Rob Dolin's Blog

Thoughts on technology, politics, non-profits, and their intersections; and food

Free tools for group video chat – Try with your family for the holidays

Whether you’re organizing a board meeting, a strategy meeting for your favorite cause, or virtually celebrating winter holidays with family members in another city.  Technology has the potential for us not just to share text and audio, but to share live video.  You’ll need the three below items to get started:

  • Camera – You’ll need a computer or phone with a webcam.  Most recent laptops and smartphones have one built-in.  If you have a desktop computer, you can buy a basic webcam starting around $15-$20 that plugs-in to your computer.
  • Broadband Internet – Video files are not small so you’ll want a pretty good Internet connection because the quality of your experience will be dependent on your Internet bandwidth.  A wired broadband Internet connection or wi-fi are good ways to go.  A fast cellular network will also work, but if you have the option to connect to wi-fi, you may want to consider this because real-time video uses a good amount of bandwidth
  • Video Chat Software – You’ll need software running on both ends for video chat.  I describe three software options below and some pros and cons of each;

As today is Dec. 24th and many people have today and/or tomorrow off of work, I recommend trying a video chat with family.  Happy Holidays–
Rob

Filed under: Technology

Five free tools to better communicate to members and leaders of your non-profit or political organization

The winter holiday season is a great time for the leadership of non-profit and political organizations to upgrade their organization’s infrastructure.  Below are five areas of opportunity

1. Email Blasts: MailChimp – According to Jon Carson, the Executive Director of Organizing for America, Email is still the workhorse for OFA’s work.  For most non-profit and political organizations, this is likely the case and MailChimp offers free email blast service for lists up to 2,000 subscribers with their “Entrepreneur” pricing level.

2. Email Listserv: YahooGroups or GoogleGroups – While email blasts are great for periodic messages to your entire membership or supporters list, you’ll also want to be able to communicate among your leadership.  While this is relatively easy to do by just putting everyone’s email in the TO and CC lines, these services offer easy reflection, optional digest, private archiving, and more.  When a person joins (or leaves), its easy to add (or remove them) from a single place.

3. Shared Documents: Dropbox or SkyDriveYour organization likely has shared documents like contact lists, budgets, program/project plans, and more.  Like the email listserv, getting everything into a single shared Dropbox or SkyDrive folder makes adding (and removing) people easier.  instead of searching for all of the shared documents, you just share the folder.  This also prevents the “hit-by-bus” problem where one person is the gatekeeper or has all of the organization’s information.  If they’re ever hit by a bus (or otherwise leave the organization) everyone has copies of the organizations key documents.

4. Remote Participation: Skype or Google Hangouts – Even for an organization where people all live in the same neighborhood, some may work or travel elsewhere and it’s nice to be able to accommodate remote participants; OR if your organization has people spread over multiple geographies, it’s time to move beyond audio-only conference calls.  Skype is offering free group video for a year: http://collaboration.skype.com/ and though it doesn’t have as broad platform support, Google Hangouts offers similar group video.

5. Social Media Management: Hootsuite – Your organization probably has a presence on Facebook and Twitter; but managing these can be time consuming.  For managing organization social media, I’m a huge fan of HootSuite.  Their interface lets you create tabs and columns for views like Twitter @replies, #Hashtag searches, and more.  You can also build a list of profiles that you want to watch whose content you might often cross-post.

I hope you’ve found this post useful.  Depending on interest and response, I’ll post more about these and other communication tools for your non-profit or political group.  Happy Holidays–
Rob

P.S. I’m also eager to hear what you think is missing from the above list. 

Filed under: Technology

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