Spreadsheets are a necessary evil. Most of us groan at the thought of using them, yet we can't picture getting by without them. Spreadsheets feel indispensable when it comes to recording information. But they're far from the best way to manage nonprofit projects.
That's why an increasing number of nonprofits are investing in cloud-based software. Research from Software Advice found that software buyers who work at nonprofits are getting more savvy about what they want. This 2015 report found that 27 percent of software buyers said they needed a tool with more functionality, while 42 percent wanted built-in email marketing and outreach tools.
This research referenced buyers at nonprofits who were shopping for fundraising and donor management software. But before you can run a stellar donor campaign, your nonprofit must master the art of project management.
You don't need a fancy certification to be a nonprofit project manager. Choosing the right project management tool for your team can help you get the job done. In this article, we'll share five free project management apps for nonprofits.
We know that nonprofit budgets can be small. That's why we've showcased project management apps that provide free plans. But every app on this list has additional paid plans that you can consider as your nonprofit grows. Each app also has a 4-star user rating or higher on GetApp. So, your nonprofit projects are in good hands regardless of which app you'll choose.
Best for: Nonprofit teams with under 15 members.
You won't see many lists of project management apps that exclude Asana. It frequently tops GetApp's Category Leaders ranking of project management apps. Founded by Facebook Co-Founder Dustin Mozkovitz, Asana helps teams create projects and manage tasks per project - without having those tasks get lost in email.
If you're a nonprofit director, you can use Asana to set tasks and priorities for the whole team. You can also create several workspaces within Asana to organize projects and tasks by team. Each team member can give and leave feedback, track real-time changes, upload attachments, and set due dates. Asana gets high marks from GetApp readers for a clean interface that helps users get to work quickly. And its flexible workflows mean that team leads can use Asana to manage diverse nonprofit projects, from editorial calendars to email fundraising campaigns.
"I researched over 25 programs before settling on Asana for Well+Good," says GetApp Reviewer Christina Roberts. "There is no system that integrates editorial, creative, and campaign [workflows], but Asana comes the closest. I used Asana previously at [my] prior company for engineering ticket management only, but with added features/functionality, Asana now works really well for editorial program and campaign management templates."
"I like the quick development cycles of the company that built Asana," GetApp Reviewer Ben Beck explains. "They work hard and fast at rolling out improvements and they do an excellent job of communicating those improvements so that users can start using them."
Asana's Basic plan is free. Users get unlimited tasks, projects, and conversations for up to 15 team members. Premium plans start at $9.99 per month with no team member limit, advanced search and reporting, task dependencies, and more.
Best for: Nonprofits with five team members or less who collaborate with clients and manage volunteers.
Feedback delivery doesn't top most people's lists of much-loved tasks - especially if it's for a client. Podio makes that process less painful via real-time, in-app collaboration.
Your team and clients can view status updates, make comments, and create customer reports that keep everyone up to date. You can view just the work that you own or your team's overall progress towards a project deadline.
Podio is also ideal for nonprofit teams that frequently share files. The app's file-sharing feature works across every area of the app. Podio also integrates with apps including Google Drive, Zendesk, and FreshBooks. And while teams on paid plans pay for each employee, "light users" (such as clients, partners, and freelancers) are free. This makes Podio ideal for small nonprofits that manage larger volunteer teams.
"At our local Red Cross we needed a simple way to keep track of volunteer info and first aid training participants," GetApp Reviewer Ricky Ducent shares. "It used to be a very manual process and being a small branch I couldn't convince admin to spring for an expensive CRM. My search landed me on the Podio website and I gave it a try…We now can't imagine life without it.
"Now that we have it set up just the way we want it, we can now easily figure out how many volunteers have been trained in not just first aid but all of the other courses we offer. We have an easy way to check the number of events each volunteer has attended over any given period. Using webforms we have a really simple way for clients to requests first aid volunteers at their events, which automatically notifies the people we've specified so following up is now much easier. It has an iPhone app so even on the go staff always have access to data as long as there is an internet connection. I could go on and on but I think I would say my favorite feature is the customizability.
"It doesn't do everything (nothing does) but even with a free account you can get so much done it's simply mind blowing. Looking forward to the improvements (which have been never ending since we signed up). I now use it at my job to keep track of staff info and again it has become an invaluable tool significantly speeding up my workflow."
Teams of up to five people with up to five external members can use Podio for free. However, we should note that free accounts can't have an overall admin; each employee under this free plan has the same permissions. An upgrade to Podio's Basic plan starts at $7.20 per month annually.
Best for: Large nonprofit teams that prefer to visualize their work.
Trello uses cards to help you organize daily tasks against ongoing projects. Cards that represent project tasks can be organized into lists and categories. Each card's front side gives you must-need info. at a glance. You can also customize the back of each card with more specific details, including comments and checklists.
Trello's a big hit with visual learners. Teams can attach content including mock-ups and sketches. Plus, it's tough to beat Trello's task and activity features: activity logging, management, monitoring, and tracking are all available. Trello can also be used for task planning, scheduling, tracking, and more. These generalist features make it ideal for nonprofits in a wide range of industries.
"I think Trello has really under estimated its value and how it can be marketed to a variety of different companies and fields," GetApp Reviewer Ashley Landavazo says. "I would be curious to see if they would eventually market to different groups.
"It takes complicated information and visually makes it easier for people to understand almost every concept. I have used Trello to onboard new employees at a tech company, to explain my vision for production design to a movie director, and to help provide socially conscious resources to those who didn't know where to find them."
"Using for a team board, we have a board for each department and cards for all issues/progress points/concerns," LeShante Horton says. "So, it really helps us to communicate on all levels and you can tag people directly so they can handle the issue at hand or present it to the team!"
Trello's standard plan is free. There's no limit on members, boards, cards, lists, checklists, or attachments. Users can also attach files up to 10MB from their computers and link any file from Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive accounts. An upgrade to Trello's Business Class plan costs $9.99 per user per month when billed annually.
Best for: Nonprofit teams with less than five people who need time and budget tracking.
Wrike is worth a look if your nonprofit team does a lot of real-time work. You can attach files, set due dates, and edit work without needing to save attachments to your computer.
More technical teams can use Gantt charts to create visual project timelines and set dependencies that can be adjusted. And Wrike's resource management view offers more transparency into team workloads - a crucial step to reallocate work and avoid burnout.
Wrike's budgeting features also make it stand out among its project management peers. Users can track how much time a colleague spends on specific projects. This helps nonprofit teams see where most of their time and money is going and redirect as needed.
"We're a small team of about 15 employees and were originally hesitant to bring on a project management software since email seemed to be working alright for our needs but after realizing things were getting lost in the shuffle, we decided to try Wrike out. I'm so glad we did," GetApp Reviewer Nicole Hayes says. "We've been using them for about three years and it's really helped us move forward in project planning and scoping…
"Currently we use Wrike to manage internal and external team hours, create project scoping timelines, uncover potential roadblocks and to get everyone on the same page about changes/updates/etc…One of my favorite features is that you can print individualized reports for a person or print out the total hours by project. I'd love for Wrike to add more color and font customization options just because it's hard to see changes sometimes in the comment boxes. I'd also like to see more customization options for the interface for individual users. Overall, I'd recommend Wrike if you're looking to grow your business efficiency."
Wrike's free plan supports teams with up to five users by offering unlimited projects and collaborators. If you choose to upgrade to one of Wrike's paid plans, it's worth noting that they have a no-refund policy. One GetApp reviewer said that this was a big financial hit for her small education nonprofit.
Best for: Nonprofit teams that work on one project.
The full suite of Zoho software tools boasts 25 million global users. To complement their popular CRM software, Zoho Projects serves project leaders who don't have PMO or PMP certifications. This makes it a strong choice for nonprofits with one ongoing project to manage.
The Zoho Online Office Suite allows users of Zoho Projects to build spreadsheets and presentations without needing to buy more software. If you are using tools like Microsoft Office or Microsoft Project, you can upload files from these tools using Zoho Projects' document management feature.
Task dependency views let you see when your colleagues need you to wrap something up. And interactive message boards help virtual project teams collaborate. This is a plus for nonprofits with employees that do field work.
"I have tried many PM software platforms, and I find that most are more complicated than I need. I have used various Zoho products for nearly a decade, and when I saw Projects, I had to give it a go," GetApp Reviewer Erin Wolfe raves. "It has all the PM features you need with a clean, straightforward interface.
"It was easy to understand and get set up, and easy to follow multiple projects through. It's flexible enough to accommodate multiple PM approaches (which is great, since different projects sometimes benefit from different styles). As with any software, there are some features that I would like to see done differently, but I suspect that's largely a matter of preference. No real complaints - it's a great system!"
"We used to use Trello and switched to Zoho Projects," Ethan Galloway adds. "It has lots more detail and allows for better process management."
Zoho Projects' free plan supports one project with up to 10 MB of storage. An upgrade to its Express plan costs $25 per month for up to 20 projects and 10 GB of storage.