Our 10 Favorite Productivity Tools : Successful Nonprofits

Our 10 Favorite Productivity Tools

by Ro

Our 10 Favorite Productivity Tools

by Ro

by Ro



here are a lot of tools out there that claim to help with productivity and efficiency.

There’re so many that it is downright intimidating. So here are a few that we personally use and have come to love:

Our Favorite Scheduling Tool: Calendly 

Pros: Calendly is the ultimate scheduling tool. Discovering it has simplified our lives and saved us hours each month (literally, hours) since we switched over. Not only can you schedule meetings, but you can set up automatic reminder emails and design surveys to collect information from meeting participants. We also love that a calendar invite is automatically sent to us and meeting participants the moment a new meeting is scheduled. 

Cons: It took us a little bit to initially figure out how to navigate Calendly and set up our meetings. But now that we’ve figured it out, we save oodles and oodles of time.

Cost: Calendly offers a free basic service as well as paid plans that provide additional features and customization options.

Our Second Favorite Scheduling Tool: FindTime 

Pros: FindTime is a Microsoft Outlook add-in that works inside your Outlook email and calendar program. With FindTime, you can suggest multiple days and times for a meeting. FindTime then holds each time on your calendar until the other meeting participant selects the best time for them, minimizing all the back-and-forth emails. Like Calendly, it auto-generates a calendar invitation for everyone. 

Cons: It’s clumsy when scheduling across time zones. Since we have clients all over the United States (and even one with staff and board members in Europe and the Middle East), this only works well for our East Coast clients and colleagues. 

Cost: Free

Our Favorite Social Media Scheduler: Buffer Publishing 

Pros: About to go on vacation but have a bunch of social media posts that need to go out while you’re gone? Look no further than Buffer. Buffer lets you draft and schedule your social media posts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Shopify. We love getting ready to take a two-week vacation knowing that all our social media is set and ready to go. And when you’re ready to take it to the next level, Buffer also offers analytic and engagement services.

Cons: You can only schedule posts for business accounts on Facebook (no personal pages). Buffer also does not allow you to tag individuals on LinkedIn and there are some restrictions on who you can tag on Facebook – you have to do all that manually. And occasionally a social media account gets disconnected for mysterious reasons. We do appreciate that Buffer promptly sends a notification email when this happens so we can fix the issue immediately (unless we’re on said two-week vacation).

Cost: Buffer offers a free basic service as well as paid plans that allow for more social media channels, posts, and users. 

Our Favorite Phone Service: Line2 

Pros: If you’ve spent any time with us the last few months then you know we value time away from work. Line2 lets each staff member have a work line on a personal cell phone so there are fewer devices to manage. And it also lets you disable notifications so that staff are not disturbed when they aren’t working. Additionally, if you get multiple lines at once, you can have them start with the same three digits — just like a “regular” phone system. 

Cons: Line2 runs through WiFi, so sometimes the sound quality leaves a bit to be desired.

Cost: Plans start at $14.99/month and go up from there.

Our Favorite Electronic Signature App: eSign Genie 

Pros: Asking someone to sign and return a document can be a pain (for them and for you), and eSign Genie enables legally-binding, electronic signatures for a fraction of the price of their competitor, DocuSign. Whether you need an MOU signed or need all your board members to sign a unanimous written consent, this app allows you to easily upload the document, insert signature and date fields, and send the link to all signers. The app also manages follow-up reminders, sending frequent reminders to that board member who never signs and returns a document without 5 follow-up emails!

Cons: Uploading scans using cellphone data can eat up a monthly data allotment, but you can tell it to upload or send scans only when connected to WiFi.  

Price: Prices range from “pay as you go” at $2 per document to $20 per month. Successful Nonprofits® uses the $96 per year plan and it meets our needs.

Our Favorite Time Tracking and Timesheet Software: Hive Desk 

Pros: Hive Desk provides so much that it would almost be easier to tell you what it doesn’t do. In short, you can track the time spent on each project, create time sheets, and track user activity. We’ve also used it to review how we spend the minutes and hours of our work weeks so that we can readjust our work to focus on mission-critical activities. 

Cons: We haven’t encountered much that is wrong with Hive Desk. We love it so much and have found it so useful that we’re planning a future blog post on the benefits of using a time tracking software.

Cost: Plans start at $25/month and go up depending on how many staff you have. 

Our Favorite Password Manager: jk – we can’t tell you that! 

Pros: Passwords are everything in this age of internet. They stand between your data and everyone else. And, boy, is it a pain when you lose one (or all of them – like the day my 2-year-old hid our household’s master password notebook). Que the password manager. They help you make unbreakable, one-of-a-kind passwords for each of your accounts and then keep track of them for you so you don’t lose them. Password managers can also help you safely share passwords with co-workers. And some managers offer other services like password generators or two-factor authenticators so you can super-size your data security. 

Cons: There are some inherent risks to using a password manager, so it’s essential that you pick the right one for you and your nonprofit. This article shares some things you should consider before choosing a password manager while this article gives a few recommendations. 

Cost: Varies

Our Favorite Editor: Hemingway Editor 

Pros: We can all be too verbose and orotund at times, engendering convoluted and vexatious compositions. Hemingway Editor checks your writing for adverbs, passive voice, and hard-to-read sentences. It also rates the readability of your writing so you can make sure that it is accessible to you audience.

Cons: This helps improve the quality of your communications, so it does add an additional step. Lexie is the first to admit she doesn’t always use it when she should – sometimes there’s just not enough time.

Price: Free

Our Favorite Desktop Scanning App: PDFScanner 

Pros: This scanner app is a life-changer! Seriously! PDFScanner not only scans documents like your scanner or phone, but it can also rotate and crop your document with one click. And the best part? It also converts your document, printed or handwritten, into searchable text! Imagine scanning a 50-page document and then being able to search it for a keyword or phrase – like “auto-renewal!” You may be doubting how well this works, but Dolph has indeed scanned handwritten notes from meetings and the app accurately scanned the majority of the document!

Cons: It took a minute to set this up, but it’s been seamless and frictionless since. 

Price: $17.99 to purchase the app with no subscription fees 

Our Favorite Android and iPhone Scanning App: Genius Scan 

Pros: For those of you who travel for work, this app turns your phone into a powerful mobile scanner to track your documents and turn them into PDFs. We’ve used this for receipts, hand-written notes, and even entire whiteboards! The best part: Genius Scan integrates with all email providers, online file storage providers, and your text message app. 

Cons: Uploading scans using cellphone data can eat up a monthly data allotment, but you can tell it to upload or send scans only when connected to WiFi.  

Price: There’s a free version, but you’ll need to buy it for $7.99 if you want OCR, encryption, and integration with email and file storage accounts. 

Why We Are Writing About This

Dolph and Lexie believe that work shouldn’t feel burdensome, and we’ve found that a small investment in technology can save us time, eliminate frustrating busy-work, and actually improve the quality of our work. You’ll see this in almost everything we do from Nonprofit Strategic Planning to Executive Director Coaching to Interim Chief Executive Engagements.

Additionally, check out the following Successful Nonprofits® resources if this post was helpful:

Blog: Take Control of Your Schedule

Blog: 14 Email Acronyms You Need to Know ASAP

Podcast: The Dangers of Efficiency with Roger Martin 

Podcast: Are You Protecting Your Data? With Spencer Pollock 

Feel free to share your thoughts!

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