Community organization with Google Apps

The series of posts to follow is a simple guide for using the freely available suite of Google Apps for organizing your community. These guides have been written for individuals and organizations—not necessarily brands and businesses—to better communicate and coordinate group efforts.

Who can use this information?

  • Teachers organizing class events
  • Volunteers putting together fund raisers
  • Community organizations planning campaign events

I put together this guide because I’m frequently tapped as an organizer. I only recently learned it’s not because I’m particularly special, but because I know how to use these tools.

Who am I?

Professionally, I’m a community manager. My background is in writing and editing, and I feel passionate about the principles of mindful communication. My goal with this series is to empower groups to better organize their events and campaigns. And maybe get talked into wrangling fewer classroom parties, nonprofit fundraisers, and club events next year…  You can learn more about me here.

Notes

This information is current as of the first week of February, 2016. Because I’m not in charge of Google updates (if only!), this guide might be out of date when you find it. If you notice an error, please fill out the [wpex more=”report form for this series.” less=”report form for this series. (Click to close form.)”][gravityform id=”4″ title=”true” description=”true”][/wpex]

The rest of this post concerns getting started with a Google account. If you’re already using Google, you can safely skip to the next post in this series.


Getting started

You have two options for using Google Apps to organize your community groups—using a free account associated with your Google account, or setting up Google Apps for Work—which is associated with a .com domain you own and administer. The latter is arguably more powerful, but there are associated costs ($5/month/user). For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be using a free Google account.

Signing up for a Google account

You’ll need a cellphone to verify your account information on Google. Once you verify via text (or voice call), you’ll see a confirmation screen with your new email address.

Screenshot 2016-02-07 11.51.20

The next screen is an overview of your Google account, and associated settings. You may or may not be interested in going through the security and privacy setup/checkup.

In the upper right-hand corner you’ll see an icon that is nine boxes. Clicking this icon will open up a menu to all your new Google services. The two you’ll use most, as a community organizer, are likely Gmail, Calendar, and Drive.

Notes on your Google account

While you don’t have to use Gmail for your email, I recommend you do. Gmail has many built in features and there are a ton of integrations out there that can help with email overwhelm. If you have to use an organizational email address, you can forward your email to your gmail account, or even check and send it (with pop3 access).

A word on privacy. You’ll find an assortment of opinions on the implications of hosting your data with Google. A simple way to think about it—if a web application offers a service for free, your data is probably the product they’re selling. Likewise, Google does not offer this suite of powerful cloud apps out of benevolence. When you’re using Google Apps, and when you’re logged in to Google, you’re paying for access to these tools by sacrificing a measure of privacy. Google has a site dedicated to their privacy policy (and explaining their privacy policy) here. It’s your responsibility to decide whether your data is a fair trade for their services.

And finally, a word on self-reliance. While Google Apps are generally dependable, it’s unwise to host all your organizations important information on their servers alone. If something were to happen—if a service were suspended or dropped by Google, you could lose your contacts, plans, and communications. Always, always back up your docs on your own computer or with another third-party (I like Dropbox)—or both.

The next post in this series will cover the most requested task I manage as a community organizer—creating forms to recruit and survey volunteers.

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