Remote work enables teams from across the country — and the world — to work together as though they were sitting across from each other at the office. Virtual collaboration allows your nonprofit to work with top talent regardless of physical limitations, cuts costs on transportation and office space and brings you closer to fulfilling your mission.
However, this new format has posed many challenges for people. From creating workflows to communicating effectively and keeping information safe, there are many considerations to make when working online.
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to set a solid foundation for effective remote work in your nonprofit.
Best practices for nonprofits working remotely
Develop communication skills
In-person interaction has elements that get lost in virtual communication. When we work in an office, we see, hear, and talk directly with the people on our team. Remote environments rely mostly on written communication, which can lack emotion and make it difficult to convey what we mean.
Communication is an essential component of collaboration that doesn’t translate naturally to remote work. Instead, you’ll have to create standards for everyone involved. Consider these basic standards:
- Turnaround: How soon are employees expected to reply to a message?
- Channels: Will you rely on emails, instant messaging tools (like Voxer or Slack), or calls?
- Availability: Will there be specific times for everyone to be online? This could be helpful if teams are spread across time zones and need some time to sync live each day.
- Accountability: How will everyone stay synced about progress and deadlines?
Another mindset shift that needs to happen is going from real-time to asynchronous exchanges. For example, you can leverage tools like Loom, which allows you to share ideas via a video instead of an email, as many people express themselves better out loud vs. in writing.
Keep security in mind
Virtual collaboration relies on different tools many team members need access to. This can create a security risk for your nonprofit.
While it may be a bit of an investment to make, create professional email accounts for your team and have them use those to access any tool related to your nonprofit’s work, from project management platforms to social media and beyond. And if the budget allows, consider assigning devices to your employees for extra security.
Establish standard processes and workflows
The main difficulty when working remotely is that there are literally countless ways to achieve the same results — which is great in theory but can mean that different people have different expectations and ways to achieve a certain result. Not to mention the broad range of tools your nonprofit can use, which can significantly impact the way you do things.
In order to save yourself time and money, define your priorities, choose specialized software, and set processes that align with what you’re looking to achieve. Then, document these processes to share with your staff.
Establishing workflows and processes can make a world of difference for your team, especially when they are part-time staff or contractors or when it comes to high-rotation roles like those relying on volunteers.
Another consideration is that most of the software we use for remote work comes with expensive subscriptions, some of which get even steeper as we add more seats to the team. Thankfully, many of these tools offer free or discounted memberships for nonprofit organizations, allowing your team to collaborate seamlessly and produce better work — while staying under budget.
These are some of our favorite free or affordable tools for nonprofit teams working remotely:
Asana. Asana is software designed for teams to implement agile project management. They offer a 50% discount for nonprofits who choose their Premium or Business plans. Or you can save even more by using Asana’s free version. Find the requirements here.
Monday. Monday.com offers a broad range of features and automation to help your remote nonprofit team work better. For example, you can track grant applications, donations, and internal projects all from Monday. Check Monday’s features for nonprofits here.
Trello. This software relies on powerful automation and a simple kanban layout for teams to streamline their workflow. The free plan may be all you need, but Trello also offers discounts for nonprofits in case you grow out of the free plan. See them here.
Zoom. This video conference tool transformed our interaction during the pandemic. Zoom offers a free, limited plan as well as 50% discounts for qualifying nonprofits. See if you meet the criteria here.
Slack. Many teams use this instant messaging and call platform for free. But the paid plan includes features like compliance and extra security, which your nonprofit may find important. Thankfully, Slack offers steep discounts for nonprofits and educational institutions. Learn more here.
Google Workspace. Google’s suite of tools for remote work is available to nonprofits for free, or you can choose the business plans with up to 75% discounts. Explore Google Workspace plans for nonprofits here.
Honeybook. This CRM mixes project management with accounting for easy client management. Features include proposals, contracts, and invoicing. See Honeybook’s plans and features here.
Freshbooks. Freshbooks is a bookkeeping platform that includes features like invoices, tax summaries, profit and loss reporting, payroll, and time tracking. The software has multiple service tiers to choose from, and your nonprofit can reach out to get a discount. Learn more about Freshbooks for nonprofits here.
Quickbooks. Quickbooks is similar to Freshbooks in that it features payroll, invoicing, accounting and time tracking. For nonprofits, Quickbooks offers donation and grant tracking. See Quickbooks for nonprofits here.
Canva. Canva offers a free plan used by many social media managers and small businesses. Additionally, they offer free professional tools for nonprofits who meet certain criteria. Check your eligibility here.
Adobe. World-famous software giant Adobe offers special plans for nonprofits to access its design tools. Learn more here.
Affinity. Less known than Adobe, Affinity offers design software (Affinity Designer is the equivalent of Adobe’s Illustrator, and Photo is the equivalent of Photoshop). While they don’t have a specific subscription for nonprofits, they offer discounts for educational purposes, not to mention that instead of a subscription model, Affinity sells lifetime licenses that are significantly more affordable than Adobe. Read all about Affinity’s licenses here.
Carrd. Carrd.co is a platform designed to make landing pages easy. It has a free version and a very affordable Pro subscription. Compare their plans here.
HubSpot. HubSpot is a full-suite CRM (client relationship manager) with features that go from web hosting to customer support. The best part is that the free version includes everything you need for your nonprofit’s marketing. See HubSpot’s free tools here.
WordPress. WordPress is the most famous platform for launching a website. You can use the more popular WordPress.com and its free plan that includes hosting, or go to wordpress.org for a self-hosted website — for free. Check out the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org here.
Mailchimp. Mailchimp is an email service provider (ESP) that combines landing pages, email marketing, and e-commerce features. Nonprofits can benefit a lot from an email marketing strategy that engages subscribers and donors, and Mailchimp offers different discounts your organization may qualify for. Review them here.
Remote work is here to stay, and there are many advantages for teams working virtually. To start, virtual collaboration means simpler logistics, less planning and smoother coordination for everyone involved.
Plus, working remotely has empowered people from all walks of life to find the rhythms and routines that work for them, increasing satisfaction and productivity across the board while enabling you to retain top talent that’ll push your nonprofit’s mission forward. And working remotely may also signify a shift from full-time employees to part-time or even contractors, lowering your ongoing staffing costs.
If you’re ready to embrace this shift to virtual collaboration — or feel like you need a hand improving your existing remote work setup —, book a consultation now, and our team will step in to help.