, but could be). I've played around with some of the others, but haven't tried to deploy any others in the real world.
I liked using Basecamp for managing a web development project with an external vendor because it provided space for us to upload and share large files as part of the interface, which was important to have for a project that was managed by internal and external parties alike.
It's been a real challenge using some tools that essentially limit who can use it to whether they've got the same software installed (Project) or are part of a closed network.
I'm interested to hear what others have used as well and how they've managed internal and external project contributors under the same tool. What worked best?
I built my own project management database using a template that was included with FileMaker Pro, and it changed my life. I guess it could have been shared on the Web and had multiple users, but it's beyond my expertise to do this. Sadly, because of an operating system upgrade, I could no longer use the version of FileMaker Pro that I had (and I haven't been able to afford the upgrade).
I was a part of a team - half in Bonn, Germany, half in NYC - that used Bugzilla for *all* projects (not just web development). It was *fantastic*. Super basic, but it kept everyone in the loop on what the priorities were and what we were all doing.
Whatever database software you have, it's always worth looking around the templates they provide to see if they have a project management template you can adapt for your organization.
I would love to know if anyone has developed a shared project management database with the database software provided with OpenOffice, LibreOffice or NeoOffice.
Michael noted that TechSoup's Online Community and Social Media team tried CoHuman and "it never quite caught on with anyone." I was a part of the team then and, he's right - it just never caught on. Something about the interface, and all those dang emails....
Thank you for this great information. This is just great. We are considering Zoho Project (www.zoho.com), Plan First by BizFirst (planfirst.bizfirstonline.com) and Basecamp (www.basecamp.com ). I cant decide which one to go – Zoho has great collaboration features and integration abilities, Plan First has in-depth functionality and super customization ability and Basecamp is well established it cannot go wrong. Any suggestions? I am struggling to pick – I need a lot of status reports to be sent everyday.
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