We are now living in the digital age! Electronic record keeping is being heavily pushed in professions like medicine because it makes it easier for different healthcare providers to stay updated about an individual’s condition and effectively treat a single individual. Similarly, electronic record keeping should be employed in nonprofit organizations so that the entire management team is on the same page at all times. Below, I will outline how I have structured Heart to Soul in Action’s electronic records and tips on how to keep an organized virtual file system.
1. Use a cloud-based workspace that allows collaboration. Some options you may want to explore are Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive. Personally, I think Google Drive is the easiest option and the most versatile. By creating one account, you have access to a whole host of resources including Google Hangouts, which we use for face-to-face conference calls, and email service. Also, editing a document with others is extremely easy using the Google Docs feature (part of Google Drive).
2. Structuring your organization using Google Drive. The most important part of electronic record keeping is organizing files into folders. Having a long list of files in one folder reduces efficiency and important files can easily become lost. First, login to your organization’s Google Drive and create a main folder, ours is named “HSA Files.” You can now share this folder with individuals in the organization who have clearance to access every single file, including financial information. Then, within that folder create broad categories for organization files such as: Board Member Files, HSA Application Material, Financial, etc. You can then share, say, Board Member Files with all your board members and they will be able to access all the files within that folder, but not those in HSA Application Material and Financial. Then, be more specific as you go further into these broad categories. This makes it easy to find documents without having to search for them if you forgot the name of the file. A simple way to start this process is to upload all your files to Google Drive first, then make folders for similar files, and then group similar folders together until you have no more than 10 folders on your main screen. This bottom-up method is the easiest and quickest way to organize your files. I have included a sample schematic below to help you understand this process.
3. Be strict about file management! Many a time, board members will create documents and leave them on the main screen without sorting them into the proper folder. I will ask these individuals to sort the file into the correct folder themselves. Do not do it for them, because this will prevent them from learning the file system. It is understandable that sorting virtual files may be awkward for some at first, but after providing encouragement and demonstrating how to use it, they will be comfortable with the system.
4. Make sure to scan, name, and upload any paper documents for your organization to Google Drive. Giving descriptive names is very important because it will take a much longer time to find the file you need if they are named “Scan_10523,” “Scan_10527,” and “Scan_10561” versus if they were named “John Doe Thank You Letter,” “Bank Statement July 2016,” and “Grant Application.”
5. Online safety. A downside to electronic record keeping is that organization files can become compromised if the associated accounts are hacked. Be sure that everyone who has access to your electronic files takes steps to ensure the protection of their respective accounts, especially those who have access to sensitive files. Make sure they understand to log out of their accounts when using public computers, not to install programs that come from unidentified developers, change their passwords frequently, and not to use the same password for multiple accounts.
These are some basic points you can follow to organize your nonprofit’s files so that they may be accessed and searched for easily when needed. Feel free to comment on this post if you have questions or need clarification on any of the points!
I recommend checking out these resources to learn more about online collaboration:
Shiv J. Patel
Bachelor of Science in Biology, 2017
Doctor of Medicine, 2021
The most crucial component of any small organization is teamwork. Working together as a team makes sure that the vision of the organization is not lost. However, teamwork is especially important in ensuring the success of a small nonprofit organization. A lack of teamwork can lead to disorganization and dissolution of a nonprofit organization. This seems like general and obvious advice, but in reality effective teamwork can be quite tricky. Below, I have detailed three points that can help you build a better team and be a better team member.
1) Keep an open mind and be respectful to all opinions, thoughts, and ideas. A team will never succeed if its members are not open to other people’s ideas, thoughts, and ideas. One has to realize that everyone comes from a unique backgrounds, has different experiences, and has their strengths. Therefore, it is important that everyone on the team respects different ideas and takes them into account. The insight you gain from listening to others is important because it can lead to new solutions as well as a newfound understanding about a particular topic.
2) Align yourself with the organization’s vision. Make sure you are dedicated to fulfilling the mission of your organization. Straying from it severely hinders progress and development within the organization. This also applies to meetings. When you meet as a team, go over what you would like to accomplish during that meeting how you will be collectively approaching the organization’s philosophy. If at any point an individual strays from the goals for that meeting or an unnecessary tangent is entertained, the chairman or chairwoman needs to bring the main conversation back. In the case that the whole team agrees that the established vision is outdated, it is advisable for the team to regroup and draw up a new vision that they can collectively agree on. This helps improve the organization and keep it up to date.
3) Act, reflect, act, reflect... The team is a reflection of the nonprofit itself, and therefore, needs to be constantly reflecting upon itself. Arguably, reflection is the most important tool for having great teamwork. One suggestion that works particularly well for our nonprofit organization is having the team members meet once every two weeks and reflect on the strengthens of the team and the challenges of the team. In addition, we reflect on the projects we undertake and see where we could improve the next time. The point of these sessions is to focus on the team and not on individual members. This prevents people from pointing fingers when things go wrong and to get our members into the mindset that what we do is bigger than a single person. The successes we have can be attributed to the work many and these successes go on to help many people in the community. Likewise, the failures we have are taken as a team and we focus on how we can avoid the same mistakes the next time instead of putting one individual on the spot and blaming them.
4) Finally, always ask each other questions. One question we like to ask in our board meetings is, “How can we improve communication?” As a remote team we often face barriers in communicating, so we ask about the various communication channels we use and how effective they are in getting our ideas across. Other questions include: “Does our meeting place affect our productivity? Are the tasks the team has undertaken in their field of expertise? Is there some administrative steps that can be eliminated to free up more of the team’s time?”
All of the things suggested above are gateways to opening dialogue within a team. It is important for a team to think about what is best for the organization and to work together to maintain a strong team dynamic.
For more tips on how to build an effective team, I highly recommended the following resources:
M.S. Health Policy Candidate ‘17