This article was originally published in the March 2022 issue of Backcountry. Technology changes so rapidly that readers should take the article as general guidance and seek help from FMC if they have any specific questions.
The array of digital platforms for communication and collaboration is overwhelming, even for digital natives, but a handful are dominant in the certain niches that clubs require. We’ll quickly introduce free options for building a club website and for storing/collaborating using Google Drive.
My aim is to pique the interest of smaller clubs or those with less knowledge about modern computing systems; clubs which are thinking about building their own website, getting a bit more organised with digital archives or collaborating on projects.
Bigger clubs will often have the financial resources ($200-300 a year) and a computer whiz to create a self-hosted website from scratch. For smaller clubs with less expertise, there are cheaper, simpler options available, such as free ‘website builders’ online.
These come with drawbacks, such as the presence of 3rd party advertising and limitations to the functionality of the site. You can upgrade to a paid plan to remove ads and unlock extra features, but many clubs are happy with the completely free versions.
A popular free solution is www.sporty.co.nz, which is only available to New Zealand sport or recreation clubs. They have a good suite of video tutorials, a help desk in NZ, and a social conscience. Although they do have paid options, they provide more than enough free functionality for smaller clubs to run a suitable website.
Peter Lee-Johnson from the Katikati TC says it’s very easy to use: “anyone who can work with Microsoft Word or Publisher should find it a piece of cake” www.sporty.co.nz/katitracks.
The basic electronic documentation needs of clubs include collaborating on files, and storing or archiving things like club newsletters or financial records.
These days, most solutions are “cloud” based: the files exist on a remote computer (possibly overseas) and multiple people can look at or edit that single file (at the same time if they wish). There are a number of free cloud-based options: FMC has used Google for some time now.
You can sign up for a free ‘personal’ account, and use it as the club’s. (Eg, MyTownTrampingClub@gmail.com), This gives you free access to tools like Google Email (Gmail), file storage and sharing (Google Drive) and many more. This approach works best if you have a single motivated volunteer who manages that account and all the club files, rather than several people who wish to contribute equally. This free account usually has enough storage space for a club’s needs.
There are a few drawbacks however. The person in charge of MyTownTrampingClub@gmail.com, has to manage the club files proactively. Files shared with that account are still owned by the contributors, so if ‘Susan Smith’ shares a set of minutes with the club account, and later deletes it from her drive, then the club loses it. It is possible to transfer ownership to the club account, but that becomes a chore which has to be done manually for each file, and is easily overlooked. File systems like this can rapidly become messy to manage and things get misplaced or lost more easily. However, for a small club with a very simple set of storage needs and/or an active person in charge, this can do the trick.
Bigger clubs with their own domain (www.mytowntrampingclub.org.nz) who need lots of different people to contribute and collaborate on things, will prefer an upgrade to Google Workspace. This is the collective name for all the google tools intended for organisations rather than individuals. Look for it at www.google.com/nonprofits or search for “Google Workspace for nonprofits”. FMC has used this system since mid 2017.
Incorporated Societies are able to sign up for free, by providing your Certificate of Incorporation and evidence of your non-profit status, (such as an IRD income tax exemption certificate). The proof goes to www.techsoup.net.nz who verify applicants non-profit status to access cheap or free software. They will then assist you accessing the free Google Workspace account.
With Google Workspace, you can have shared drives, and set up multiple club accounts (eg firstname.lastname@example.org). You can assign accounts to certain people and give them certain permissions which allow access to the same shared drives. The key difference is that all the files belong to the organisation, no matter who made them. So the club retains all it’s documents, even when people come and go. Plus having a club account makes it much easier to draw a line between the things you do for the club, and things you do for work or personal use.
In summary: a simple ‘personal’ google account is easiest to set up, but requires careful management & maintenance to run well. A Google Workspace solution needs more effort to set up, but much less maintenance and is future proofed as people come and go from the club.
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