These days, parents use apps to keep track of everything from grocery lists to soccer schedules, not to mention keeping the kids entertained. Savvy PTO and PTA leaders are also turning to mobile apps to streamline fundraising tasks, including organizing volunteers, advertising events, and accepting payments.
With help from members of our PTO and PTA Leaders & Volunteers Facebook group, we’ve compiled a list of apps leaders are using to create flyers, manage auctions, and more. Some are free; others are available with tiered pricing. Use these apps to trim your workload, eliminate paper, and communicate more efficiently with your parent community.
After you’ve created a committee to head up a fundraiser, you’ll probably need extra volunteers for tasks leading up to the product sale or special event. Many leaders recommend SignUpGenius (iOS and Android), which has a mobile app as well as a free web-based tool. The app allows volunteers to sign up for shifts on their phone while leaders can view volunteer commitments on the go.
Logistics-heavy events such as auctions or carnivals require planning down to the last detail, and it’s easy to duplicate efforts if you’re not well-organized. Remember the Milk (iOS, Android, and BlackBerry) offers the ability to create detailed task lists you can share with your committee and sync with other calendars.
Remind (iOS and Android) is a free texting app primarily used by teachers and coaches to message parents, but many parent groups also use the app to reach school parents. Sign up with an individual account to send texts to your group. Parents can opt to receive messages through the Remind app on their phone and as text messages, emails, or both.
Remind works well for parent groups at schools where teachers already use it. If you're open to other apps, there's no shortage of options, including several texting apps designed specifically for PTOs and PTAs. PTBoard's mobile-friendly platform allows users to send reminders, take volunteer signups, and collect payments.
Schools are increasingly turning to crowdfunding as a way to boost funds. Livingtree helps schools and districts manage online crowdfunding in coordination with parent groups, teachers, clubs, and boosters. Users can also do online raffles, sell event tickets, and collect membership dues; there are also features for event RSVP and signup.
Communication apps can help fundraising committee members stay in the loop. Many people use Messenger (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) since they’re already on Facebook. If some members don’t use Messenger, GroupMe (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry) offers free group messaging on most phones. And if your parent group already uses Remind to reach parents, you can create a Remind group just for fundraising committee members.
Finding a meeting time that works for everyone can be tough. Use the free Doodle app (iOS and Android) to create a quick poll to assess people’s availability and preference for best location. You’ll avoid reply-all threads with confusing answers, and it syncs with calendars.
Try Canva (iOS and Android) to create flyers, postcards, tickets, or posters that you can also share as graphics on your school social media pages. Canva includes helpful tutorials and offers a free version with access to more than 8,000 templates for up to 10 team members; it’s also available as a web-based tool. Smore, a web platform geared to schools, isn’t specifically an app, but it’s fast and convenient for creating newsletters to be emailed or shared on social media.
Flavia Bankuti, president of the Westwood Elementary PTO in Greenwood, Ark., uses both tools. She loves Canva’s mobile app for designing flyers on the go when she needs something fast, but she prefers Smore’s easy template for creating and sharing short newsletters that are easily viewable on mobile devices. “With Smore, I can input information into a newsletter form and share it out in five minutes,” Bankuti says.
Whether you’re selling spiritwear at back-to-school night or collecting donations for a new playground, the popular point-of-sale app Square (iOS and Android) makes handling payments a snap. Once you register for Square, you receive a magnetic reader that attaches to your phone or other mobile device to turn it into a virtual cash register for card payments. The app and magnetic reader are free. Your group pays a monthly fee, or users pay a percentage per purchase. If you’re unsure about incurring extra fees, consider that parent groups report they get more donations when they accept card payments.
With the collection app CheddarUp, groups can customize pages to collect payments and information, then send the links to supporters. A PTO can build a page to collect dues and another page to take orders for field day T-shirts, collecting payments and T-shirt sizes in one step. Users can also use CheddarUp for point-of-sale transactions with the purchase of a mobile card reader.
Collecting RSVPs with an app like AtoZConnect (iOS and Android) lets you know how many seats to set up or how much food to buy for your event, whether it's a fundraising auction or a fundraising committee meeting.
If you’re selling tickets to a school function, Eventbrite (iOS and Android) offers an app and online platform to set up an event and sell tickets for a small fee per ticket. (Free tickets incur no fee.) One drawback: If you opt for a package with tech support, that package boosts ticket fees. Brown Paper Tickets (iOS and Android) also hosts ticket sales for a percentage fee and includes free tech help by phone. Both platforms track the number of tickets sold, shut off sales when capacity is reached, and include a mobile ticket app for attendees. However, if your group already has a Square or a CheddarUp account, it includes a platform for ticket sales, as well (more on that below).
If you’re using Square or CheddarUp, it’s easy to set up an online store to sell spiritwear, trinkets, and tickets, as well as accept donations. There’s no hosting fee or monthly charge, just a fee per transaction. Consider that you’ll probably boost sales to offset the additional fees.
AtoZConnect also offers a store function, allowing you to show photos of your school T-shirts or other items, and collect payments through a PayPal account.
Many people prefer to share electronic documents rather than pass binders to new leaders. Dropbox (iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) is a free file-sharing service that stores documents in the cloud and allows users to view them from any device. For live documents, such as a spreadsheet tracking auction donations, Google Docs (iOS and Android) allows multiple users to edit simultaneously, saves updates automatically, and stores in the cloud. Google Docs provides forms, templates, and spreadsheets for free, accessible on your computer or via app. You’ll need to sign up for a Google account with a Gmail address if you don’t have one already.
Auctions require a lot of up-front work. Web-based programs streamline the process, and mobile technology allows the option of an online auction to expand your reach; participants can bid with their smartphone either at the event or remotely. The 32auctions mobile-friendly platform has several price points, including a free option. There’s also a package for an online auction that transitions to an in-person silent auction with traditional bid sheets. The site links with PayPal and Stripe for payments. “The best part is our families can pay for their purchases online, which is wonderful because the payment goes directly to our account,” says Maria Miceli, vice president of communications for the Long Meadow Elementary PTA in Rochester Hills, Mich. “It’s a safer and more efficient way to run our auction.”
BiddingOwl has auction software on its mobile-friendly site to manage everything from donations to checkout for a traditional or online format. If you host a silent or live auction, the platform is free and includes invoicing, checkout with PayPal, and a website to preview items. If you decide to go mobile with online bidding or an online auction, the site charges a 5 percent performance fee—for an auction that brings in $10,000, that’s just $500.
Apps That Can Make You Money
For passive fundraising, have your school’s families try these free apps to earn money on the go. Just register your school and put the word out to parents.
Earn points and raise money by using the Simple Fund (iOS and Android) to read articles, watch videos, and take surveys.
Box Tops for Education
Have you heard? No more clipping! In July 2019, Box Tops for Education announced plans to transition to a digital-only program. Existing box tops from participating products will be accepted until their expiration date, earning 10 cents per label.
Use Benefit Mobile (iOS and Android) to purchase mobile gift cards at participating merchants for the exact amount of your transaction and watch a percentage go to your school.
With Shoparoo (iOS and Android), you can receipts from participating merchants to send money to your school. Note: Shoparoo currently has a waiting list for new sign-ups.
Originally posted in 2018 and updated regularly