How do you organize work requests? Have you got your system down?
When it comes to project management, I’ve started and fallen off many systems. It’s easy to let yourself get disorganized as things get chaotic!
But it’s important to capture and organize those project needs and updates. Otherwise, details slip through the cracks and communication can break down.
Before we talk tech…
It’s important to remember that technology helps us implement solutions. But we’re the only ones who can actually solve our problems.
So before you jump into a new system, really think about how this tool can serve your process. Make sure you understand the nuances around requests, that you have a framework to support the tech, and that you’ve got a way to intake those staff requirements.
Let’s talk systems.
You do great, important work. Pick the system that captures it best.
You spend hours on a data request or a piece of copy. And when it’s done, you’re golden!
But the real gold isn’t in that one deliverable. It’s in the work and communication that got you there….because chances are you’ll be doing something similar – if not the exact same thing – for the next request!
Give yourself an easy reference point. Log what you’re working on, how, why, & where it all stands. It’ll save someone a headache 6-24 months later when someone inevitably needs those details again. It also keeps you on track, since memory alone does not a system make.
Besides, why wouldn’t you want a record of your nonprofit superpowers? This is going to be your savior come annual review time, or even come I-need-to-show-my-boss-i’m-overworked time.
11 Tech Tools for Managing Requests At Your Org
These tools cover the spectrum of free-ness and tech-saviness, depending on your needs!
Free & Low Tech ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅
1. Good ol’ pen and paper
Okay, this likely isn’t the “tech” tool most of you were thinking. But for many, this is what we’re willing to handle. And I’ll admit: it’s far more satisfying to cross an item off a list when your pen is slashing through a piece of paper!
Needless to say, this kind of system doesn’t lend well to saving and sharing with colleagues. Keep that in mind if you’re dead set on going this route, and try to summarize those key details somehow digitally – even if it’s just in a recap email to your boss or colleague. (Also make sure that your paper system is deliberate. Zapier has some great tips on how to organize a productive notebook system.)
Email wasn’t built to serve a project management purpose, but these days, it’s not totally impossible. Assign request emails a label based on the type of ask you get, or the department asking. Move that email across folders to indicate the status (ex. started, in progress, complete).
This can work if your requests are simple and email is your intake mechanism (from the last post.) But in terms of sorting or getting a high-level overview of requests, email lacks. We can do better.
Spreadsheet are the holy grail of DIY project management tools. They’re free(ish), easy to configure, and allow for tons of flexibility. Create as many columns as you need to categorize requests (ex. due date, status, type of request, department involved) and use filters to easily sort and re-arrange. If you’re looking for some Excel inspo, check out these templates we made for event management and the job hunt.
But this is only easy if you know your way around Excel, or are game to learn. If not, you’ll need something that’s a bit more structured out-of-the-box.
Less Free, Mostly Low Tech 💻 💲 ✅ ✅
Trello is essentially a digital whiteboard. Information lives in the form of “cards”, that can be dragged across different lists or boards. Each card has tons of functionality too; like the ability to assign labels, checklists & dates! You can have an individual account for free (what I use to manage this blog) or you can invite others to collaborate on boards with you.
If your org is interested, nonprofits appear to be eligible for a 75% discount. Check out Trello.
I used Asana a few years ago in my last job for campaign management. I loved it then, and I’m sure it’s only gotten better! It’s a true project collaboration tool, with tasks that can be assigned a date, category and point person. I doubt this can be used individually for free (like Trello can), but nonprofits are elligible for a 50% discount. Check out Asana for Nonprofits.
Now, I’ve never used Airtable myself. But I hear great things, because it’s a customizable database that can be used for just about anything (see their menu of nonprofit use cases alone). They do offer free plans based on record usage, and a discount for nonprofits & schools. Check out Airtable’s Nonprofit discount.
High-Tech, Ticketing Systems 💻 💻 💲💲
*Note: many of these systems are not ones I’ve used, just ones I’ve found doing research (because I could not find a list of ticketing systems for nonprofits). Even though we’re focused on staff requests, keep in mind these tools could be great for constituent support too!
Help desk software with offerings specifically “optimized” for nonprofits. Starting at $599 per year for 5 users. Visit site.
Another help desk software with a nonprofit focus. The cheapest plan starts at $29 per month per user. (Note: I have never used it). Visit site.
Without knowing how the functionality compares, Freshdesk may have the most flexible pricing options for nonprofits (both monthly and yearly). Visit site.
Of this list, Zendesk was the only tool without a section dedicated to nonprofits. But don’t let that guide your impression: they’re one of the leaders in the help desk industry, and the tool is sleek (which I only know from having to test it for my own org). Visit site.
11. Salesforce (if you’re already using it)
Surprise, this is my request management tool at the moment! But for very specific reasons, not because it’s easier or objectively better.
If your org is using Salesforce, consider using Files, Flows and custom objects (maybe even Service Cloud) to set up a sophisticated, custom system across your org. This isn’t the quick fix solution, but can be powerful depending on the time and skill you have available to build it.
To wrap things up….
You’ve now got all 3 building blocks for an effective, actionable system. Go tell your boss, decide on an implementation plan, and let everybody know what’s going down!