January 6, 2014

10 nonprofit productivity tools & apps to try in 2014


Stay lean & work smarter in the new year

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, businesses, educators, journalists, general public.

Caroline AvakianMost of the nonprofit communicators I work with site lack of time and productivity as their number one job frustration. It’s true: Nonprofit professionals are often tapped out, working late hours just to keep up. Plus, many of my clients tell me they have no time to stay on top of the latest tools and apps that could help ease their work load.

So in an effort to help you enter 2014 armed with a set of tools to make your work life simpler, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 favorite productivity hacks that are free or come at minimal cost.


Voxer: Record your messages for playback later

1Voxer is a free walkie-talkie style phone app that lets you talk to anyone in the world using live text and voice. It also lets you send photos. Voxer really does works just like a walkie-talkie — only better, because it records all your messages for playback later. It’s especially great for international organizations that can use it to communicate with staff abroad in real time. I use this app for quick check-ins with clients working in East Africa and Asia. This is also a great tool for organizations running events throughout the year. Your event team can communicate with each other with this app versus renting pricier walkie-talkie kits for galas, fundraisers, etc.


HipChat: Private chat built for teams

2HipChat is a private chat service built for teams to share ideas and files in group chat rooms. HipChat allows for real-time project management and collaboration and lightens the load on you and your team’s email inbox. It also organizes your chats by project and saves your chats so you can review and pick up where you left off. No need to settle for AIM or to fire up a Google Hangout.


Asana: Free project management

3Move over Basecamp, Asana has entered the project management playing field and created a free tool that does most of what the best project management tools do, plus it integrates nicely with Google Drive. Asana allows you to view all your projects at once with a three column view that includes features like work spaces, projects, tasks, tags, notes, comments and an inbox that organizes and updates information in real time. It’s free for teams of up to 15 users. Continue reading

May 22, 2012

Evernote: Productivity tool packs a punch

Evernote uses optical character recognition to find words within images and turn them into searchable text. Wild!

Change the way you document the world with this smart little app

Guest post by Janet Fouts
Social Media Coach

Productivity software? I’ve tried it. It seems to never do what I need it to do, and I spend more time setting it up and loading stuff into it than I do actually using it. Most of the apps I’d tried also had accessibility issues. Sometimes they synced, sometimes they didn’t, and I was constantly maintaining the tool that was supposed to make my life easier.

Until now. In a blog post I came upon, marketing ace Steve Rubel made a casual remark about a product called Evernote. This, my friends, is a very cool app.

In a nutshell, Evernote lets you add information to a database that is accessible through the Web, a desktop app, and your iPhone, Blackberry or smartphone. Items are tag-able and fully searchable so you can add pretty much anything, run a search, and quickly find it again wherever you are.

Let Evernote serve as your memory

Now when I say you can upload things, try to visualize this. You’re at a networking event and you suck at remembering names. With Evernote you can take a picture of a person with your phone, tag them with their name and they’re saved for future reference in your database. Even more interesting, include their name badge in the snapshot, even a handwritten name tag, and Evernote will recognize the handwriting and enter it as searchable text! Whoa!

Evernote can even turn a handwritten name tag into searchable text

Evernote can find text within images, recognize it and make the text searchable. The image at top is a snapshot I took of the bag given out at N2Y4 Mobile Challenge. The highlighted yellow text is the result of a search for the words “Mobile Challenge” in my Evernote database. I hadn’t even tagged it yet. I also found my notes from Raj Singh’s lecture, the images of the slides he put up, the website homepage with session info, and a reminder to connect with one of the people I met at that talk. Continue reading

February 2, 2012

15 top iPhone apps for work, play & creativity

Posting to Facebook Groups from HootSuite

Target audience: Nonprofits, foundations, social enterprises, cause organizations, NGOs, business professionals, educators, students, journalists, general public.

Shonali BurkeThe other day, my brother sent me a message asking me what apps I was currently using on my iPhone. As I went down the list of my frequently used apps, I realized there are a lot that some of you may not know about.

So I put together a list of my 15 top iPhone apps for you, in case you have been evaluating your own use of apps. Some of these might be new to you, some not, but either way, I hope you find the list helpful.

While these apply only to the iPhone, several reside on my iPad as well, and some of these can be used on Androids and BlackBerrys. Most of them are free; I’ll tell you when they’re not. The apps generally fall into the categories of communications, productivity, social networks, photography and video.


Viber: Call and text for free

1This might be a new one for some of you. Viber is a terrific app — both for iPhone and Android — that lets you call other Viber users free. It’s really easy to set up, and once it syncs with your Contacts, it creates a separate list of people who have Viber installed as well. So when you want to contact them, you can IM them, just as you would ordinarily, or call them. Viber uses your data plan, so if you don’t have unlimited texts that come with your plan, it’s a terrific option. It uses wi-fi or a 3G network to connect — there may be charges if you use the latter — and the sound quality is incredible.

Path: Share life with your loved ones

2I joined Path quite recently, and have been enjoying it. It bills itself as “the smart journal that helps you share life with the ones you love.” I don’t post very frequently, probably once or twice every few days, but since I’m keeping my network over there relatively small, I find it provides a more intimate feeling than blogging out to the whole world. And I still get a kick out of Path’s visualization if you tell it you’re going to sleep, or have woken up. It’s also cool that you can post to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr, or any combination of them, if you want to.

Beejive for GoogleTalk: Gtalk on the go

3I learned of this app from Ray Richman, and I love it. It’s free. Beejive for GoogleTalk basically lets you G-chat — as you would from your Gmail interface — on your phone. Beejive has a bunch of other apps as well that I haven’t tested, but I do like this one a lot.

HootSuite: Cross-post to your networks

4HootSuite has great apps for both the iPhone and iPad, so I have it set up on both. I like that I can use my multiple profiles even when I’m not at my computer, and most of its “regular” functionality is contained in its apps, such as scheduling tweets, posts and so on. Hot tip: In HootSuite’s desktop version, specifically with Facebook, in addition to setting up profiles for your personal and business page (or pages you manage), you can also set up profiles for specific Facebook groups you participate in regularly. I saw this a few weeks ago and it is a boon! However, you can’t do this from the apps. I don’t think that’s such a big deal, and you’ve probably already seen that if you reset some profiles in your “main” HootSuite account, the apps won’t automatically sync them, you’ll have to do so manually.

Tungle: Easy scheduling from the road

5I’ve long been a fan of Tungle, and it finally introduced an app for the iPhone last year. It’s as easy to use Tungle’s iPhone app as it is to use the desktop version, and that’s not something you can say about all apps.

Skype: The ultimate communication tool

6Skype has become the de facto way I communicate with my family and quite a few of my friends, and I suspect you do as well. It’s also how I’ve done interviews. The call quality is great most of the time, and you can’t beat the price of free.

Tumblr: Post photos to a blog

7I set this up recently after embarking on Project 366. I did so because the photos I take are almost always from my iPhone, so I wanted to see if I could post directly to Tumblr from my phone. And, of course, you already know you can. When I was reading the app reviews, I saw a number of complaints, but so far at least, it’s been pretty easy to post to Tumblr from my iPhone, and that includes the caption, tags, short URL, etc.

Facebook: Carry your friends in your pocket

8It wasn’t that long ago that Facebook introduced its own app, and it works pretty well as you post comments, post status updates or photos, like brands and all the rest. Crashes at times, but what app doesn’t? If you have the new Timeline, you’ll notice that it appears on your mobile device as well, which is pretty nifty.

Camera+: Edit and share your photos

9I learned about this from my trainer, Grant Hill. It is absolutely terrific! There’s a free version, but I bought the 99 cent Camera+ app, and it works beautifully. There are a ton of editing options, and you can also share your photos to social networks or via email directly from Camera+ if you want. I highly recommend it. Continue reading

July 13, 2010

Top 5 tools for the entrepreneurial journalist

Founder Institute

Cool apps & sites to increase your organization’s productivity

Target audience: Social entrepreneurs, journalists, educators, nonprofits, social change organizations. This is part of Creating Media, our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and make media.

Guest post by Dan Pacheco
CEO, FeedBrewer

My colleague JD Lasica recently asked me to compile a list of the five most important tools for helping people drive social change. I had a difficult time understanding exactly what qualifies as “social change,” so he cut me a break and said I could list tools for journalists. Since I’m now working on a startup called FeedBrewer, I decided to focus that even more and list tools for entrepreneurial journalists.

I drew inspiration from the Boulder-Denver tech startup community. This summer, my startup co-founders and I are participating in a “tech accelerator” and mentoring progam called The Founder Institute. Over four months, we’re meeting other entrepreneurs like ourselves, as well as CEOs of successful startups who listen to our ideas and give us honest feedback. We also meet with four others in pre-assigned teams to share ideas. Some of these tools came out of those sessions.

So here they are. If you have your own tools to share, please add them as a comment below or tweet them under Twitter hashtag #jstartuptools.



1Recycle those spiral notebooks. A cloud-based notebook, Evernote makes it easy to record written and audio notes, as well as documents. Just input notes or drag and drop files, and they’re there for you to access on your iPhone and iPad. It’s a great desktop app, too.

The Twitter Times

2Too busy to click on all those links to stories from the people you follow on Twitter? The Twitter Times offers your own customized version of tweets from folks you follow that you can read in an automatically laid-out web newspaper form. It’s like Google News with a social filter. Check out JD’s version of the Twitter Times.


3Online news is great, but you can’t beat handouts for real-world meetings. If your stories are available in RSS feeds, use Printcasting to turn them into quick magazines that you can print and hand out at meetings, leave in coffee shops or give to friends and family.


Nameboy & NameStation

4You’ve got that great idea for an online news startup, but what to name it? Nameboy and NameStation are tools quickly find available domain names that use different combinations of words. You can even register them on the spot as you find them.


5Ning will soon require every social network to pay or be shut down. If that doesn’t sit well with you and you have a WordPress site, install the BuddyPress plug-in. It adds user profiles, public and private groups and all the basic tools you need to run a social network.