Money GiftSure, it’s more common in our line of work to be short on funds, but every now and then, like the end of the fiscal year, you might just find yourself with a little left over that you’d really like to spend.

That’s the situation Kathy Powell is in. She’s the communications director at Temple Sinai Atlanta, and here’s part of an email she sent me yesterday . . .

“Our fiscal year starts in July and I’m finding myself with $600 left in my supplies and equipment line to spend in the next 2 weeks – such a blessing! Do you have ideas on items to splurge on if you have the money?”

Kathy started a great list, which includes things like

  • More stock images
  • A better camera, so she can hand down her current one to program staff
  • Stocking up on things that are always good to have around, like extra memory cards and flash drives

But she’s also wondering if there are online tools she should be thinking about, especially as she considers how to implement a better editorial calendaring system throughout the organization.

Since this is “equipment and supplies” let’s assume things like ad buys, training, and freelancers are off the table (although those are all great options if you have unrestricted cash to spend).

My kids are office supply freaks like me, as evidenced by this photo from two years ago. Must be genetic.

My kids are office supply freaks like me, as evidenced by this photo from two years ago. Must be genetic. Screw the Starbucks gift cards. Get me one to Staples.

Personally, I would probably make a mad dash through Staples, running up and down the aisles in glee (you feel me, you office supply addicts, I know you do). However, let’s assume that isn’t really an option either.

I’d ask myself a couple of questions:

What do people say they can’t do because they are relying on the wrong equipment? Like take good candid close-ups at events because they are using their phones instead of a real camera with a decent zoom lens. 

Think about all the excuses you’ve heard from people about why they can’t help you with various aspects of marketing and fundraising, and see if a new piece of equipment could help.

What seems to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r? Like coordinating the team’s postings to social media, because the org is only using free versions of software like Hootsuite, and should really upgrade to the paid product. Or finding files because you are storing them in multiple cloud services, because you keep running out of the free space. 

I’d take a look at all of the free online tools you are using now and see if it makes sense to upgrade to the paid versions.

I’d also look at inefficiencies on websites — are there a few paid plugins that could really make the site easier to use on the backend, or easier for visitors to use on the front-end?

Think about hardware too (I’m sure you #nptech aficionados have some ideas). Buying some wireless signal boosters for our house, which has lots of apparently impenetrable brick and plaster walls, has made it much easier for all of us to get online and stay connected.

Where should you really take it up a notch? Like using real design software (think Adobe products) instead of your word processor to create flyers, invitations, etc.

In Kathy’s case I would also think about project/team management software for her editorial calendaring plans. While Microsoft or Google products might do the trick, you should also consider something like Asana or Trello or another project management cloud service. Again, you can start free, but to really get the power or enough users, you probably have to upgrade to the paid products.

Are too many people sharing the same office printer? Do printouts look terrible because you are super stingy about replacing the ink cartridges? Could someone really use a new computer, and a cheap laptop would be perfectly fine because all they do is use Office and a web browser? Is someone sitting in the most uncomfortable chair in America, which may soon be the cause of a workers’ comp claim? Could a standing desk that people could take turns using increase the overall energy level and health of the office?

Or maybe you could take something like how you thank volunteers and other special people up a notch by purchasing some really nice thank you cards? Or maybe gift cards to acknowledge special people with more than a pat on the back? (Don’t forget your office supply freaks. I am serious.)

What do you think? How would you spend an extra $600 allocated to supplies and equipment? Share your ideas with Kathy and everyone else in the comments.