Editor’s note: Recently we announced the winners of our global Gone Google ad contest. Today’s featured winner is Jim Coningsby, Director of Operations at The Phoenix of New Orleans.

The Phoenix of New Orleans (PNOLA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the recovery of Lower Mid-City New Orleans and its surrounding neighborhoods after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Since 2006, we’ve rebuilt quality affordable housing and helped develop the community assets necessary for vital neighborhoods by leveraging construction expertise and using Google Apps to coordinate and collaborate on efforts.

PNOLA has a very small staff of 5-10 people per year, but we’ve been able to leverage hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours, grant funds and donated materials to rebuild over 70 homes. As a result we have saved homeowners over $4 million dollars in rebuilding costs. We were able to accomplish so much with such a small staff due to the efficiency enabled by Google Apps. We like to think of Google as being part of our team.

We estimate that Google Apps allows us to do the same work with a staff of 7 as we could with 8. While that may not seem like much, adding another staff member would be prohibitively costly to our organization so we rely on web-based tools, like Google Apps, to make up that difference.

Prior to using Google Apps, we had been using a webmail service through our website host, but our team found the interface confusing, so they often just opted to use their personal Gmail accounts. Having multiple email addresses made us appear less professional to our community partners and funders, and also made it difficult to collaborate without a standardized set of tools.

Migrating to Google Apps took less than an hour to set up. We immediately improved the professional appearance of our organization and began working smarter together through the collaboration tools. We now track all of our upcoming volunteers and project tasks through Google Calendar so everyone is able to stay up to date with what is happening. We are also able to stay on track with our projects which typically saves us up to two weeks on each house. This in turn saves our homeowners from paying extra rent, and saves us about $300 a week on project delivery costs.

In addition, our team works together to create marketing material using Google Docs and our entire team uses Google Voice as our office phones, which not only saves us hundreds of dollars a month, but greatly improves our ability to track our communication with volunteers, clients and donors. We have our entire training manual on our intranet built on Google Sites, which is constantly updated so that new team members can get up to speed quickly. We think we’re an example of a small non-profit that can do big things with the power of the cloud and Google Apps.