Board Management Portals


Most nonprofit Boards face the difficult task of managing the efforts and talents of many geographically dispersed members. Just finding a time that each person can meet can be a challenge, never mind sharing documentation such as Board Minutes and Agendas, efficiently collaborating on projects, or even putting a face to each name on the Board roster.

We have reviewed a number of technology tools that can help Boards run more efficiently and effectively. These brief reviews are listed below, organized by type of tool. For more detail about each tool, please follow the link provided to the appropriate website.

Don't forget that JCamp 180 has provided a number of helpful resources and articles in Board Development and Governance. These resources include sample documents such as Board applications, meeting evaluation forms, Board fundraising checklists, and more. There are also links to helpful articles on a broad range of topics to help make nonprofit Boards more effective.

Board Management Portals


The following tools provide a Board with a centralized, secure, web-based location to store and share documentation, meeting schedules, and other files. Some are fully-featured board Board Management Portals; others offer group functionality that can be customized to offer a subset of the features of the Board Management Portals. Although they all offer the same basic functionality, they differ greatly in price and enhanced features.

BoardEffect


BoardEffect is a well-organized, easy to administer central repository for all Board documentation and meeting information. It includes many integrated administration tools and the ability to assign users different levels of access to the data/features in the portal. Board Members can schedule meetings, update and view meeting agendas, assign tasks to other Board members (including automated reminders), and share example documentation from BoardSource as well as in-process internal documentation. The tool is basically ready to go immediately; limited setup is required (beyond managing user access and uploading documentation). BoardEffect is a secure site that is password-protected.

Pros:
Easy to set up and use. Includes many integrated tools such as "Meeting Books" to organize all information about a particular meeting, a Resource Library that includes policy samples from BoardSource, integration with Outlook Calendar, and simple development reports (if rolled-up donation information is entered in the system).

Cons:
Price. Most expensive option reviewed here. With effort, other free or less expensive tools may be able to replace most of the functionality integrated within BoardEffect.

Price:
BoardEffect is the most expensive option reviewed here* (as it has the most integrated functionality). It is sold as an annual subscription; fees are based on annual operating budget, number of board members, and number of committees. The cost ranges from ~ $1500 - $8000 per year.

As an example, a camp with an $800,000 annual budget, 15 board members, and 5 committees would cost ~$1500/year. A camp with a $2.5 million annual budget, 15 board members, and 5 committees would cost ~$2,100/year.

*Note that there are other Board Management Portals that may be much more expensive than BoardEffect:

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Site: BoardEffect Top

Google Groups


Google offers the ability to create free, private areas online to share documents and discuss topics. Groups are not optimized for Board work, but can be customized to meet the basic needs of most Boards.

Pros:
Free. All you need is a free Google account to create and join a Google Group. Clean interface. Pages allows users to easily create any type of information a user wants to share - Board Agendas, Board Minutes, Board Profiles, etc.

Cons:
Takes some effort to customize a Google Group to a Board's specific needs. No integrated board-specific integration such as MeetingWizard-like scheduling functionality, Committee breakouts/security, task assignments/reminders, and development reports. Unfortunately, Google doesn't currently integrate their other free tools such as Google Docs and Google Calendar.

Price:
Free

Site: Google Groups Top

MyCommittee


MyCommittee is a Portal solution that can maintain a Board's basic meeting information, discussion topics, tasks, and files. The functionality is fairly basic, but it is easy to use and well-organized. MyCommittee offers features such as creating meeting requests, keeping track of tasks, managing online discussions among Board members, and hosting files. It offers some meeting statistics that allow a Board to track meeting attendance and whether meetings are consistently going over the scheduled time. MyCommittee also has a BlackBerry application that allows users to view meeting agendas and minutes on the go.

MyCommittee offers a free option, but the $19/month Personal plan is probably required for most Boards; the free plan only allows one Committee, 1 MB of file storage, no integrated Productivity Tools (Resolutions, Polls, and Meeting Stats), and no document versioning or categorization. Nonprofits get a free upgrade when purchasing any paid plan. For example, if a Nonprofit pays $19/month for the Personal plan, they automatically get upgraded to the Standard plan (more memory, more Committees, etc.).

Pros:
Easy to set up and use. Offers simple document and Committee management functionality at a reasonable price. Managing multiple committees is easy with MyCommittee.

Cons:
Essentially all features can be found in Outlook except a central repository to host files. The tasks and discussion features really didn't have any options that aren't found in any common meeting application.

Price:
There is a basic free plan that allows you to create 1 Committee and store 1 MB of files. Nonprofits can pay $19/month for an upgrade to the Standard Plan, which offers multiple Committees, much more storage, and some Productivity Tools.

Site: MyCommittee Top

Wiggio


Wiggio is a free, online toolkit that makes it easy to work in groups. Wiggio offers File management/storage, Discussions, Meeting information, Calendar functionality, and polls. It also ties in free services such as FreeConference.com to provide free conference calls and offers the ability to edit Excel and Word files on demand with Zoho (similar to Google docs functionality). Wiggio users can create subgroups that can act as separate Committee areas within the main Wiggio group. Users are provided with a news feed of the latest activity in the group when they enter Wiggio. Wiggio is completely free; they may include ads with their tools in the future.

Pros:
Wiggio offers lots of group management features and extended functionality for no cost. It is relatively easy to set up. The tie-ins with Rondee and Zoho extend the functionality of the system.

Cons:
Setup will take some time. Wiggio is not necessarily a Board management tool; it is really a group management tool that can be configured to meet most of a Board's needs. Wiggio has poor role management options; you can reduce users' access to features as a group, but not individually. Wiggio doesn't have a clear business plan, so the future of the company/product is uncertain. Note that backing up your files is solely your responsibility (and recommended).

Price:
Free; may include ads in the future.

Site: Wiggio Top

Yahoo! Groups


Yahoo! offers the ability to create free, private areas online to share documents and discuss topics (just like Google Groups). Groups are not optimized for Board work, but can be customized to meet the basic needs of most Boards. Yahoo! Groups offer many integrated add-ons to extend the functionality of the groups, but the interface seems cluttered and less professional than Google Groups. The ads in particular are less subtle in Google.

Pros:
Free. All you need is a free Yahoo! account to create and join a Yahoo! Group. Lots of add-ons are available to extend the functionality of the tool. However, most of the add-ons are not board-specific (address books, birthday listings, maps, etc.).

Cons:
Takes some effort to customize a Yahoo! Group to a Board's specific needs. No integrated board-specific integration such as MeetingWizard-like scheduling functionality, Committee breakouts/security, task assignments/reminders, and development reports. Yahoo!'s interface is less professional and more cluttered than Google's interface.

Price:
Free

Site: Yahoo! Groups Top

Sharing Documents


If a Board simply needs a central, secure area to store and share documents, a simple document sharing site could be sufficient. These tools may also offer real-time collaboration of documents. Google Docs is the standard, but there are other tools out there that allow you to share and collaborate on documents as well.

Note that it is also possible to create a password-protected section of your existing website to share documents with specific users. However, this requires development time and - in most cases - will cost the nonprofit money to set up. It also will only offer upload/download functionality, not real-time collaboration.

Dropbox


Dropbox offers a secure way to share, sync, and backup your files. What sets Dropbox and Google Docs apart is how you view and edit your files. Dropbox allows you to set up a folder right on your computer where you "drop" your files for sharing with a group (with a free plug-in). When you connect to the internet, this folder (and any sub-folders you set up) are automatically synchronized with all other users in the group. And all files accessed through Dropbox's website or directly on your computer open locally on your computer. This allows you to use familiar, full-featured software (typically Microsoft Office) to edit and view your shared documents. Other documents like .pdf's can also be shared using Dropbox.

Dropbox also offers an audit-trail letting you know when files were uploaded, edited, or deleted. You can also restore deleted files or revert back to a previous version's changes (up to 30 days).

Pros:
If using Dropbox's plug-in for your computer, your files are always in sync. Files are edited on your computer using familiar software.

Cons:
Dropbox does not offer any sort of collaboration support like Google Docs.

Price:
Dropbox's free account offers 2 GB of space. They also offer two paid plans, 50 GB for $9.99 and 100 GB for $19.99 a month.

Site: Dropbox Top

Google Docs


Google Docs allows you to create and share spreadsheets, documents, and presentations online. Users can easily upload existing MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents for viewing or collaboration with other users. Google Docs allows you to determine which users can only view the documents and which can actually edit them. Edits are made in real-time and tracked by Google Docs for future reference. Files created or edited within Google Docs can be shared online as well as downloaded back to your computer in native MS formats.

Pros:
Google Docs has a strong user management area that will allow you to share specific documents or folders to specific users. Collaborators can view and edit the files, while a viewer can just look at the file. 

Cons:
Some formatting may be lost when uploading files. Users need a Google account to join.

Price:
Free

Site: Google Docs Top

Zoho


The Zoho Office Suite is an online office suite produced by a division of AdventNet Inc. It includes tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, note-taking, wikis, CRM, project management, invoicing and other applications. Like the better-known Google Docs, Zoho applications are web-based and therefore operating system independent.

The applications can be used either to create content or to manipulate files created with other suites, including Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org, and other systems. The programs in the suite can be used individually, but offer integration benefits when used together. Files can be saved on Zoho's servers as well as those of several integration partners, including box.net, to support synchronization back to a local PC.

Pros:
Besides the office suite and a place to store documents, Zoho offers a variety of integrated solutions. Each product has a free package you can use to test it out and then later upgrade if you need to expand. Users may also use their Google account to login which eliminates the need of having to sign-up for another account. Zoho has been around since the late 1990's, so they appear to have staying power. Zoho Docs can be used offline with the help of Google Gears.

Cons:
Not as well-known as Google Docs; will have to steer people to use the service.

Price:
Free, but you can upgrade to a paid, professional account that offers extra storage space and SSL security. For most camps, the free service will likely be sufficient.

Site: Zoho Top

Board Calendar


If a Board is not using an integrated Board Management Portal, it may still have a need for a central, online calendar to post all Board events and meetings. Google Calendar offers this basic functionality.

Google Calendar


Google Calendar offers access to basic Calendar functionality online. Users can create events and invite anyone via their e-mail address. User permissions can be set per person and can allow multiple users to create, edit, and delete events on the Calendar. Users can set up pop-up, e-mail, or even text message reminders. Google Calendar can also be synced with other popular software/devices such as BlackBerry, iCal, Outlook, and iPhones. There are even applications that allow for some integration with Facebook.

Pros:
Google Calendar offers a clean, easy to use interface. Adding an event takes seconds and sharing it with others is extremely easy.

Cons:
Google Calendar is not integrated with the other Google applications or other Board Management Portal functionality.

Price:
Free

Site: Google Calendar Top

Meeting Scheduling


There are many tools available online to make the process of scheduling meetings with a large number of people as efficient as possible. Rather than sending multiple emails back and forth among all Board Members to find a time that everyone is available, these Meeting Scheduling tools streamline this process.

Doodle


Doodle is a free online tool that offers simple polling functionality as well as MeetingWizard-like event scheduling functionality. The Polling tool is very basic; administrators can simply create a poll and then send a link to that online poll via email to anyone who should respond.

The event scheduling functionality is more robust. It allows a meeting organizer to propose possible dates, times, and locations for a meeting. The event scheduling questions can be easily embedded in a website or blog. Participants can select the times, dates, and locations that work in their schedules and can also add comments. The organizer doesn't even require a Doodle Account to schedule a meeting. However, a free account is required to track all historical meetings and poll responses.

Using Doodle limits the usual back and forth of emails/phone calls required to find a meeting time that works for everyone.

Pros:
Free. Relatively easy to use, although the interface is a bit cumbersome. Meeting location can be incorporated into the request. The request can be embedded in a website or blog. No sign-up is required for either the organizer or the participants.

Cons:
Administrative interface is a bit cumbersome; there could be an easier way to report on each participant's responses. Participants can delete or edit other participants' responses (because users aren't authenticated in any way - they simple write in their name when responding).

Price:
Free

Site: Doodle Top

Conference Calls


The following tools allow you to manage free numbers for audi0-only conference calls. For each of these tools, long distance rates apply for each participant.

FreeConferenceCall.com


Freeconferencecall.com is simple and easy to use, requiring only a name and an e-mail address to create an instant account. Once you enter your name and e-mail address, you are immediately provided with a dial-in number and access code for immediate phone conferencing.

Your teleconferencing line is available to you 24/7 and there is no need to schedule or make reservations. Each conference call account accommodates 96 callers on an unlimited number of 6 hour free conference calls.

Pros:
Free to set up. Offers a dedicated phone number and access code so that participants become accustomed to using the same number for all calls. Offers other options and services available for free (or minimal fee).

Cons:
Callers will incur long distance charges.

Price:
Free to set up. Each caller incurs long-distance charges. However there are service add-ons that are provided with a fee.

Site: FreeConferenceCall.com Top

Video Conferencing


For Boards with geographically dispersed members, it can be difficult to gather everyone together in person. Video conferencing adds an element of personalization to a meeting, allowing participants to see each other and gather visual cues from body language that simply aren't possible with a traditional audio conference call. Research shows that video conferencing - when facilitated well - keeps participants more engaged.

Note: There are some unknown security risks with video and web conferencing tools that all users should be aware of. These tools, especially free "peer-to-peer" solutions like Skype, ooVoo, and SightSpeed, inherently offer some data and network risks. Although there are very few documented security breaches due to the use of these tools, the way that they work make network managers nervous. Please keep this in mind when using or considering any of these tools.
 

ooVoo


ooVoo is a video conferencing tool that is set up similar to a traditional instant messaging (IM) client. It includes a buddy list to track contacts, including whether or not they are currently online. ooVoo adds video conferencing functionality.

With its free option, ooVoo offers 2-way live video conference with anyone around the world. A paid option allows up to 6 video participants. Note that only the organizer must be a paid subscriber to initiate a call with up to 6 total video participants and another 6 using only audio (telephone or their computer speakers/microphone); all other participants can use the free version.

Pros:
ooVoo supports instant messaging and placing phone calls in addition to video conferencing. Modern interface.

Cons:
Without a broadband internet connection, video quality will suffer. In the free edition, there are ads in the chat windows and buddy list.

Price:
ooVoo is free when used with 1 other peson. To video conference with up to 6 total participants, one user must pay for the Business Plan ($39.95/month).

Site: ooVoo Top

Skype


Skype is the most popular Voice over IP (VoIP) and video conferencing software available. In addition to one-on-one video conferencing, Skype also offers VoIP functionality, which allows users to connect to anyone across the globe for a reasonable price.

Pros:
Skype offers very cheap international calling to people without Skype. Skype to Skype calls are free. Many people are already familiar with Skype.

Cons:
No multiparty video conferencing available via basic Skype. However, Skype for Business does allow multiparty video conferencing.

Price:
Skype is free to use for text-based chat and one-on-one video conferencing.

Site: Skype Top

Web Conferencing


Web Conferencing tools allow users to present material to a group via the internet. For example, an organizer can demo some functionality online to a group of participants in a training session. An organizer can alternatively hold a meeting online, discussing a document or spreadsheet as the organizer updates it real-time; all participants can see the changes being made on their screen.

There are many Web Conferencing tools available today that offer various functionality for widely different prices. The most popular tools on the market include WebEx and Adobe Connect Pro. These tools are priced much higher than GoToMeeting and are not reviewed here.

There are also free or very low cost options on the market that are less mature and have had complaints of system downtime or delays. DimDim and Yugma are two products in this segment of the market.

Note: JCamp 180 uses GoToMeeting for both its Webinars and for smaller collaborative meetings.


FreeScreenSharing.com


FreeScreenSharing.com is the latest company to offer free screensharing for anyone who would like to host their own webinar or online meeting.

Pros:
No download required (all online). Up to 96 participants. Absolutely free.

Cons:
Audio streaming is currently not supported. Screensharing doesn't appear to be as fluid as GoToMeeting.

Price:
Free.

Site: FreeScreenSharing.com Top

GoToMeeting


GoToMeeting is a Web conferencing tool that allows you to meet online rather than in a conference room. It offers a relatively simple way to organize and attend online meetings. Users can view any application running on the organizer's computer in real time. The organizer can also give control of the tool to any participant so that they can show work on their computer to the rest of the participants.

GoToMeeting offers registration functionality, as well as automated email reminders/notifications. Surveys can be created that are automatically sent to those who register and/or attend a meeting.

Audio is integrated with the service. GoToMeeting allows users to choose to call in to a dedicated phone number (long-distance charges apply) or use their computer's speakers and microphone to participate.

Pros:
Comparably inexpensive option in the more mature web conferencing market. Allows integrated audio via phone or computer. Sessions can be recorded for future reference. Offers both scheduled meetings/webinars as well as impromptu meeting scheduling. Offers integrated registration functionality.

Cons:
More expensive than other simple desktop sharing tools like DimDim and Yugma (audio integration, recording functionality, and registration functionality make the tool more expensive). Users pay long distance charges if call in by phone. GoToMeeting has no whiteboarding, videoconferencing, or file transfer functionality.

Price:
$49 a month for unlimited GoToMeeting online meetings for up to 15 attendees. GoToWebinar, which allows organizers to present to up to 1,000 participants and includes more advanced registration functionality, pricing starts at $99/month.

Site: GoToMeeting Top

Yugma


Yugma is a free or low-cost web conferencing tool. The free version allows up to 20 people to view another person's desktop, includes integrated chat functionality, and Skype integration (Skype users can join or host a meeting in Yugma with their Skype ID). The free version includes advertisements that are relatively unobtrusive. Yugma offers free teleconferencing as well (long-distance charges apply), but only Yugma Pro accounts (paid accounts) offer meeting recording and storage functionality. The Pro accounts also include annotation and whiteboard functionality (all users can annotate a document or whiteboard simultaneously), the ability to make another user the Presenter, and meeting scheduling functionality. An optional Yugma Webinar module offers meeting registration tools and reports.

Pros:
Free option offers GoToMeeting-like functionality at no cost for up to 20 attendees. Chat and Skype integration. Yugma Pro 20 (for up to 20 attendees) is still cheaper than GoToMeeting and offers similar functionality. Nice whiteboarding/annotation functionality included in Yugma Pro accounts.

Cons:
Free account has limited collaboration tools and no phone or email support, as well as embedded advertisements. For more than 20 attendees, little price advantage over GoToMeeting. Some users complain of slow running time with desktop sharing. No videoconferencing or file transfer functionality.

Price:
The basic Yugma account is free. Yugma Pro accounts are priced at $14.95/month for up to 20 attendees; $44.95/month for up to 50 attendees. Yugma Webinar (only available if using a Pro Account) is an additional $19.95/month.

Site: Yugma