By Akilah Massey, ASF
Most small foundations are very familiar with the concept of collaboration. It’s often the only way the work gets done. Without a large staff, communicating and working effectively with staff, board members, and advisors is vital.
Even if the need to work collaboratively is not new, there are many forms of technology – some new, some more established – that can allow you to use the power of the Web to work more collaboratively both with board members across the country and colleagues right in your office.
Imagine that you have a grantee who faxes a document to your office where it is copied and later sent to board members for review. Perhaps you can do away with the fax machine and use a fax-to-email service. These services provide your organization with a unique fax number you can use to receive faxes, convert them to PDF documents, and send them directly to your inbox. Then you can store the documents digitally and email them to interested parties within minutes – all while eliminating the need for additional paper. Some grants management software systems have this feature built right in.
Board portals are another tool that can make collaboration simpler. These were recently a popular topic on the ASF Discussion List, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re extremely secure and were created with geographically-dispersed boards in mind. Most board portals allow for central organization of important documents and enable individual board members to review board packets and even take notes online as they prepare for board meetings. Check the ASF Discussion List Archives to learn about ASF member experiences with board portals.
These are just a few ideas, and they may not be the right ones for your foundation. Maybe you’ve started using Skype to hold occasional virtual board meetings. Maybe you’re a little more technologically savvy and have jumped into using collaborative documents or a shared online workspace.
I’d love to hear your stories about how you’re using technology – big and small, simple and more complex – to move the work of your foundation online. What tools have worked well for you? What would you recommend to other small foundations?
Program Manager Akilah Massey works with ASF members and other partners on ASF local programs, small hosted gatherings around the country. She joined the staff of ASF in 2005 and enjoys talking to ASF members about the personal nature of small foundation philanthropy. Akilah is preparing a session on Technology Planning for small foundations, to be held at the 2012 National Conference.