Online Survey Sites

Conducting online surveys can provide a range of valuable information but the most popular survey sites have limitations on their free versions, especially in the number of questions, and the number of respondents allowed. Below are three sites that offer great value on their free plan, and a reasonably priced paid plan. They are listed below along with some of the key features that nonprofits need. Overall it seemed that QuestionPro offered the best options for a completely free version.

  Number of active surveys Number of questions and responses Skip Logic depending on answers CSV download to create spreadsheet Cost to upgrade Notes
SoGoSurvey Unlimited Unlimited and 200/yr 3 per survey Yes – data   Reviews are generally positive. Provides a lot of features on the free version
Designs somewhat customizable
Only email support
SoGoSurvey Plus Unlimited Unlimited and 1500/mo yes Yes – data Plus Plan: $25/mo or free for nonprofits if you promote them
Survey Legend 3 total Unlimited 1 per survey No Reviews are generally positive.
Only email support
Free version has multiple premade designs. Paid version lets you customize your own design
Survey Legend PAID Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited yes $21/mo/nonprofit rate (for CSV export)
QuestionPro Unlimited Unlimited and 1000/survey yes yes   People generally like but backend user interface could be improved
Allows you to customize your survey design
Chat/Phone support on paid plan
QuestionPro PAID Unlimited Unlimited yes yes $97/yr through TechSoup

Online Meeting Schedulers

Scheduling meetings with people outside our organization can be a hassle. There are many tools out there, but Doodle is no longer free, so many organizations are looking for alternatives.

I’ve compiled a list of good free options below:

  • When2Meet.com – is a simple tool that lets you gather each person’s schedule range and then set a time that works for everyone. You set the initial date options and a time range, and then each person types in their name and paints in their open times. You can also use it to look generally at when people are available by day of the week. Everyone can see each other’s availability after it has been entered.
  • WhenIsGood.net – similar to When2Meet but only the organizer can see responses. It does allow for a lot more customization of times, so you can pick just certain hours each day to poll attendees about, where When2Meet just allows for a time range that is the same for each day.
  • Rallly.co – has a nice interface, and is free and open source software. However it only works for dates only, there’s no opportunity to choose a time.
  • Google Sheets – need a simple option that is more flexible? Create a Google Sheet that everyone can complete. Just be sure to change the sharing settings to anyone with the link and edit. I’ve created an example here. You’re welcome to save a copy of it and try it out. An example screenshot below shows you how it works.

Let me know if you have other suggestions or if the Google Sheets is useful!

Using Change to Your Advantage [Video]

Using Change to Your Advantage Webinar – recorded June 10, 2020

Understanding how we cope with change can make a huge difference in how we implement changes in our nonprofits and in our lives. Using William Bridges’ Transition Model, we look at the advantages to being in an uncertain time.

Watch here.

Practical Tips for Addressing Issues with Employees

It’s never easy to tell someone they are doing something wrong, and it is especially hard if you’ve put off doing it. It’s easy to hope that a minor issue will go away. But it also doesn’t help anyone to let an issue linger. Think about the effect it has on other employees who may see someone getting away with shoddy work. Or think about how much time you are wasting worrying about talking with the staff person. Not to mention that the staff person can’t correct the problem if they don’t know it is an issue.

Read morePractical Tips for Addressing Issues with Employees

Is Board Service Right For You?

Joining a nonprofit board is often represented as the ultimate way to serve an organization, but it isn’t always the best option for everyone. Here are some considerations:

Do you prefer working in teams or alone?
All good boards function as strong teams of people who get things done together. This involves plenty of meetings and robust discussion. Do you enjoy meetings or are you sick and tired of them? I have a friend who has no interest in going to any more meetings in his life. He just wants to get work done. He is a fantastic volunteer on work days at a nonprofit with me, and always willing to share insightful comments while we work. Everyone benefits in this situation.

Is your skill set something that lends itself to working alone?
Would you prefer to help organizations out by focusing on upgrading their technology, for example? You might want to volunteer to work with staff in that specific area, not by attending meetings to discuss the strategic direction of the organization.

Read moreIs Board Service Right For You?

Skills of a Successful Executive Director

Becoming a strong executive director takes a wide range of skills. No one can be strong in every single area, of course, but you do need to have the basics down in each and know where you can improve. The skills listed below are all ones you can learn with practice.

When I first became an ED, I had a variety of skills from my previous nonprofit position, but there was a lot to learn. The biggest areas of growth for me were financial management, fundraising, and HR, as I came from an organization with whole teams for those tasks. Other skills I had already. I was passionate about the cause, and cared about helping others. I had written and managed grants of all kinds. I had managed staff, and programs. Especially in those first few years, I spent my time learning the areas that I wasn’t as strong in.

Below are a few of the broader skills to consider developing if you are interested in an ED role. The good news is that they are applicable across all sectors. All my ED knowledge was quite valuable in my later roles as an interim ED in very different types of nonprofits.

Read moreSkills of a Successful Executive Director

Developing Great Board Chairs

The chair of a nonprofit board has significant power to shape the organization, but all too often, that chair is not prepared to lead. More often than we’d like to admit, the previous board chair needed to step down unexpectedly and someone without training reluctantly takes the position. In a recent study, over half the respondents reported they did nothing to prepare for their role as a board chair. The new board chair is frustrated, because they aren’t sure what to do. The executive director is frustrated, because they have an ineffective board chair. The rest of the board members start pulling back and don’t want to attend meetings. None of this helps the organization grow.

It’s unfortunate, since a great board chair has a real opportunity to make a positive difference for the organization. They can inspire their fellow board members to do their best and support the executive director tremendously. Board chairs need to have a wide range of skills, especially in working with others. They also need to have the time to focus on the board and the organization. The process to choose the next board chair should be deliberate, but it is too often made in a time of panic as the previous chair leaves.

Read moreDeveloping Great Board Chairs

Creating a Leadership Development Plan

Good succession planning is about more than choosing a successor to the executive director. It needs to encompass planning for all leadership roles to strengthen the organization for the long term. A key component is leadership development planning, which provides a structured method to build leadership capacity.

As a young program manager at a social service agency, I was lucky to have many supervisors who were great mentors. They encouraged me and stretched my skills. They expected me to learn how to budget for my program, ask hard questions, supervise and mentor staff, communicate clearly, and develop partnerships in the community. They supported me in learning these skills by stretching my thinking and giving me opportunities to take on higher level tasks. When I left that role to become an ED of a nonprofit, those leadership skills helped me tremendously, although I still had plenty to learn.

Read moreCreating a Leadership Development Plan

Crafting an Operating Manual for Your Organization

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

As your organization grows, you will develop the best ways to carry out certain tasks. Sometimes these are best practices in a nonprofit, other times they are simply the way your bookkeeper or funder wants you to do things. The more of these procedures you develop, the more important it is to document them.

In addition, as your organization grows, more staff will be taking care of different duties, and no one person will know how to do everything. It’s important for everyone to document their work.

This documentation has a wide range of uses. First, if you take a vacation, it makes it much easier for others to cover for you. Imagine how much easier it would be to prepare to leave for a two week trip if you have all your day-to-day tasks already documented. Second, if you do leave your position, it will be much easier to hand things off, and know that the organization will be in good hands moving forward. Third, documenting this information will allow you to see where you can delegate tasks. If you can train someone on a task now, why not have them take it on permanently? Finally, having this documentation will help you be more efficient. In creating the manual, you’ll be able to think through your regular tasks and find ways to do your job more efficiently and effectively. You’ll also have all the information you need documented in one place. For example, you’ll have instructions on how to fill out that complicated form you have to fill out only once a year.

Read moreCrafting an Operating Manual for Your Organization