Simple Technology and Tips for Co-ops and NGOs

A short list of tools, sites and tips for people who are responsible for technical work and decisions within co-operatives, community and not-for-profit organizations.

Gmail.com or Google.com/a/smallbiz/
Gmail gives you an easy to use email account, great spam filtering and tons of storage space, plus collaborative online documents and spreadsheets (these are really useful), a shared calendar and a very basic web page, all for free. If you want to use MyName@YourOwnDomain.coop you’ll need a geek friend to spend 30 minutes to set up Google Apps, which is also free.

Nexo
Create a free personalized group site. Add pages, forums, photos and various widgets. Pay $14.95 USD per month to remove the ads.

DivShare.com
An easy way to upload and share really big files, like that 11MB PowerPoint slide show that you can’t e-mail.

FreeConferenceCalls.com
Host conference calls for free (although long-distance charges apply). Or get 10 cents minute/caller toll-free calls with MP3 audio recordings.

MeetingWizard.com
Easily recognize ideal dates to schedule a meeting with multiple people. Great for avoiding email/phone tag to decide a meeting date.

DimDim.com - coming soon. In the mean time try Glance or WebEx
Host online meetings complete with PowerPoint slides, shared screens, whiteboards, chat, web cams and audio. A recommended alternative to the time and expense of arranging and traveling to face-to-face meetings.

SurveyMonkey.com
Create a simple web based survey for 100 people for free or pay $20 month for up to 1000 respondents. Very easy to use and the results can viewed online or exported in different spreadsheet format.

37signals.com
A collection of simple web tools for project and contact management. BaseCamp makes life easier.

BlinkSale.com
Send and track your invoices online. Get paid.

OpenOffice.org
A set of free applications that work just like Word, Excel and PowerPoint without supporting "the man".

 

Other sites to help you find the technical solutions you need:
TechSoup.org - Idealware.org - SocialSourceCommons.org - iTrainOnline.org

For Co-ops

CoopZone.coop
All the information and links you will ever need to develop an awesome co-operative in Canada. Hundreds of organized resources to download, listings of training opportunities and contact info for smart developers in your province to help answer your co-op questions.

www.NA.Domains.coop
Register your own domain with a .coop. They offer hosting too.

 

Some Website Building Tips

  • Write a Request for Proposals and choose between at least three different suppliers who propose to develop your site.

  • Start with a simple and cheap brochure site with your basic info on it, and then at least people can find you online while you are waiting to finish your super cool site.

  • Expect to spend at least $2000 to $5000 with a professional supplier to have your full featured custom website planned, designed, built and your staff trained to edit and manage it. Budget at least a total of $700 a year for hosting and professional support and technical maintenance. You can pay less or find volunteers, but can you afford to lose $10,000 opportunities because your $300 website broke, does not inspire confidence or lacks key features?

  • You need a content management system (CMS). A CMS allows you to easily edit the web pages and add new menu options yourself. Using a popular open source CMS, like Drupal or Joomla, allows you to move from one supplier to another without much hassle. "Open source" is a model that compliments co-op values. Ask for it by name!

You can get more tips, consultation and service from Anarres.ca, CommunityBandwidth.ca, Communicopia.net, OpenConcept.ca, PXI.ca, Web.ca - all friends who do smart web development for progressive Canadian organizations.