Giving programs and donations to non-profits are generally the first thing that companies scale back on when a struggling economy forces budget cuts. Fortunately there are great no-cost ways for non-profits to continue to administrate and build their organization in spite of leaner times. One simple solution that will shave cost dollars as well as provide opportunities for non-profits to discover new and innovative methods for collaboration and efficiency is to switch to free online office tools.
Featured here are a few online office tools that are tried and true applications – but don’t cost a penny.
If you need a desktop solution for your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, OpenOffice.org is the leading open source software of free solutions. OpenOffice.org can read or write files from other common software platforms, save and share files in a variety of formats, including .doc, .xls and .odt, and best of all, the software suite is compatible with all common computers. Unless there are very complex features that can only be accomplished by current Microsoft Office products or similar paid software, OpenOffice.org will save money for a non-profit even as the organization grows and more computers are added.
There is also a fork of Open Office available for free called Libre Office.
For non-profit organizations under 3000 employees, the complete Google Apps suite for email, calendars, documents, and more is completely free and very powerful. When used properly, Google’s services will provide non-profits with great tools and a variety of ways to use them. Google Apps provides online, real-time document collaboration, shared and manageable calendars, email, chat, video conferencing, and more — all available for non-profits to use for free. And now that Google Apps users have access to Google + and its possibilities for communication and web presence, there are even more advantages to be found when non-profits integrate some or all of the Google Apps suite into the organization.
On its own, Zoho is a suite of comprehensive web-based tools that compete with Google Apps in many areas, like email aggregation, calendars, document creation and collaboration, and more. According to The Economist, in an article covering the debut of the application, “Zoho is the most comprehensive suite of web-based programmes for small businesses.”
Zoho provides more than 25 different applications for business, collaboration, and productivity that are all integrated with each other. Better yet, Zoho is now integrated with and available for Google Apps users, and together offer enough tools to help with almost any aspect of a non-profit’s organization, from CRM to bookkeeping.
Tools for More Specific Tasks
Beyond full office software suites like those listed above, here are a few free tools for more specific purposes and requirements that a non-profit might have, and which will also integrate with the bigger, overarching services like Google Apps.
ThinkFree Online Office offers online creation, viewing and editing of documents in several common formats, along with 1GB of storage and a tool which will automatically sync any documents with the cloud. The product is also very useful for professionals on the go and has an Android application which allows access to and the ability to edit documents.
ScheduleOnce allows clients and colleagues to schedule meetings easily without the need for multiple phone calls, texts, or emails. ScheduleOnce provides a personal schedule page that integrates with Google calendar. Users simply click on a few available time options to schedule meetings with others, which then allows the meeting planner to review and approve the time that works best for everyone. ScheduleOnce will help a non-profit team if group meetings need to happen frequently with people who are never in one place at the same time.
ReqMan is a free online comprehensive project management tool that provides support to get a non-profit’s projects up and running quickly by supplying predefined templates for project types and outlines as well as managing requirements and associated information for any organization.
Gliffy is an online tool for creating flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, and technical drawings. It is an excellent and free alternative to expensive software such as Visio.