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.
Create a free personalized group site. Add pages, forums, photos and various widgets. Pay $14.95 USD per month to remove the ads.
An easy way to upload and share really big files, like that 11MB PowerPoint slide show that you can’t e-mail.
Host conference calls for free (although long-distance charges apply). Or get 10 cents minute/caller toll-free calls with MP3 audio recordings.
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.
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.
Send and track your invoices online. Get paid.
A set of free applications that work just like Word, Excel and PowerPoint without supporting "the man".
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.
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.