Back in 2007 Mashable put together a post where they listed 60+ collaborative tools for groups. That’s a lot of different tools to help your “group” get organized and collaborate. Notice how I said “group” and not “groups”. That post was almost three years ago and today there are plenty of online solutions where “a group” can go online to have discussions, share files and photos, and sync up on events. But for organizations with lots of groups, all these options don’t necessarily mean that you have a better chance of your teams getting organized. What it might mean, instead, is just the opposite of what you need. All these software choices might mean that you have disparate groups all using a different tool AND that you are not effectively managing those interactions. This is where group management software comes to the rescue.
Here are 5 areas where group management software differs from typical private group and online community software.
Groups Index Page
For the majority of online group collaboration tools the concept is to have a place for that one group or community to get organized. Usually the concept is to create an “online” space for the members to get organized and while there might be a place to create “sub-groups”, they often contain a “sub-set” of the features too. In comparison, a group management tool will have a dedicated page, tab or screen to actually view and even edit multiple groups at the same time. And each online hub is it’s own private place for the members of that group to communicate. The model is quite obvious if you you think about the organizations that you’re affiliated with. Churches have multiple ministries, not “sub-groups”. Nonprofits have multiple committee’s. Group management means you have a tool that focuses on lots of groups and a place where you can see all of them at once.
Easily Move People Around Groups
What are some things that happen when you have a lot of groups? A very common need is to move people around between teams, committees and ministries. Leaders of member driven organizations are constantly looking for ways to empower their members to get organized and contribute. Providing private online “spaces” for those committees, teams or ministries is the answer and the easier it is to place people into those online groups then the easier it is for them to get plugged in. Got a new volunteer? Place ’em in existing online group and their instantly connected. Speak with another volunteer who’d rather serve somewhere else? No problem, effective group management software should let you easily remove that person from one group and place them in another.
Ability to Track Group Involvement on People
Hopefully it goes without saying that group management software lets people be affiliated with multiple groups. The most active people in your organization are likely a part of 2 to 3 groups. And of course there are also a lot of other “volunteers” and members that aren’t plugged in at all. Another responsibility for group management software is to help administrators get an idea of where people are currently plugged in and where to plug new volunteers in. “What is Charles helping with this fall?” Find his record and see what groups he’s in!
Aggregate Data Across Groups
As an administrator, you can see what Charles is involved with, but what about Charles, what does he see? Well if he’s part of the 20% that does 80% of the work at your church, school or nonprofit then he’s likely serving in multiple capacities. Group management software needs to give Charles a place to login and see a combined calendar of events across all his groups. He needs an activity feed that shows him important file uploads, comments and announcements from across all the groups. Every person that’s part of your organization should have an online dashboard that aggregates all the activity across all the groups that they’re contributing to.
Communicate to Select Groups
Lastly, a group management tool should make it easy for an organization to communicate with a select set of groups. For example, let’s say a school needs to cancel a field trip for all the Kindergarten classes. You should be able to send an announcement to only those parents and teachers that have kids in a kindergarten class. In other words, this shouldn’t have to be a message that hits the entire organization…just the classrooms that it effects.
So those are 5 key aspects of a group management tool. Does your organization need one? Can you think of other features that a piece of software should contain if its purpose is to help manage lots of online groups? Please leave a comment!