At ConnectAd about 90% of our company meetings happen online, and we use a number of tools to run an effective virtual office. These tools can and should also be used to great advantage by charities. Why? By improving your virtual capabilities, employees and volunteers are no longer dependent on working from the office. This saves time commuting to the office, reduces travel costs and helps the environment, lowers stress by providing flexibility, and may allow charities to downsize their office space to cut overhead expenses so more dollars can now go towards the cause.
 
However, a virtual office for charities only works if it can be done effectively. Communicating through phone or email doesn’t always do the job because those channels lack the interactivity you get from in-person collaboration sessions and meetings. That’s why today I’ll be focusing on one tool, Skype, and providing three tips on how to use it.
 
Skype, a software program that allows free voice calls, video calls, and instant messaging between users via the Internet, can greatly enhance the virtual capabilities of a charity:
 
Instant Messaging while Voice Calling: The often overlooked ability to instant message while on a voice call is very useful. In many of my own meetings, I have to reference certain resources, and being able to instantly send website links or files while chatting makes it convenient and doesn’t interrupt the flow of the conversation. In contrast, imagine having to send someone a link or document in mid-phone conversation; you send an email, wait for them to hop on the computer, check it out and then get back to you. Another benefit of IM is that your messages are saved so you can jot down notes during meetings and be able to refer to them later.
 
Screen Sharing: This is probably my favourite feature; screen sharing lets users show others a specific region or full area of their desktop. This makes it simple to collaborate as you can share your work-in-progress with one another while discussing details and improvements. Think about the times you’ve tried to do this over the phone struggling to get on the same page.
 
Conference Calling: This feature allows you to invite three or more people into a call without having to invest into expensive and complicated software or telephone services. This way larger update meetings can be held over the Web with the whole team. Perfect for when it comes time to present the big solution or idea that was previously generated on a one-to-one Skype call or instant messaging session.
 
Now, we’re not partners with Skype or anything like that, but it’s a fantastic tool that can certainly be beneficial to charities. While you’ll always need some kind of physical location, the virtual office or “virtual charity” just may be the path to higher productivity and lower costs.

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