Team Collaboration in 2021

I’m on the board of the nonprofit that runs our community garden, and we spend too much time in board meetings for the amount we get done. I want to propose we adopt a less synchronous system of collaboration and limit the frequency and length of board meetings, so the meetings are basically voting to approve resolutions.

So, how are people collaborating with small teams these days? I see Basecamp has a “personal” plan that would work for us, although as an organization that’s trying to improve our diversity I’m not sure we should be supporting them.

Here’s what I need, (I think):

  • As cheap as possible, (free, if possible).
  • Able to have at least 8 users, ideally expand to larger groups to support sub-committees and committees of members, if needed.
  • Easy to use, and cross-platform. Some board members are not very tech-savvy.
  • It would be good if less-savvy members could handle most interactions via email.

The kinds of projects we work on, managing the garden, are:

  • annual registration
  • updating and modernizing the non-profits rules & bylaws.
  • discipline of gardeners who don’t use their garden, or cause trouble.
  • organization of events, both educational, and parties, (like a summer BBQ).
  • keep our website somewhat updated.

We have access to the online edition of Office 365 for free, and Google Apps/Workspace/Whatever it’s called, for free, but both seem to be missing a project management or organization management component, unless I don’t understand what’s going on, (I may not, I haven’t done a deep dive on either one).

So, what do you suggest, hive mind?

Not a technology recommendation, but just noting that boards don’t have to make these decisions as a group. There’s nothing wrong with having a meeting and saying:

“Annual registration is coming up. Last year this cost us $350 to administer. This year we’ll authorize Larry to make the decisions regarding that, and give him a budget of $400 for handling it.”

And then Larry can bring in whatever other volunteers or other board members make sense, as needed, and just handle it without having to constantly circle back. The other board members don’t have to be involved in all the details, as long as they approved Larry running things and authorized the budget.

I was on a board once where I suggested we authorize a given person to handle the Christmas party, with a budget of $200. Multiple people on the board wanted to know why that particular person had to do it all on their own, to which I replied that they didn’t have to do it on their own - but it was silly tying up the entire board talking about whether we’d have turkey or ham. And if they thought that was a good use of their time, they were free to use their time for that purpose - just not everybody else’s. :slight_smile:

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I guess I should clarify - the organization is so small that there are no employees and no official volunteers, just the board, and members of the organization, some of whom volunteer, but many don’t.

Some stuff - especially parties - does get delegated as you suggest - and I’m definitely trying to find a CRM solution that’ll fit our budget for things like member communications and renewals. I think what I’m looking for is how the administrative functions, and the collaboration the board does have to do, should get handled.

I can share my experience: I like using Asana and I believe they still have a free plan. Also using Slack but that’s geared more as a central messaging and communication hub though it does plug in quite well with many tools including Asana. I believe they also still have the free tier.

Also, as a nonprofit, many of these services are free or heavily discounted so don’t forget to check on that.

I used to use Basecamp years ago but got tired of their painfully slow improvements and lack of integration. They seem to be a relic of the past. The upside of that is that they have a very low learning curve for most people.

ClickUp has lots of good features (similar to Asana) and is free.

If you have access to O365, does that include Teams and Planner?

You can easily create a Kanban board in Teams that everyone can use to show progress (link) , and Planner is made for this.

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Asana does have a free plan, and a 50% discount for nonprofits, although the “per user per month” pricing scheme still makes it pretty expensive pretty quickly, especially if we want to make the tool available to people planning events. I haven’t used Asana, but I’ll take a look.

The upside of that is that they have a very low learning curve for most people.
This is the thing Basecamp has going for it. Although it is also expensive, (and only has a 10% non-profit discount), if we need more than the free plan.

@stevek ClickUp looks very interesting, thanks. It looks like they just raised a pile of money, so they’ll be around at least for a while, although if they’re on the VC train I worry a bit about what they’ll do in the name of 10X growth down the line.

This may be the right combination of easy-to-use and not expensive.

@JKoopmans We do have access to Teams - the reason we got an O365 account was because we could do Teams meetings and record them, vs. Google that doesn’t include recordings in their free offering for non-profits.

I just checked and we seem to have access to Planner too, which I didn’t even know existed.

We had been planning to go more all-in on G Suite, and just use O365 for recordable meetings, but maybe we’ll do it the other way around and use O365 for most things.

@pantulis I just Googled MS Loop and it looks interesting too. O365 may be a winner.

Does anyone know if you can be signed in to multiple MS accounts at once, the way we can with Google accounts? At least two members of the board already use MS for other stuff, and signing in & out is a pain.

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Also somewhere along the line MS Loop will be rolled out.

Planners is nice. We used this heavily in my previous job. You can create different kinds of Kanban boards and everyone can add/edit task. Having a birds-eye view of what’s everyone’s doing and delegating task to different members of the team.

This is the first time I’ve heard of MS Loops and I’m excited that I have a tool that I can use with my team that doesn’t involve handwringing IT people to allow me to use collaboration apps outside of the 365. Looks like a mix of Notion and Airtable.