Category Archives: Tools

Google for Nonprofits

Google offers many tools for genealogy research, but there are also a number of tools that can improve society operations and support your membership. Even better, Google offers non-profit organizations an amazing array of tools for free or at highly-discounted rates. Plus, they have an impressive support system to help you take advantage of those tools to support your organization and membership. Google for Nonprofits offers tools for fund-raising, website management, online collaboration and social media. Tools available to you as part of this program include:

  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Drive
  • Google Ad Grants
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Earth Outreach
  • YouTube Nonprofit Program
  • Google+ (including Hangouts)

You must hold current 501( c)(3) status and agree to the application’s required certifications regarding nondiscrimination and donation receipt and use to qualify for the program. For more information and to join the program, visit the Google for Nonprofits site.

Improve Security With Two-Step Authentication

Two-step authentication offers additional login security when you are accessing online resources. When two-step authentication is available, you will still log into the site with your user name and password, but that will kick off the second step which is usually a text message containing a PIN (personal identification number) sent to your mobile phone. That PIN must then be entered on the login screen to get access to the site. The PIN is only operational for a short period of time – usually less than a minute – and changes each time you log into the site.

Why is two-step authentication worth the effort? Even if a hacker is able to get your user name and password, they still can’t get into your account without the PIN – which is only sent to the mobile number you specified when you set up your account. If your phone’s charging stand is next to your computer, it’s really not that much of an inconvenience.

What accounts should be set up with two-step authentication? Obviously, financial, medical and commercial sites where you are sharing personal, financial and credit card information are priorities but so are social networks and especially email accounts. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn now support it as do Yahoo! Mail, Google/Gmail, PayPal, Dropbox and Evernote. Even blog platforms – including – support it. For society sites – especially those with multiple contributors – this is very useful.

You can learn more about tow-step verification along with a more complete list of sites supporting it at Wikipedia.

Society Evernote – Board Meetings

Evernote’s collaboration features make it a great tool to streamline a lot of board functions. By posting minutes, reports and proposals as notes then taking advantage of the new Work Chat function, board members can review, edit, ask questions and suggest changes well before the meeting begins. Then, during the meeting, all that’s needed is a quick motion/approval of the various items. The toughest part will be making the transition to the new workflow.

Every board has its own quirks and personalities so developing a workflow that best suits your board may require some experimentation and adjustments. Here are some suggestions for using Evernote in board meetings:

  • Have minutes and reports posted as notes and set a deadline for posting them which gives each board member time to review, ask questions and recommend changes before the meeting. Once the minutes/report is approved by the board, that note can then be moved from the board’s notebook to the archive notebook for safe-keeping. Print paper copies for filing, if necessary.
  • Require new proposals and requests be presented in writing as a note. These notes should include all the details about the proposals, estimated costs, etc.
  • When developing the meeting agenda, include links to the appropriate report/proposal so that board members can review them prior to the meeting. Post the agenda far enough ahead so that everyone has time to review the items before the meeting.
  • Develop procedures for posting proposals, setting the agenda and reviewing items prior to the meeting. These procedures are especially useful to help “handle” the board member who has something to say about everything.
  • As proposals and projects are approved, use the agenda note to document task assignments and proposed deadlines.
  • Copies of proposal notes, the meeting agenda and other associated notes can be attached to the meeting’s minutes note. Then, once the minutes are approved, the entire package is moved to the archive notebook.
  • When you use Evernote’s Work Chat feature to review documents and discuss proposals, those conversations are saved with the associated notes. This can offer future board and staff members a better understanding of things that happened before their time.

With a growing number of board and staff using portable devices such as tablets and smart phones, many will find it easier to use those devices to access Evernote during meetings. Encourage that whenever possible. Yes, you may still need to provide print copies to accommodate those who don’t use computers.

Making the adjustment from paper to digital workflows takes time and experimentation. Set goals and work with your staff to find workable solutions. Evernote will help make it happen.

Society Evernote – Organizing the Board

Evernote offers a number of features that can make life easier for your society’s board and staff. From streamlining board meetings to facilitating document reviews to providing an accessible information center, Evernote can help.

To get started, you will need at least one Evernote premium account ($5/month) for the board. A premium account has larger upload limits, additional sharing features and expanded search capabilities. Each member of the board and staff needing access to the content will also need an account. In most cases, a basic (free) account will work fine. Since many people are already using Evernote for their genealogical research, using their personal accounts is often easier than trying to manage multiple accounts.

Create the society account using a society email address rather a personal one (, for example). This will make it easier to pass account management on to a different manager when board changes require it. This account will manage all the society content maintained in Evernote. Board members and staff will be assigned access rights – using their personal Evernote accounts – to the notebook(s) they need to use. The manager will be responsible for building notebooks and assigning sharing rights to them.

Once the account is up and running, it’s time to build a few notebooks. Here are some basic recommendations. Future articles will look at specific projects and functions.

  • A Help Desk notebook. Use this notebook to hold PDF copies of all your equipment manuals (scanners, printers, copy machines, microfiche readers, coffee pots). If you don’t have copies handy, look at the manufacturer’s web site for a downloadable copy. This is also a good place to keep checklists and worksheets used in the society’s daily operations.
  • A General Information notebook. Here’s where the contact directory for board and staff members along with things like a copy of the tax exempt form, potential speaker list, affiliate information and other frequently used information is kept. Other possibilities include templates for documenting volunteer hours, research requests or form letters.
  • An Archive notebook. This notebook serves two purposes. It’s where completed business is kept. Yes, there will probably also be paper copies filed somewhere, but it also serves as both off-site backup and an easily-accessed location for historical information.

Each of these notebooks should set up for sharing. It’s easy to do and only takes a few minutes. The example below shows the share feature in the web-based version of Evernote. It can be done using both the desktop and mobile app versions too.

Open the notebook you wish to share – the Archive notebook in this example. Click the Share link to display the share panel you see here. Enter the email addresses of the people who need access in the To: field at the top of the panel. Assign the access rights and enter any message you want to include, then click the Send button.

The access rights options are: Can edit and invite, Can edit, Can view. In most cases, Can edit will be the preferable option.

Each invitee will receive an email with instructions for connecting to the shared notebook. Once the connections are made from their side, your board is ready to put Evernote to work.

There are a number of additional notebooks that will be discussed individually in future articles. Next up is using Evernote to manage board meetings.


Quick and Easy Signs

Do you need a sign or placard to announce an upcoming event? You don’t need to hire a graphics designer or spend a lot of money on fancy software. Put your presentation graphics software (PowerPoint for Windows or Keynote for Mac) to work instead.

Creating a sign in Keynote.

Creating a sign in Keynote.

Here you see a graphic call for articles sign that was created using Keynote. The photograph was sized to cover then entire slide, then the text was layered on top. Anyone familiar with digital scrapbooking apps will be right at home using either Keynote or PowerPoint to combine text, photos and embellishments to build the sign. You also have the ability to “draw” boxes and other shapes, add shadows, frames and other design elements.

Once your sign is ready, use the program’s export feature to export it as a photo file. Both Keynote and PowerPoint support exporting a single slide from a presentation file. If you look at the sidebar on the left, you’ll see it contains several other slides. These are signs created for other purposes. This one file can also serve as an archive of graphic elements.

The signs you see in this example were all created for use on my society’s web site. I created each sign at a print-level resolution but reduced it to web resolution as part of the export process. If I should later need to print a sign or placard, I can go back to my original and print directly from the presentation file. I’ve also had success sending a presentation file to a print service (our local office supply store) to print my signs in larger sizes. The text scaled up beautifully and the photo quality was quite acceptable.

Look for affordable royalty-free or commercial use graphics and fonts to support your efforts. For example, there’s a Premium Fonts package of more than 1,500 commercial use fonts available in the Mac App Store for $30. Another great font resource is

Test drive your presentations software to see how you can combine photos, text and graphic elements to build your own signs. Dig around in the formatting and image-editing commands to discover how versatile these apps can be. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Manage Projects with Wunderlist

Wunderlist is a deceptively simple and easy-to-use task management platform for both personal and collaborative use. You can create any number of lists – grocery list, to-do list, packing list, project list, etc. – which can be private or shared with other Wunderlist users. Lists contain tasks and sub-tasks, each of which can be assigned a deadline date and even assigned to a specific individual. There’s also a notification system which will remind you that a task is due.

When you share a list with other Wunderlist users, it’s then easy to assign individual tasks and sub-tasks to others with access to this list. There’s even a commenting system to keep all members of the team updated on issues related to the list. A just-announced feature allows you to attach files stored in Dropbox to a task, making it possible to perform document reviews and other collaborative tasks. Since the document physically resides at Dropbox, each time a user updates that file, the Wunderlist link is synched with the latest revision.

Wunderlist workspace

Share specific lists with team members so all can see/update tasks, post files and add comments.

Here you see the list for managing an upcoming seminar. Tasks and sub-tasks have been added to the list and now other project team members are being invited to share the list. Once they accept the invitation, their copy of Wunderlist will include this list and automatically update whenever any team member makes changes, adds files or comments. Each team member controls how they receive notifications when the list is updated, plus the members can use the “More” option in the command bar (at bottom of center panel) to email the entire list or just specific items to others.

Use the comments area to ask questions, discuss options or request changes. By keeping everything within the list, you make it easy for each team member to stay up-to-date on all project activity.

How can a society put Wunderlist to work? In addition to planning society events, the publications staff can manage all the tasks and deadlines for newsletters, quarterlies and special publications. It can make keeping up with all the details involved with fund-raising campaigns, membership drives and even special projects much easier by keeping everything in one place. Use a task in the Board list to post the agenda for each board meeting then add subtasks and assign them to the appropriate individual during the meeting. Board members can then set their notifications to send status updates as they are posted. Reminders can be sent if necessary.

Wunderlist offers free, pro and business accounts. The free account limits the number of assigned tasks (25 per list), subtasks (25 per to-do) and background designs (20). Although you attach any number of Dropbox files to your lists, you are limited on the number and size of files attached directly in Wunderlist. In my opinion, using Dropbox is a better option – especially if the attached files will be edited by multiple people. A pro account costs $4.99/month or $49.99/year. Business accounts are also $4.99/month or $49.99/year per user but Wunderlist provides centralized billing along with team management options. Users can access Wunderlist via the Web, desktop apps (Mac, Windows 8 and Chromebook) and mobile apps (iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and Windows Phone). All apps are free.

It’s quite possible that free accounts would work well for most societies although having at least one pro account would be even better. You can begin with just free accounts to see how well the tools support your society’s need. I recommend setting the accounts up using the email addresses for each of your society’s positions rather than using personal email accounts. This will make it easier to pass on an account when officers and staff changes take place.