As executive director of a lean nonprofit with headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina and operations in La Limonada, a slum community in Guatemala City, I’m always on the lookout for ways to save us both time and money. Not only do donors rightly expect us to maximize efficiency while minimizing overhead, our mission as an organization depends on it.
Maximizing Efficiency with the Cloud
Online tools are essential for us as we provide administrative and fundraising support for grassroots community development efforts in Central America’s largest urban slum. For example, we use Google Drive to share and collaboratively edit content for our website, and Google Calendar to manage availability for short-term groups. As a team we use HipChat to communicate with each other throughout the day, and Asana to keep track of tasks and deadlines. And now, for our online forms, we use Formstack.
Unlike the previous tools we tried for online forms that were both cumbersome and insufficiently customizable, Formstack has enabled us to do more than ever before. For short-term group applications and liability release forms, it was always a challenge to get interested people to mail or scan and email them back to us. Now that these forms are available to complete in moments online, we’ve seen a dramatic increase of submissions on time.
Internally, we primarily access form submissions of different kinds through email notifications that are sent to specifically designated team members, which has saved us time and money.
Connecting Sponsors and Children through Formstack
But the innovation that excites me the most is the way Formstack has helped us increase the level of communication between supporters in the United States and members of the community we serve in Guatemala. We can now provide a way for sponsors of children—who may be unlikely to write a letter by hand—to send a message electronically, which our sponsorship team then translates, prints, and hand-delivers to the child.
Moving into 2014, we have plans in place to allow for increased engagement with sponsored children and teachers, and are even exploring ways to share photos and videos with stakeholders in both places.
For an organization like ours, there is no substitute for a dedicated team committed to working together to break the cycle of poverty and injustice, whether on the ground in La Limonada or in support roles in the United States. But tools like Formstack have become essential for getting the job done.
Bill Cummings is Executive Director of Lemonade International, a non-profit community development organization working in partnership with local Guatemalan leaders and in solidarity with the people of the La Limonada community of Guatemala City – Central America’s largest urban slum. Bill and his wife, Cherie, co-founded Lemonade International in 2008, along with some friends, after establishing relationships with existing local leaders in La Limonada. They live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow Bill on Twitter: @billkcummings.