Tool-up NGO-style – 20 web-based tools for daily working

My fiancee, Gemma, is a very adventurous woman. She works in countries like Afghanistan, Chad and Nepal for a development communications NGO called Equal Access.

In 2009, Equal Access opened up a new office to run radio projects in Yemen, and in November Gemma went over train the Yemeni team. Unfortunately, Gem got sick and I had to go to Yemen to bring her home. Always looking for the positives, I at least got to visit an amazing country and had a chance to see Gemma’s organisation at work.

Amidst all the excitement in setting up the new office, there were also problems, not least in the areas of IT and communications. Although there was a decent web connection, the team was very dependent on desktop software for basic office functions, organising themselves, keeping in touch with Equal Access HQ in San Francisco and with partners and funders around the world. Problem was that this software cost a lot, needed expertise to install and sync, and that is if it ever gets through customs with visitors.

It got me thinking about the web and how the tools it holds could help. Might these support everyday tasks? Could they save money? Improve communications? Perhaps encourage innovation? It seems that in some sectors knowledge of these tools is well-established, whereas in others their use is unfamiliar and the choice can be bewildering.

Out of that thinking came the list below. The inclusions do basic things, at a low cost or for free, are easy to set up and manage, and work well on low bandwidth. I’ve written it up with Equal Access in mind, but it may also be useful for other small to medium-sized NGOs thinking about how to take advantage of the web.


  • – a neat webinar tool, very handy for getting management staff round a virtual meeting room table for briefing and presentations.
  • – a proven social network tool with all the features that would let far-flung staff set up profiles, interact with one another and build up an organisational culture.
  • – a workforce scheduling and tracking tool. Updates can be sent via email and SMS.
  • – free video and voice calls, plus low-cost calls to landlines and mobiles.


  • – social bookmarking service that would allow teams to track and flag useful online resources of either general or project-specific interest.
  • – Properly simple way of uploding and sharing files.
  • – Fully featured online project team collaboration space, with unlimited users, tracking, whiteboards and discussion forums.
  • – screen-recording software that can be used to create presentations or provide instructional videos.


  • – create, edit and store standard text, spreadsheet and presentation documents. Access anywhere, download and work from desktop, and control access and edit rights.
  • – nice, neat and fully-featured online diagram software to create professional-quality flowcharts and diagrams.
  • – advanced online image and photo editing app. Comes with all the tools, including layers and screen-grabbing.
  • – makes a print-friendly version of any webpage. Also creates PDF versions of pages.


  • – very impressive tool to manage multiple social web accounts (Facebook and Twitter for example), schedule updates and track statistics.
  • – a buzz monitoring with a simple interface that allows you to search all the social web channels at once and keep abreast of who’s saying and sharing what.
  • – microblogging tool that can be used to promote corporate communications but also research the social web in realtime.
  • – site supports embedding, sharing, storage of videos and allows user-commenting on each video page. Has gained a reputation for high-quality output and provides a high bitrate, resolution, and relative HD support.


  • – a business-orientated social network with a global presence, it provides the means to maintain and make new contacts. Features include the ability to set up groups and research potential partners and funders.
  • – allows the creation of great looking surveys for the purposes of generating feedback to contribute to optimisation activities. Includes pretty decent features to analyse results.
  • – a crowdsourcing tool to attract ideas and feedback. Once published on Uservoice, ideas can be commented on, voted up or demoted. A great resource for getting partners, funders and staff together to solve problems.
  • – by far the best software available for creating, managing and promoting corporate, project or staff profile blogs

Anything to add?

2 thoughts on “Tool-up NGO-style – 20 web-based tools for daily working

  1. Hi Ross – found this a great intro to all the tools out there to help in our work. One Q: you say WordPress is THE blogging software but I have read in various blogs that it has been overtaken by much more tech sophisticated templates. what are your thoughts on this?

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