You Gotta Have Tips: Google Drive

Google Drive is a free tool that allows files to be accessed from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. This resource might be useful for small or all-volunteer Friends groups that want to store and share information among board members, staff and volunteers and help ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization.

Little Stony Point Citizens Association, Inc. began using Google Drive recently, both to store organizational documents and to collaborate with other board members. Fred Martin, President, says, “It's very intuitive, easy and free.”

Since their Friends group goes back over 30 years, there are many old documents that they need to keep track of and have ready for various purposes, like grant applications as well as required charitable organization filings. Volunteers have helped gather important documents and scan them into digital files. It was their Corporate Secretary, Julisa Tomizawa, who first set up a Google Drive account for the Association and started creating folders to organize the documents.

The Association keeps their directory structure simple and organized. They have created folders for:

  • Minutes, with subfolders for each year;
  • Grants and state and federal filings;
  • Organization documents, for their Certificate of Incorporation, IRS 501c(3) letter, and subfolders for By-laws and Rules;
  • Events, to store event-planning materials;
  • Treasury, for monthly reports and financial statements;
  • Membership information; and
  • Administration folders for login information, etc.

Once folders and subfolders are created, you can add permissions to allow others to view or edit the files. “Typically, a person needs an email address to be given access,” notes Fred. “To share documents one can export a pdf and attach that to an email, or send a link to the actual file to the person you want to view the document. It is handy to circulate pdfs of minutes for board review or checklists for events which help folks know who is doing what.”

Fred adds, “Using Google Drive to get organized has boosted my confidence in being able to run this organization, to apply for grants, and to not reinvent the wheel every time we have an event.”

In addition to using Google Drive to store important documents, the Association uses Google Docs to collaborate. Fred reports that the use of Google Docs has been a major advance for the organization.

“For document review and collaboration, it helps to use Google Docs, which is more informal and focused on providing editing tools in a web-enabled document creator,” notes Fred. “This is slightly different from Google Drive but is complementary. You create the doc in Google Docs and then edit with others online, and when done you can move to the Drive for storage in a more organized fashion.”

A good feature is the ability to download a zipped archive of the whole set of documents at any point in time. This allows for the creation of a backup. You can restore from that archive, if necessary. Another benefit to using the drive, apart from being a good collaboration space, is if a board or staff member, or key volunteer leaves, the organization can survive because everyone will be able to access the information.

In addition to storing existing documents, there are many Drive apps that you can use. Here are a few examples:

  1. Docs (similar to Microsoft Word)
  2. Sheets (similar to Microsoft Excel)
  3. Slides (similar to Microsoft Powerpoint)

Follow these steps to use Google Drive:

  1. Sign in to your Google email account
  2. On the top right corner, you will see a square, a bell, and a letter in a circle. Click the square.
  3. A drop down box will appear. Click the triangle that says ‘Drive’. This link will bring you to your Google Drive.
  4. To create a new file, you will see a blue box on the top that says ‘NEW’ on the top left corner.
  5. To create a new folder, you will click the ‘NEW’ box, then select folder. This will keep your drive organized when you have a lot of files.
  6. To find files faster, click the square again on the right and look for the app you are using. If you want the Google Docs, click the app and it will bring you to a page with all of your saved Google Docs.
  7. To add apps, click the ‘NEW’ box, go to ‘more’, then click connect more apps. This is normally used if you need to access different programs (like cloud convert or google my maps).
  8. On the left side, the ‘My Drive’ link will bring you to every file in your shared drive.
  9. Under ‘My Drive’ you will see ‘Shared with me’. This will only show you the files that others have shared with you.
  10. Under those two you will see ‘recent’. This will show you the files you have recently viewed.
  11. ‘Google Photos’ will have any shared photos.
  12. ‘Starred’ is to make it easier to find shared files or folders.
  13. ‘Trash’ is any file or folder you have deleted.

Example - Google Docs:

  1. Under the blue box that says ‘NEW’, click Google Docs.
  2. To name this document, click ‘untitled document’ on the top left and type in the name you would like.
  3. Anything you add to the document will automatically save into your Google Drive.
  4. To share this document with someone, click the blue ‘Share’ button on the top right.
  5. In the box, type email addresses you wish to share the document with.
  6. On the right side, you will see a pencil. If you select ‘can edit’, the person(s) you send it to will be able to edit the information on the document. If you select ‘can comment’, the person(s) you send it to will be able to add comments to the document, but they will not be able to edit it. If you select ‘can view’, the person(s) will be able to see the document you created, but will not be able to edit or comment on it.
    1. If you selected ‘can comment’, you can view the comments by clicking the grey ‘comments’ box on the top right corner while you have the file open.

Sharing on different programs will be similar to the example for the Google Docs.


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