Nonprofit professionals are prolific team players, working with fellow staff and colleagues in their communities to advance their work. An essential tool for these extended teams is document sharing software, which allows team members to view, access, and edit electronic documents in the execution of their work. The following are a few examples of documents commonly shared in nonprofit settings:
- Board and committee meeting minutes and agendas
- Task team
- Marketing documents
- Databases of people, e.g. prospective donors
- Financial statements/models
- White papers
- Instructional documents
- Strategic plans
Common Document Sharing Options
As for document sharing tools, email is the most common. When infrequently sharing documents between 2-4 people, email often works just fine. But when sharing is more frequent and among more people, team members can encounter problems such as lack of version control, overflowing inboxes and the inability to search for document. At this point, it becomes more of a burden than a help, and dedicated document sharing software should replace or complement the use of email.
Additional options for document sharing tools include:
- Dedicated document sharing software such as Dropbox and Google Drive
- Collaboration tools with files document sharing capabilities such as Basecamp and Sharepoint
- Custom file sharing repositories
- Board Portals such as Boardmax and Diligent
How Document Sharing Software Benefits Nonprofits
Document sharing software helps nonprofit staff members and their external partners in a variety of ways.
Manage Information Effectively
In order to advance the work of various projects at a nonprofit, a lot of information needs to be shared with a lot of different people. Nonprofits need to adopt a “Goldilocks” approach to information sharing. Too much information to any individual will make them feel overwhelmed. Too little information and they will feel in the dark. Document sharing software can help you find a balance that’s just right, so individuals have only the information they need, when they need it — nothing more, nothing less. The best tools will allow you to choose which teams/members can see which documents and will allow you to put those documents into context, which allows team members to not only find information, but also understand how/why/when it is relevant.
Getting team members the right information is only part of the challenge. How they use it is just as important. Working together, team members need to share ideas, thoughts and perspectives to collaboratively evolve schedules, concepts, ideas and solutions. Document sharing software allows team members to turn their individual ideas into collective ones that the team can act on. The best solutions allow for co-editing, version control, discussion groups related to the documents and accessibility to the most commonly used files, such as:
Many team members are volunteers or are from other organizations, so their commitment and dedication to the effort should not be taken for granted. If finding, accessing and sharing information is difficult, their involvement may be impacted. Document sharing software that is easy to dive into, use and access, and that has features that allows them to manage information easily with good searchability, version control and co-working capabilities, tells them that you appreciate their time and talents, which will increase loyalty and engagement.
Keep Information Safe & Secure
Nonprofits have documents that contain sensitive information that only specific people should have access to. For example, only board members and other high ranking nonprofit members should have access to strategic planning documents, client information (especially health care related) and financial information. Document sharing software allows nonprofits to strike the right balance of accessibility and security of information.
Budgets are tight and nonprofit teams can get rather large. Document sharing software that can accommodate the diversity, breadth, and size of the teams for your organization and that integrates well with tools that you and your team members already use will help in keeping costs manageable for the organization.