How to choose the right video calling tool for your charity

Published on
March 19, 2020
in
How Tos
Chris Thorpe
This guide helps charities to choose the right video calling software for their needs.
Graphic with text 'How to choose the right video calling tool for your charity'

In the move to remote working, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the key tools is video calling. There are many different tools and we’ve created online guides to help charities use Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts. It’s hard to know which video calling app is the one to pick, so this blog post is a short guide to help you make that decision. Treat it like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” type guide. If you prefer a flowchart, there’s one at the end of the article.

Quick note on terminology, dedicated applications are ones you install, either on your desktop/laptop or on your phone or tablet. Web applications are ones you don’t install, but interact with through your browser (Internet Explorer / Chrome / Safari / Firefox etc).

Start with user needs

The first thing to do is to think about is what you need to use the video call software for and how often. This will help you decide what you pick. Remember, the best tool for starting quickly is the one you already have access to, or can get access to the quickest.

Choice 1: How often will I need to make calls. Will I need to have multiple people on a call?

If you only need to make occasional calls, and you already use software like WhatsApp, you could just stick with that. WhatsApp has good call quality and if it’s already on the devices that you and your colleagues use, and you don’t need to make calls with several people at once (video conference), then this will probably work well for now.

If this is the case, you can go and try and make a quick video call with your colleague using WhatsApp and can see if it suits your needs. If it does, great, you’re done! If not, then carry on from Choice 2.

If you need to make more frequent calls, or need to have several people on the call at once, you should think about one of the dedicated platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams.

We’ll now talk you through the best options there and the questions you need to ask yourself or your organisation to make the best choice.

Choice 2: Am I trying to solve this problem for my organisation as a whole?

It may be that you’re trying to solve this problem for your organisation. If you are, work with your IT team, if you have one, to work out which of the options is quickest to deploy and works well with your existing software. If you’re not, proceed to Choice 3.

Remember, the best tool for getting started quickly is the one you have access to that fits your needs. For example, if you, as an organisation already have Microsoft Teams, then use that for video conferencing (using the dedicated application if you’re able to install it, see Choice 3).

If you have GSuite (GMail, Calendar) etc, you may find it quickest to use Google Hangouts (there is no dedicated application to install, but the call quality may be lower than with a dedicated application, especially with lots of online participants).

Choice 3: Do you have control over adding applications on your computer?

If you don’t already have some software installed (such as using Microsoft Teams) or find that something like Google Hangouts doesn’t work well for call quality or number of participants you may need to use some dedicated software on your computer or device. If you’re able to install something on your device, then go the section on Using video conferencing applications, if not go to Using video conferencing software in your web browser. If you need to install software on your machine, because the call quality is not so great, talk to your IT team. If you don’t have one, send in a request for 1:1 mentoring on how to do this for your organisation on a service such as Digital Candle.

Using video conferencing applications

We at CAST and Catalyst, being remote first, use a lot of video conferencing. We prefer dedicated applications, because we find that things like Google Hangouts, while useful because you don’t have to install software, can be unpredictable and quality suffers as the number of people on a call goes higher.

We prefer Zoom, because the call quality is reliable and predictable. We like and make use of some of the advanced features such as being able to share your screen for presentation or group working and also the breakout rooms where you can go from a large meeting into smaller working groups.

In our experience Microsoft Teams can work well, but we’ve experienced that it can slow down your machine significantly, making using other applications at the same time harder (this could hinder doing simultaneous note taking for example).

We have also used Skype in the past. It works well, but we prefer Zoom.

Using video conferencing software in your web browser

If you’re unable to download an application, your option is to use video calling software through your web browser. There are a few options here.

Zoom supports calling using the web browser, however there is one setting which needs to be changed to allow this. Anyone initiating a call (inviting people or the admin for a call) needs to have this option set to yes as shown below.

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Google Hangouts and Skype also both allow in-browser video calls.

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