Category Archives: Tools

Small Society Solutions

Small societies often don’t have the resources (time, skills or money) to build and maintain a library or a formal web site. No problem! You can still have an effective online presence and keep your members informed. And, it’s not only easy, it’s affordable too. Let’s take a look . . .

Posthaven

If you can send an email message, you can post content to a Posthaven site. Not only is it extremely easy to use, it’s quite affordable at $5.00 a month. And, you can set up your members as email subscribers so that each new post published on your site is delivered to their inbox. So, with Posthaven you have both a web site and a email newsletter all in one package. Learn more at the Posthaven Gazette, a support site for everything Posthaven. You’ll even find a downloadable user guide (Posthaven Primer) to help you get started.

Scribd

Want to build a library for your society? Why not do it digitally at Scribd? Not only is this online library free to use, but you can also use it to sell publications. There are a number of advantages to publishing digitally, including these: color publications don’t cost extra, the publication is searchable and hyperlinks actually work. Once you’ve created an account for your society, you can upload Word or PDF documents and organize them into collections. Documents can be either public or private and can be read online or downloaded as PDF documents (if you allow downloads). Take advantage of Scribd’s store to sell past issues of your quarterly journal, local research guides and other publications. Scribd handles all the sale, download and customer service tasks, taking a 20% commission from the sale price. To learn more, see Publish for Profit with Scribd.

PayPal

PayPal is another service with no upfront costs. Your treasurer can set up an account in minutes and you can use it to collect dues online or at meetings. It can also be used to make donations. Your members don’t need a PayPal account to make payments, they can use their credit or debit card if they prefer. PayPal takes a percentage off each transaction – a cheaper percentage than most credit card processing services. Want more information? Here are some articles discussing PayPal.

Email Accounts

It’s important that your society’s board and staff members use society email accounts – not their personal accounts – for society business. These accounts can be passed on each year as officers and board members change. Once the new officer changes the account’s password, she has control of the account as well as a historical record of the work that went on before her. For more information, see Managing Society Email.

These are just a few examples of easy and affordable tools available to you for building your society. Now all you need to find is time . . .

Markdown in WordPress

Did you know you can use Markdown in WordPress.com? All it takes is a checkbox in the Writings screen in Settings. It won’t make much difference when you are writing in the web editor, but it will sure make your life easier when you’re using the mobile WordPress app.

To get started, go to the WordPress Markdown reference page and add it to your HelpDesk notebook in Evernote.

Society Evernote

Would you like to reduce the paperwork and improve the collaboration efforts of your society’s board and staff? Evernote can help!

The first step is to create a premium Evernote account for the society. Why a premium account? In addition to the extra space and upload limits, it’s required to allow shared notebooks where the people accessing the share can add and edit notes. At $45/year, this investment will more than pay for itself in time saved. Create the account using a position email address (for example, groupmaster@yoursociety.org) . This will make it easier to pass the account on as board members and staff change. The “groupmaster” will be the person creating and managing shared notebooks for the various committees and projects.

One big decision your board will need to make is how board and staff will access the society’s shared notebooks. Since so many people already use Evernote, allowing them to connect to shared society notebooks through their personal account is easiest on them. They won’t need to juggle multiple Evernote accounts. It will mean additional work for the groupmaster who will have to adjust access to shared notebooks more often.

The most useful shared notebook I’ve created has been the Help Desk. Since I deal with all levels of technical skills, I frequently get the same questions over and over. Those responses have been typed up with screenshots and added to the Help Desk notebook. It’s also the place to post PDF copies of user guides for the apps and services used within the society. When someone has a question, point them to the appropriate note or email the note to them.

Next, create a Templates notebook. I’ve been converting many of our paper forms – like volunteer hours reporting – to notes which are then placed in the Templates notebook. A user copies the template form to the appropriate staff notebook – like the Volunteer Reporting notebook – fills it in and saves it.

NOTE: Check the “How To Hold Paperless Team Meetings” article at the Evernote blog for a great meeting agenda template!

While help notes, forms and agendas will make things easier for everyone, that’s just the beginning. Here are some other ways Evernote can streamline your staff’s work:

  • Maintain a library of society information – from a staff email directory to the speaker schedule to policy and procedure manuals so it’s all available to staff whenever and wherever.
  • Create project notebooks for team members. Notes could include task assignments, reminders for important deadlines, checklists, working drafts and research material.
  • Publications editors can manage authors, editors and designers with task lists and reminders. Draft publications can be posted for review.

Many societies still have staff members with limited tech skills yet Evernote can still help. If you can’t convince a staff member to use Evernote, send notes to them by email. And, perhaps the Help Desk notebook can inspire them to take some tech steps forward.

Are you using Evernote in your organization? If so, please share your tips in the comments.

The Virtual Board Room

In today’s hectic world, it’s difficult to get your society’s board of directors together for the monthly meetings – let alone to work on big projects. Round-robin emails are more annoying than effective. That doesn’t mean you can’t tackle big projects. You just need to put some virtual tools to work to make it happen. One easy and effective option is to build a virtual board room using WordPress.

WordPress? Absolutely!

A free WordPress.com site using the P2 theme becomes an instant collaboration platform. See for yourself . . .

Using P2, you don’t need to get board or committee members together at the same time. Just post a question, document to be reviewed or task and set a deadline for responses. Each member checks in when his schedule permits and adds comments or updates as a reply to the original post. And, because every board member is seeing the entire conversation at the time of his visit, it also reduces duplication of effort. This supports project management efforts as well as serving as a discussion platform and keeping everyone up-to-date on important topics. It may require a revision to your society’s by-laws first, but this could also be used to get quick board approval when time is short.

To get started, you will need to create a free WordPress.com blog site. Since this isn’t a public site, you don’t need a custom domain address. Do choose something that’s easy to remember like http://mcgsboardroom.wordpress.com for Moultrie Creek Genealogy Society’s virtual board room site.

Site Settings

WordPress’s Settings > Reading screen is used to make your board room site a private site – accessible only to invited members.

Once you’re in your new site, choose the Settings section in your Dashboard and select the Reading item. Here you will identify your board room site as a private one and send invitations to the board members inviting them to join. The email they receive will include instructions for setting up their WordPress user profile and getting logged into your board site. I don’t doubt it will be a challenge to get all your staff signed up and logged in, but it will be worth the effort to be able to get things done in a timely manner.

BoardRoom02

A sample board room posting tasking members to review and comment on a document.

Here are a few ways you can put your virtual board room to work:

  • Document reviews. Post the documents in a shared Dropbox folder available to all your board members, then post the link to the document with instructions that responses should be posted as replies to your tasking message. Set a deadline to submit replies.
  • Brainstorming. Need opinions or recommendations on an issue or idea? Since each member can see all the replies, this is a great way to get conversations going.
  • Most projects involve multiple people performing multiple tasks. Use a conversational thread in the virtual board room to track the status of each task and easily see who needs a poke to get moving.
  • New board members – and those who have been out of the loop for a while – can review older updates to quickly spin up on board activities.

Speaking of historical information . . . In addition to the collaborative tools found in the P2 theme, you can still use WordPress’s traditional tools to build pages for any information you want to make easily available to your board members. This includes things like schedules, possible speakers, project description and policy and procedures.

A webmaster familiar with WordPress can have a virtual board room up and running with minimal time and effort. The site maintenance effort – especially on a wordpress.com site – is also minimal. The board president and committee chairs will still have the brunt of the work – keeping staff motivated and moving in a timely manner. It will take some time for everyone to get familiar using these new tools, but perseverance and results will soon show the advantages of working together online.

NOTE: For societies who already use a self-hosted version of WordPress for their web site, you can install a second instance of WordPress using the P2 theme to build your own collaborative board room. There are a couple of advantages to the self-hosted option including the ability to add media to your P2 posts and using additional plugins on the site.