August 20, 2013 by Will Ray
I’m a big fan of technology, and I love to see how developers and software programmers have leveraged the power of the web to create new ways to help people get things done. Even if I can’t use all the tools (and there’s no way anyone can), I still like to see what’s out there.
You can keep up to date with what’s out there, but you can’t effectively use every single tool that you hear or learn about. You have to build a toolbox of excellent services that fit your life and work, and leverage their power to help you be more effective.
So today here’s a look at my favorites. These are mainly utilized in youth ministry for me, but they have many varied applications.
MailChimp (referral link)
I started using MailChimp earlier this year, and I’m wondering now what took me so long. MailChimp is an excellent email marketing application that allows you to create HTML (cool-looking) email newsletters and manage subscriber lists. I use MailChimp to send parent update emails for the youth ministry and maintain a subscriber list.
It has a very powerful HTML email editor, so you can easily add columns, pictures, links, and other things instead of sending out an old plain-text email. That’s a huge benefit if you’re like me – not a designer or programmer.
The entire service is compliant with Anti-SPAM regulations, and they manage your opt-outs automatically. They can even give you code to embed a small widget on your website where people can subscribe on their own. As you might be able to see in the picture, they track how many people opened the email you sent, and how many clicked on links. It’s an extremely powerful tool if you do any kind of regular email communication with a group of people.
Note: Free accounts are required to carry a MailChimp logo with signup link in the footers of their email. You can customize this and make it as bold or unobtrusive as you like. It’s a small price to pay for the service they provide.
DropBox (referral link)
There’s a good chance you may already know about or use DropBox, but if you are holding out for some reason, why? DropBox is what it sounds like – a digital “dropbox” for your files. Put a file in your DropBox, and it becomes available on your other computer, your laptop, your iPad, and your iPhone, or anywhere you can visit DropBox.com.
You start with 2GB of storage and can increase that through becoming a paying customer or referrals. They have apps for Mac, PC, iOS and Android, so it’s integrated into your regular filesystem. You can also send large files by sharing them with other users, eliminating in some cases the need for flash drives or other media. Overall, it’s a great tool that’s easy to use and implement in your regular workflow.
Wufoo.com is an online form-builder that can gather and analyze data, or just help you with signups or event registration. You can build custom forms like you see here, post it on your site with an embed code or external link, and start getting entries in about 20 minutes.
It also allows multiple users to review reports of the responses. So if you have someone helping you with a project, they can see everything that comes in as well, if they have the link. It’s got a very easy interface, and I used it earlier this year to handle one of our Nicaragua Fundraisers.
I just started using Doodle either this month, and it’s been a helpful tool for getting people together for meetings or other events. You create the event on their website (a meeting or whatever), select time and date options, and they give you a link you can send to the people involved, so they can “vote” on the best time and date for them.
They’re not required to sign in or create an account when they respond, and you aren’t either when you build it. You also receive a link to administer the poll, add options, make changes, etc. For me, it’s much easier than a never-ending email round-and-round. Give options, people choose, and you go from there. Definitely worth a try.
Well there you go, a few of my tools. I didn’t even touch on Evernote, GroupMe, Buffer, and others, but hopefully you can find one or two of these that will be helpful for you!
Question: What digital or online “tools” do you love using?