For PTO leaders, being high-tech doesn’t matter as much as being in touch with the school community. The great thing is that many tech tools exist to help PTO leaders do just that, and do their work more efficiently, too. Even better, many of them are available for free or at a low cost. Here are the top six digital tools your PTO needs.
If your school’s parents are on Facebook or other social media platforms, your parent group should be there, too. Social media allows you to communicate more frequently than you can via newsletters or backpack express. Used effectively, these platforms can help foster a sense of community at your school.
You can use Facebook, for example, to share photos or videos of your events, thank volunteers, post flyers, and issue reminders about fundraising deadlines. It’s a great way to show parents what your group is all about and to help them feel more connected to the school.
Although Facebook is the site most commonly used by parent groups, don’t overlook other social media platforms used by parents and students alike. For example, many middle school parent groups have embraced Instagram as a way to communicate with students and to get them excited about events.
Get more info on using social media effectively for your parent group.
Email offers many advantages for PTOs. Emailing parents is quicker and less expensive than copying hundreds of flyers and sending them home with students. In addition, some parents will feel more comfortable interacting with PTO officers by email than by phone. If your PTO hasn’t yet, consider setting up “permanent” email addresses that can be handed down to new officers each year, such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Emailing parents is a whole lot simpler with an email tool that allows you to create contact groups. This way, you can send messages just to the specific people you want to reach without sorting through a lengthy email list. For example, you can create an email group for PTO officers, another for homeroom parents, and another that includes all parents of 5th graders.
Keep in mind that although email has become commonplace, some parents may not have regular access to a computer. Most teachers compile an email list for parents in their classroom and will be able to tell you how many parents from their class do not use email. The best way to keep these parents in the loop is to continue to provide them with paper copies.
Take a look at PTO Today’s Parent Express Email tool.
Volunteer Sign-up System
Paper sign-up lists will always have their place, but if you want to reach potential volunteers who aren’t in the school building, the most efficient way is to contact them by email. A number of online volunteer sign-up services have sprung up to simplify the process.
The advantage of online volunteer sign-ups is that the page is updated as people pledge to help or donate items for an event. For potluck dinners, this helps avoid a situation where you receive too many salads and not enough main dishes. For events that require a lot of volunteers, online sign-ups allow parents to choose a task that interests them or sign up for a shift that fits their schedule.
Online volunteer signups make it simple to keep track of how many people have offered to help and how many you still need to round up. In addition, most sites can email reminders to volunteers, making it more likely that the help you need will be there when you need it.
Online Document Storage
Save time and trouble by posting frequently used forms in an online storage service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Board members will be able to download and email reimbursement forms, volunteer signup sheets, or event evaluations to committee chairs at their convenience. Some forms could even be set up for completion online.
You may also want to store meeting agendas and minutes as well as your group’s calendar of events. That will allow leaders to view the documents on their cell phones wherever they are so they can easily answer questions when they come up. And members will be able to access those documents, too.
You don’t have to be a whiz at creating spreadsheets to serve as PTO treasurer. There are plenty of tools available to simplify the job. Many people use their bank or credit union’s website to reconcile the checking account. Some treasurers use personal finance software to track income and expenses.
Look for software that will allow you to monitor your group’s finances, create budgets, and produce reports to share at your meetings. Before choosing one, take advantage of free trials to find out how easy each system is to use and to make sure it will meet your group’s needs.
Try a free trial of PTO Today’s Finance Manager software.
Group Texting Service
For today’s parents, texting is a must-have. If you find yourself frequently texting your board members, set up a group for them. And if you’re high-volume texters, look into group text messaging apps. At many schools, teachers already use apps like Remind that allow parents to sign up for emails or text messages. Parents may be more likely to sign up to communicate with you through an app if they’re already familiar with it. If your kids have cell phones, start by asking them which group texting apps to check out!