January 31, 2020
We’re writing this post near the start of a new year — but whether or not you’re someone who loves to reboot every area of your life every January 1, it’s never a bad idea (or a bad time!) to revisit your routines, tools, and systems with fresh eyes.
At Elevate, we lean on a variety of apps, tools, and resources in our daily work with our nonprofit clients. From project management, to digital file storage, to sources of growth and learning, we’ve spent years experimenting with different tools and systems to find what works best for us. The tools we use may or may not make sense for your organization—after all, putting together your own suite of go-to resources will depend on your specific organizational needs and circumstances. Still, we believe there are certain systems and every successful organization should have in place to help increase efficiency, effectiveness, and ease of information sharing.
As you revisit your own list of tools and systems that you lean on regularly in your job, below are some of our favorites that we use year-round to keep us organized, well-informed, and effective in our work. We’ve also thrown in some entertaining and educational resources that our staff enjoy and value, to round out the list. We hope you enjoy!
Productivity, Organization, and Project Management Tools
Every organization needs systems in place that make it easy to perform basic business functions — things like managing deadlines, keeping track of tasks (and assign them to others), accessing shared files and information, and retrieving this information quickly. A few of our favorite tools in this category:
- Salesforce is our Customer Relationships Management (CRM) system where we manage all kinds of data related to clients, funder deadlines, and business operations. Other nonprofit-friendly options include The Raiser’s Edge, and DonorPerfect.
- Our teams use Asana on a daily (if not hourly) basis for all things project management. We use it to track internal deadlines, and assign tasks related to all the grants and projects we’re working on for our clients. Other options to consider include Trello, Basecamp, or Podio.
- We use Dropbox for digital file storage, which helps us collaborate easily on drafts and ensure everyone has access to the most up-to-date versions of shared files. Other options include Box, One Drive, and Google Drive.
- We use LastPass to securely store and share passwords for grant portals and other websites that require a login.
- Our whole team uses Harvest for time-tracking.
Part of the work Elevate does for our Comprehensive Grant Writing Services clients involves prospect research, which means we’re constantly researching funders. We regularly use a few great tools for this, many of which require a paid subscription. Our favorites include:
- Foundation Directory Online by Candid (formerly Foundation Center and Guidestar) is an exhaustive database that contains in-depth profiles of grantmakers including 990s, recent grantees, and more.
- GrantFinder from Inside Philanthropy is another valuable database with information on thousands of foundations and major donors. (Inside Philanthropy is also a valuable source for philanthropic news.)
Business and Operations Tools
Our Operations and Finance teams work hard behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly at Elevate. A few of the resources that help them do so are listed below.
- Your Part Time Controller (YPTC) provides accounting, bookkeeping, and financial reporting services to nonprofits.
- We also use Bill.com to send and track bills and invoices.
- We‘ve also worked with Labyrinth to take care of our required charity state registrations. (Charitable solicitation registration is currently required in 40 states, to solicit contributions legally!)
- Members of our leadership team have attended several events hosted by the DC Bar Probono Center, which provides legal assistance to DC’s small businesses community. Their Nonprofit Legal Assistance Program also provides legal assistance to the District’s community-based nonprofit organizations — including legal clinics, trainings, and other free resources.
Philanthropy- and Fundraising-Focused Newsletters
Our staff subscribe to a wide variety of philanthropic newsletters — many of which are focused on specific geographic and/or issue areas. Below are a few team favorites, though we recommend doing some research to find relevant publications in your niche as well.
- GrantStation Insider is a weekly email newsletter featuring the latest information on grantmakers, upcoming grant deadlines, and news for the serious grantseeker.
- Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers’ Weekly WRAG is a weekly newsletter that provides updates about events, philanthropic news, and nonprofit job postings in the Washington, DC region.
- Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) is an award-winning magazine and website written by and for social change leaders from around the world, that covers cross-sector solutions to global problems. In addition to a paid subscription, they also offer a free weekly newsletter
Below are a handful of other publications and resources we look to, to keep us well-informed, entertained, and getting better at everything, all the time:
- Harvard Business Review (HBR) is a great resource for new ideas and classic advice on strategy, innovation, and leadership for global leaders, from the world’s best business and management experts. They offer several email newsletters, each of which focus on a specific field or topic, plus our team loves their Dear HBR and Women at Work podcasts!
- Gallup is a leading provider of data and insights on the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers, students, and citizens. They use analytics and advice to provide leaders with a road map for understanding and unlocking the full potential of individuals, teams and organizations.
- Several members of the Elevate team have attended valuable trainings at The Management Center in DC, which works to help leaders working for social change build and run more effective organizations.
Remember — for any of these categories, there’s no right or wrong tool! Processes are much more important than the tools themselves, so don’t get bogged down in the details. What matters is that you know your organizational priorities and limitations, and you keep them in mind as you evaluate your options and ultimately choose what works best for you and your team.