Project Management Tools for Busy Project Leaders

Two grant proposals are due by the end of the week. You still need to buy supplies for that workshop next Tuesday. And – aargh!! – can’t forget to secure those corporate sponsorships for your upcoming gala in October. 

Sound all too familiar? Competing tasks, priorities, and deadlines; so much to do and so little time in the life of a nonprofit project leader. We know you’re feeling it, and we feel it here too at Community Partners. With time being one of our most valuable and scarce resources, we’ve come to rely on a small arsenal of online project management tools we’ve found to help us manage all that we have to do. 

The problem is, if you’ve explored these tools at all, then you know it feels like you need some sort of management tool just to help you narrow down the dizzying array of options, with each offering something different in features or approach. So while it comes down to finding the one that works best, here are a few that we’ve found helpful, recommended by the staff that use them.

Trello (Daphne Wong) 

I find Trello helps individuals and teams stay on top of multiple tasks and deadlines in a visually appealing and collaborative way.  It’s like a virtual bulletin board for tracking tasks.  Each task is represented by a card, which can be assigned to one or more people. I like that the card can contain as much or as little information as you need, and they can also be moved to different lists (my favorite is the Completed list!).

There are many enhancements that can be used to boost Trello’s power. We started with the free version, which was only just sufficient. We’ve since upgraded to the unlimited “power-ups” and that’s been extremely helpful. We can now, for example:

  • send an email directly to Trello and automatically create a card that includes the attachments
  • access a calendar view to see due dates
  • automate the creation/archiving of cards
  • connect to Salesforce or your Google suite

and a whole lot more!

Smartsheet  (Ravi Shah)

For those who love -- or who are at least comfortable with -- spreadsheets, like me, Smartsheet might be the right choice for you. It has all of the elements of Trello, but all in a spreadsheet view. While other views are possible, Smartsheets works for me because I’m most comfortable working in a spreadsheet environment. I can sort and filter tasks and deadlines, assign tasks to others, build dashboards and forms, and connect with other tools like Google Drive or Salesforce. I exclusively used Smartsheet to manage the development and implementation of our Salesforce platform. A really big project! 

Pricing starts at $14/month per user. 

Asana (Janine Lim)

I’ve actually used both Trello and Asana, but have chosen Asana to help me here at work. They both have very similar functionality and are similarly organized, but I like the way I can assign sub-tasks to people, instead of just tasks, with Asana. I also think Asana is more visually appealing, kind of like the difference between a Mac and PC. If you pay for an upgrade, timelines are included, but I haven’t chosen to do that yet.