In my past post on The Google Monster, I explained how you can utilize the powers of Gmail and Google Calendar to improve your chapter’s operations. This post will focus solely on the awesome free resources at your fingertips with the Google Documents Suite.
It wasn’t until relatively recently that I discovered just how simple, powerful and convenient Google Docs could be. Now, I use it is some form or fashion every day.
According to Wikipedia, Google Docs is “a free, Web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, form, and data storage service offered by Google. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.”
Here’s the important things to remember from that definition; free, online, and collaborating in real-time with other users. These services give you the ability to host a document online so that anyone with access can edit the document. Google Docs will save you from a constant barrage of e-mail exchanges with attachments with titles like “agenda FINAL”, “agenda FINAL UPDATE”, and “agenda THIS TIME FOR REAL”. So allow me to break down exactly how your chapter or council can use some of these services.
Documents (word processing)
Comparable to: Microsoft Word
Ideal for: Agenda’s, Headquarters Reports, Scholarship/Award Applications, Constitution/Bylaw Revisions, etc.
In a layout reminiscent to Microsoft Word, Documents allows you to upload and share any text document. The best example I’ve seen utilizing Documents is in the creation of meeting agenda’s. Instead of collecting everyone’s reports via e-mail, and compiling them yourself, simply send everyone a link to an agenda template and have them fill it out themselves.
Comparable to: Microsoft Excel
Ideal for: Rosters, Constituents Contact Lists, Recruitment Names List, Chapter Budget, Community Service Hours Tracking Sheet, T-shirt orders, etc.
In my opinion, Spreadsheets is the powerhouse of the Google Docs Suite. It is such an easy way to manage your chapters operations. Spreadsheets is great for sharing these types of documents, and using the collective power of the contributors to manage and update the information.
Comparable to: Survey Monkey, Zoomerang
Ideal for: surveys, polls, event registrations, etc.
If you already use either the free or paid versions of Survey Monkey or Zoomerang, then you’re already getting the same services as Google Forms. However, if you’re looking for a quick and simple way to get chapter feedback, Google Forms will do the job. You create the form, e-mail the link out to participants, and Google Forms will create charts and graphs to help you analyze the results.
How to Manage Privacy and Sharing
You can set any Google Doc to one of three basic privacy settings; private, public on the web, or anyone with the link. Before you go ahead and convert your entire chapters files to Google Docs, ensure that you have a full understanding of what these privacy levels mean.
The most powerful part of Google Docs is the ability to share your documents with other chapter members. The is done by allowing contributors to have access to either view, or edit the document. Giving someone the powers to edit the document allows them to update the file as they see fit, so be cautious of who you give this privilege to. Luckily, even if someone screws up royally, Google Docs allows you to see the entire revision history and restore your file to a previous version.
It Doesn’t Sound All That Great
It really is hard to understand just how cool this resource is until you’ve tried it, and shared it with others. So if you’re not using Google Docs, I’d suggest giving it a try. Start slow with something like your weekly agenda’s, or your chapter officers contact sheet. If you’re anything like me, pretty soon you’ll be relying on Google Docs for a great deal of what you do.
What do you use Google Docs for? Have a suggestion? Leave it in the comments.