Being productive and making the most of your time is something everyone craves – I know I do. This is certainly the case for nonprofits, many of which are strapped for resources, budgets and time.
Meetings make up a big part of how nonprofits run their day-to-day operations, seek out and engage with donors, organize fundraising campaigns and events and much more. But according to the Nonprofit Priorities Benchmark Report, 7.5 percent of the surveyed nonprofits see issues with manual, paper-based processes and outdated software as one of their top challenges. What does that have to do with time management, you ask? A lot.
With so little time to spare amidst a sea of responsibilities and tasks to perform, relying on manual processes can make things more complicated than they need to be. And it could mean important donor meetings are delayed, decisions are bottle-necked and fundraising comes to a screeching halt. Those are all undesirable outcomes for nonprofits.
That’s why we’re proud to work with nonprofits like the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition in Ohio. A volunteer-based community group, the Coalition consists of 37 members from 19 different local organizations. Its volunteers include suicide-loss survivors as well as professionals from the health, education, public, nonprofit, and law enforcement sectors.
The Coalition aims to prevent suicide through education and awareness in the community. This can be for parents, teachers, professionals in the community and mental health providers.
I caught up with Michelle Vargas, Director of the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition, to find out how Doodle has been helping to automate manual processes and how it’s impacting their mission to prevent suicide.
How many people are using Doodle?
We have five Coalition members who are using Doodle to manage scheduling needs. They include our leadership members who coordinate our two leadership committees and three Action Teams and their monthly meetings. Most groups have over ten people so, as you can imagine, it can be difficult to plan meetings.
Everyone, except for me, is a volunteer so being able to use Doodle to coordinate our monthly meetings not only saves time but also means we’re more likely to get responses from people who may be doing other things – such as working or looking after family.
I remember the days before I started using Doodle. I would create a list of available meeting days and times and share that with multiple people over email. Then we’d go back and forth to find a time that works for everyone. By the time most people had agreed on one meeting time, somebody else would say, ‘that doesn’t suit me anymore’.
How important is time management in your day-to-day role?
We have a Data and Research Action Team who work with lots of different services to really look at creating comprehensive reports. We then share that with partners so they can identify, for example, the highest risk populations in Franklin County.
We also have an Outreach and Education Action Team that coordinates our speakers so we can increase the number of people in Franklin County who are equipped to recognize the signs of suicide and how to connect someone with support.
Our Communications Action Team looks to share informational material though video and the likes to inform people about signs that someone might be contemplating suicide.
So by using Doodle, the members of each of our Action Teams end up saving hundreds of hours a year and can refocus that time on working on the projects that make a difference , as opposed to getting stuck in email ping pong and waiting for days for people to agree on a meeting time.
Why are you such a believer in the power of Doodle?
I like it because now that it integrates with Microsoft Outlook, it’s so much easier to go into Doodle and say, ‘here’s my calendar, here’s when I’m free’.
Since we started using Doodle to coordinate all of our nonprofit meetings, I can’t tell you how much that has improved things. Generally speaking, when you’re reaching out to ten or more people, it’s likely someone isn’t going to respond. This happens for a few reasons. People get busy. Sometimes they just forget because they’re more focused on bigger priorities and work. Or they just haven’t seen the email amidst the clutter of their inbox. But that can be problematic for us and other nonprofits since every meeting is tied to a decision that needs to be made, an initiative that needs to be launched or communications materials we need to develop to spread the word about suicide prevention.
That’s why Doodle’s ability to set deadlines and send reminders is so helpful to us. First off, we can set a hard deadline for when everyone has to vote on their availability. That puts the accountability on everyone and not just on the organizer to get the meeting booked. On top of that, we can also track who has responded and not responded to meeting invitations – and then nudge them with a customized note. It works quite well. It also means important meetings won’t get delayed and we can move forward quickly with decisions and initiatives that impact our community.
Add on top of that the fact the Coalition is volunteer-based. It means no one is required to be at any meetings the way you would be if you were in a full-time job. So being able to schedule meetings effortlessly and quickly means we can maximize the limited time of our volunteers for the greater good.
Are there any examples of how Doodle has helped you and the team?
There are actually quite a few. I’m scheduling weekly meetings with lots of different partners, interest groups and teams within the Coalition. There can easily be ten people or more in each of these meetings – something that would take ages to organize if I didn’t use Doodle.
I can then use that time on other tasks. On things that really help our community, such as evidence-based suicide prevention training or conference planning.
Also having a centralised system for when new volunteers join the Coalition helps. They often ask, ‘how do we go about scheduling meetings?’ All I have to say is, ‘use Doodle’.
Our Action Team Chairs are able to focus on the substance of their meetings rather than worrying about how they’re going to schedule them.
That helps us to achieve our goals because every meeting we have is actually really productive. Everyone has had time to prepare what material they need thanks to the time they’ve saved by using Doodle.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering using an online scheduling tool?
I have found it to be the simplest and fastest way to schedule meetings. I also think you can’t underestimate how popular and well recognized it is. When people receive a Doodle link, they typically know what it is and just respond. I don’t get people asking me, ‘what is this and how do I use it?’
When you add together all the things that Doodle can do for you, the time you save is actually really noticeable. I’ve had jobs in the past where I spent significantly more time on arranging meetings and catch ups.
In an organization like ours, where taxes are paying for our time, every minute you can save on tasks like scheduling, gives you more time to spend on meaningful projects for the community. That’s where you can make a difference.
To learn more about how Doodle helps nonprofits take care of all of their scheduling needs, visit our Nonprofit Solutions Page.