Are you confused about the countless school and PTA Software solutions available on the market? How does a Student Information System differ from a School Portal solution? What are the options available to a parent organization as opposed to a school district? Do you want to adopt a website for your PTA or a mobile app or both? Do you need something different for meeting your various needs?
In this article, I will give you a brief overview of all the different types of PTA software that is available today. In a series of posts coming up, we will delve in detail about each area and the vendors that provide software in each specific area.
An important constituency in the public school systems is the parent organizations who are the liaison between the parents and the board of education or department of education. They arrange all of the fundraising, after-school programs, enrichment activities, lunches, chaperones for class and school trips, assist the teacher occasionally and literally act as the right hand of the Principal.
The Parent organization has evolved into an advocacy organization for the students. They manage annual memberships, compile and print the school handbook and organize various fundraisers. Parent organizations are 503(c)(b) organizations and need to file with the IRS as a non-profit. Their accounting has to be meticulous and on-the-dot. There are several software packages and platforms available to make the life of a parent volunteer easier.
Web based accounting software for non-profits helps treasurers and office bearers to access them anywhere anytime. You are able to track purchases, payments, bills,
And keep a log of every transaction. Quickbooks online, PTO Today Finance Manager and MoneyMinder are some of the financial packages that are available on the market.
Once school ends at 3pm, the day doesn’t end for school children. Parents need help to keep their kids engaged for a couple of hours until they leave work. While middle school and high school kids use clubs to group according to their interests, elementary schools usually have after-school programs arranged for their students. Usually, these are weekly programs that offer various classes including the arts, STEM education and activities and sports.
Getting organized with the after-school programs and having parents signup their kids for the right program can be a challenge. Elementary school kids also need to be guided to the right program by their teachers. So it takes a lot of collaboration for this after-school program transition to happen smoothly at 3pm. This is where software to signup and manage after-school programs are very useful.
Most elementary schools have anywhere from 200 to 500 children. After-school apps allow parents to signup their kids for various activities and pay for it to the appropriate organization running the program. Once they signup, the rosters are printed and distributed to the class room teachers so they know where they need to send their students after school is over.
Not only does payment and printing after-school class roster management becomes easier with these providers.
Some popular after-school signup providers are ASAP, ProCare, SchoolCareWorks, JackRabbit, Jumbula and EZCare Sofware. There are other PTA software providers who also provide after-school software management.
One of the popular fundraisers that schools use are online auction bidding platforms. You can manage every type of auction possible with auction bidding software. Whether it is a fundraising auction for your school PTA or for your chamber of commerce or club, online auctions are efficient and run up the excitement. Anyone from any location in the world can participate in an online auction. You can also make it private to your school parents or club members. Once the items are listed online for the auction, people are able to bid on the auction and a notification goes out to the other bidders on the item immediately about the new bid.
There are several chat platforms that teachers and parents can use to communicate with each other. Some of them enable one-way communication with teachers sending elementary school parents messages keeping them informed about class events. For older students in high schools, these platforms enable teachers to send messages to students directly.
Remind and Slack are messaging platforms that can be used by class parents and teachers for communicating events organized for the classroom.
E-commerce platforms help non-profits and school parent organizations to set up stores and sell spiritwear or event tickets or other fundraising items. Usually the e-commerce platform is tied to PayPal or Stripe or other payment providers.
Most PTAs and non-profits send out weekly or monthly newsletter. They use bulk email software to send out emails to their parents Inboxes directly. Some examples of email providers are Constant Contact and MailChimp.
There are several custom fundraising platforms that are aimed at providing convenience and ease of setup to the parent organizations (PTA). Most of these platforms were custom built for selling the goods for the company that is selling their specific product through the PTA. For example, Yankee Candles Fundraising sells their candles online. They have an entire e-commerce platform to sell their entire line of products. In lieu of paper based catalogs of the past, they now have an e-commerce link through which any PTA can sell the candles and get a percentage of the sales. From Amazon Smile cards to Grocery Scrip cards, school supplies to spiritwear, there are an entire literally hundreds of companies that offer a percentage of the sale back to the PTA.
Instead of using a pile of paper folders that keeps track of memberships in your non-profit and taking up filing cabinets, you can now use software apps to make it easier for members to signup as well as for your administrator to keep track of the memberships. No more paper forms for your members to fill out and administrator does not have to deal with deciphering scrawled handwriting.
There is a plethora of software that can keep track of a PTA or PTO or non-profit’s memberships. They help members to renew, non-members to join, pay their dues, remind members to renew their membership and dashboards to keep track of the important metrics.
MemberPlanet, MemberHub, SimplyCircle, Membership Toolkit, Wild Apricot, PTAvenue and PTOffice are some of the membership management platforms.
Gone are the days when you needed to send cash with your kids for lunch money or a check to pre-pay for lunch with a note to the teacher. Online payment for lunches has become a way of life for busy parents and an easy way for the school to keep track of payments. There are several platforms that exclusively handle the online payments. Some platforms are meant for only lunch payments.
Features provided by school lunch payment providers are
On the backend, from the food vendor’s side, they also provide features such as
Some of the companies that provide school lunch software include “myschoolaccount.com”, “”mealsplus.com”, “payforit.net”, “mypaymentsplus.com” , “myfooddays” and more. There are always two interfaces – an app for parents and an administration site for schools. The administrative site enables schools to keep track of all the payments.
While the previous section specifically discussed the “school lunch payment software”, there are numerous technologies for paying for anything, for example, spirit wear, event tickets and more to your school. Some schools use a simply PayPal plugin on their website to receive donations or payments however PayPal will not provide them with a store front.
This is where other e-commerce platforms that help schools to setup stores to sell their merchandise or events.
One of the hardest parts of any non-profit event management and fundraising is getting enough volunteers to organize and run the events. With parents and members having multiple events on their calendars, getting them to commit to an event can be very challenging. On top of the conflicting schedules, keeping their contact information up to date and having them sign up for volunteering is even more of a problem. Although people have good intentions to volunteer, they usually don’t check their email often enough and are overwhelmed with spam.There are several free volunteer management software for organizers to recruit/manage their volunteers and for members to keep abreast of their volunteering time.Signup Genius, SignUp, iVolunteer, ChurchDirector, Signup Zone, Track It Forward and Sons of Service are some common volunteer management software services.
Do you know of any PTA software that we have not included in this list? Please send us a note and we will consider adding to our list.
Parent Teacher Organizations/Associations have numerous activities on their plate and use a variety of software to make their lives easier. This article is the first in a series of articles that talks in depth about the needs of every specific area and a comparison of vendor services offered in each area.