Donovan Group Insights

Tools We Love: The Donovan Group Tech Stack

It is almost cliché to say it: education and communication are changing so fast that it is difficult to keep up. Central to this change are the tools that are used to engage in communication, to collaborate and generally to get work done. We are often asked for recommendations regarding the different types of communications tools we use—our tech stack–so, here is a non-exhaustive list as of the tech tools we use as of January 2018. Please note that we do not have a relationship with any vendor unless stated specifically.

Project Management

We have been using Basecamp for years. It’s a terrific tool for managing complex projects that involve a lot of different people. While we love the first version, we did not love the second version. We fell back in love with Basecamp with their third and current version, Basecamp 3. We also like Asana and Trello. If you are not using a project management tool to run your projects, you should.

Project Mapping

While we like Basecamp and the other tools noted to manage projects, we do much of our project mapping using Gantt Charts. For years we did this by using Excel spreadsheets, but have recently taken to using Team Gantt. We recommend it.

Team Communication

Staying on the same page with your team is more important than ever before and, like everyone else, we used email for team communication and with great frustration for many years. Last year we began using Slack for internal communication and found it to be very effective. While we continue to use Slack, we are increasingly using the new version of Basecamp for the same purpose.

Website Tools

Your school and district likely have an existing vendor for your website, or you may do web development in-house. But sometimes is helpful to have a separate website for issues such as a referendum or a special project. For simple, inexpensive websites, we prefer Wix, but we also like SquareSpace. If you use WordPress, which we also like a lot for robust websites, consider an inexpensive theme from Themeforest.

Social Media Tools

There are many, many different social media tools out there. We still like HootSuite, but we’ve come to like Sprout Social increasingly as well.

Online Forms and Surveys

We have long used and highly recommended FormSite for creating simple web-based forms and surveys.

Direct Mail

We have used a lot of vendors for direct mail, and we really like the folks at ModernPostcard and recommend them for small projects. Also, for our own marketing, we have been using a Lob for on-demand direct mail.

Copywriting, Editing, and Translation

Need help with writing and editing? ProPRcopy, which is a sister company to the Donovan Group, can help with your writing, and Scribendi, with which we do not have a relationship, is a terrific vendor for quick and excellent copyediting. One Hour Translation is a good source for translation service that, as its name would suggest, is very fast.

Customer Relationship Management Software

As school district communications move more into the realm of marketing, consider using a customer relationship management tool. For years we used big and expensive tools, but these are increasingly becoming unnecessary as inexpensive and easy to use CRM tools enter the marketplace. Consider our favorite, Contactually or CapsuleCRM. When the project calls for a database, we like Knack.

Advanced Marketing Communication

For many years we used Infusionsoft for auto-marketing. But it is a bear to set up and is expensive. While Infusionsoft is easier and less expensive than the very well-regarded Salesforce, we are now recommending two even easier and less expensive tools, SharpSpring and AgileCRM. For the money, Agile is hard to beat. For testing website landing pages, we like Unbounce and Instapage. For a handy tool that helps us find email addresses, we like Finally, we are all about bringing it all together by connecting APIs through Zappier.

Bonus material

To stay ahead of the communications curve, we are spending a lot of our own professional development time learning basic coding. We love Michael Hartl’s programs along with Codecademy. For simple web applications and prototyping, we are digging, a visual programming tool.

That’s it for now. What have we missed? Do you have some favorites to add? Let us know! Also posted on Medium.

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