Organizational tools for a rapidly growing group
January 24, 2017 9:17 PM   Subscribe

I am a member of an Indivisible group that has more than 250 members in our Facebook group. We have a Twitter account and a small website using Wordpress on outside hosting. I am familiar with Google Docs, but I think few other people are. I am interested in thoughts about good organizational tools. Hopefully, they are easy to learn and free or low cost.

I have in mind online things that might help us track and coordinate members, volunteers and subgroups. Such as, maybe members enter their own contact info and what kind of work or issues they are interested in. Or something that could help us make smaller groups by geography or interest area. Or something for newsletters or mailing lists, or to coordinate these different things. Or maybe a way to set up a discussion board, so information doesn’t get lost in the Facebook onslaught.

Or I am curious about other ideas that could be useful.
posted by maurreen to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Slack would be a good start, at least for the core team. As it gets pricey, unless you can make do with the free version. Then look at various complementary team-oriented groupware options.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:55 PM on January 24, 2017

I have had good experiences with Loomio in similar circumstances. It's a discussion and organizing tool with a focus on reaching decisions that everyone can agree with, made by people who had been involved in the Occupy movement.

If you want something more Slack-like, also check out Riot. It's like an open-source version of Slack, with emphasis on privacy features.
posted by criticalbeaver at 11:00 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

If Google Docs might be unfamiliar to folks in your group, I think Slack will be too much for them. My volunteer group of 30-somethings could not get a handle on it but Google Docs works well for us.

Evernote or Trello might work for you. Or does WordPress have any discussion forum plug-ins?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:44 AM on January 25, 2017

I'm dealing with this now in a similar group.

We use Slack to day-to-day communicate and right now we're using Google Sheets and Forms to track attendance at actions and create an email list, but I'm conference calling this weekend with a couple other people to try to figure out a better solution. We spun this whole thing up in like a week and it was mainly just about doing something FAST. Now we have to figure out how to make it sustainable.

Funnily enough, people can use Slack just fine but the Google stuff eludes the co-organizer that I have the most contact with. I guess if you've never used any kind of a spreadsheet before, it's daunting. I just made a public-facing form that she can use to input what she needs to input and I take care of the Sheets back end and break out the data in various needed ways when called upon to do so.

My hope is a Wordpress site with a couple plugins for managing discussions, event registrations and membership/volunteer data, maybe also with MailChimp as a mailing list solution. But we'll see what the other folks say.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:59 AM on January 25, 2017

Yeah, I'd have thought Slack would be easier than Gdocs too, being more free-form. But then again, I picked up the IRC basics that Slack is built on a long, long time ago and maybe I'm forgetting the learning curve.

Trello is kinda hard to integrate well with other stuff. It's good at the kanban taskboard thing it does, but I'd hesitate to use it for more than that, and integrating it with other stuff is painful. Atlassian also just bought it so who knows whats going to happen to it.

Something based on WordPress seems like a decent idea, if there's a prebuilt solution.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:02 AM on January 25, 2017

For having folks send you their interests and info, you can use Google forms. Flowdock is pretty great for collaborative planning, chat, document-sharing but it's $3/user/month (they do have a "make a case if you're a nonprofit" free option and it's always free for 5 or fewer users). I think with 250 members plus, you're going to have a hard time finding many free options. Our group uses Trello for resource sharing, but not for discussions or member-tracking. As always, the issue is getting something that the majority find useful and usable--my small nonprofit has tried and failed with dozens of things because people don't understand how--but more importantly why and when--to use them and there's never decent training nor motivation.

Google Apps offers a project managing CRM system (Insightly--I believe it's free with up to two users, so you could use it to manage the group, but the group could not use it to manage itself). Zoho's CRM/project management has a free version with up to 10 users. Both are useful if there is any top-down management or task tracking necessary that does not require the members to use the tool as well)
posted by crush-onastick at 7:45 AM on January 25, 2017

Indivisible Acadiana here. I tried making a Google group yesterday and it was unbelievably clunky.

I looked at Slack, but almost all our members are already on Facebook.

I'm leaning towards using Facebook for posts and casual discussion, event announcements, and instant messaging, and using Microsoft Onenote for planning and organizing.

Somebody please tell me if I'm wrong, but Slack doesn't seem to have the tabs and pages view that I love about Onenote.
posted by atchafalaya at 10:23 AM on January 25, 2017

In Slack you'd use different channels to break out different subgroups or projects, if that's what you're getting at.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:38 AM on January 25, 2017

I don't have a solid answer for you, but I'd mention one thing I've seen no one say yet: whatever you use, you will likely want to make sure you can avoid being electronically surveilled.
posted by WCityMike at 5:42 PM on January 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the input. At least for now, the main group is going to stay on Facebook. But the coordinators of all the groups in the city are going try Slack. And I have taken a look at Google Forms. That looks really easy.
posted by maurreen at 7:19 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have been using Slack for key people. Adoption was slow, but it is picking up. We now have more than 1500 people in the group. Thanks for all the info.
posted by maurreen at 8:38 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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