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Electronic Organization Tools for Moms

Google Calendar, Jooners & VolunteerSpot, TeamSnap

My Work Colleague Mom Friend asked me to blog on online calendaring systems and simultaneously, my Mom Marketing Friend has told me twice about her friend in California’s company that organizes volunteers called Jooners.  Then, just yesterday, My Dad Friend told me about Volunteer Spot which is similar to Jooners.  And now my oldest’s soccer team is using TeamSnap to organize the soccer practices and games.  Like it or not, electronic calendars and scheduling are upon us.

I have to say that I have fought electronic calendaring for years.  Until recently, I had clung to my old-fashioned desk calendar — weekly format is my preference — and I was very happy with my Mommy version by Sandra Boynton,  Mom’s Family Desk Planner.  But problems existed.  My husband asked me EVERY DAY what was on the agenda.  He claimed that he can’t read my chicken scratch.  Fair point.  I have very bad handwriting.  He wanted a gigantic wall calendar to track the complex scheduling that is our children’s lives but we really didn’t have room for it in our kitchen without junking it up.

Last January, I succumbed and bought an iPhone and it’s been a life altering switch.  We now are on the Google Calendar which links so nicely with my gmail account.  My husband has a Blackberry that can access Google Calendar nicely and we use a litl webbook in our kitchen to see the family calendar daily and frequently.  We’ve only had a few minor glitches which are likely user based where certain events or appointments disappeared but, all in all, it’s really working for us.

But you all must know about and use Google Calendar — I know I am a late technology adopter! — so I will go over the other websites which might come in handy if you coach  your child’s sports team or are in charge of mobilizing a volunteer effort.

Jooners and VolunteerSpot:  both these sites organize volunteers for one day or multi day events using invites, email reminders, and calendaring.   The biggest differences between the two is that VolunteerSpot is free and Jooners is not.  VolunteerSpot makes money through partner advertising.

Jooners:  has a nice feature for collecting money online for things like coach’s gifts.  I have to say that this is a great feature because it’s surprisingly hard to coordinate monetary gifts especially for coaches because you don’t typically have all the parents at one school so the coordinator tends to under collect money thus funding more than his or her share.  Or maybe that is just my experience.  It also has features for auction planning but having run my online auction at elementary school, word on the street is Bidding for Good is the most expensive online auction platform but the best one.  We had a really successful experience with Bidding for Good.  It’s the gold standard but Jooners is a great option if your organization can not afford Bidding for Good.  Jooners offers a 30 day free trial .

VolunteerSpot:  This site looks tailored for classroom parents (which I am one this year for my son’s Kindergarten class so I will be trying it out!).  It looks very straightforward:  Schedule, Sign Up, Remind.  One nice feature is that if someone cancels at the last minute, the organizer is notified and that person can shoot out another request to the group for a replacement.  Trust me, you want this feature.  This happens ALL THE TIME!

For those who use gmail and Google Calendar, there is also an invite feature in gmail that links to Google Calendar. The invites have an email reminder system to  notify the group of any changes.  This is another great free option and is particularly attractive if you already have the email addresses of your group in your gmail account.

I have also seen eVites used very successfully to coordinate “You Bring” type of events such as Teacher Appreciation Luncheon/Breakfasts. Evites has a nifty feature that lets the organizer break out categories of food and the invitees just reply yes/no/maybe and leave a comment of what they plan to bring.  You can also send out reminders in eVites but they are not automatic.

The most time-consuming part of coordinating volunteers electronically is getting all the email addresses inputted correctly.  If you are an organizer, you might want to consider where your email addresses reside already OR where you’ll need the email addresses for other things.  I have a lot of email addresses for parents at my children’s schools through eVite because I used it to coordinate my child’s birthday plus a huge grade cocktail party for parents.  But if you need to email parents for other things (like when I had to do viral email campaigns to encourage parents to bid at our online school auction), I used gmail.

This is our first time on TeamSnap and my husband has been doing more of the coordination of our children’s sports schedules.  Our oldest is on TeamSnap for travel soccer and my husband says that it’s really great and easy to use.  It’s tailored to sports teams and has nifty features like tracking stats individually or for the team, and allows easy photo sharing.  It also tracks fees and payment.  The most useful feature allows you to see who can make the games and practices.  There is a free version that comes with some advertising, a basic version, and a premium version.  You can try the paid versions free for 21 days.

What kind of tools are you using for organizing?  Someone told me about a site that helps to figure out mutually free times to meet for a group.  I can’t remember that one but that is big hurdle always for Event Organizers.  Does anyone know something good for that?  I could use that now for coordinating my children’s book clubs for the new school year…[Thank you to VolunteerSpot for letting me know that I am talking about Doodle.  Parents used it successfully to set up meal delivery to families that need help.]


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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

10 Comments

  1. Thanks for including VolunteerSpot in your post today! We’re eager to help Type A moms (and others) save time and get more parents involved at school this year!

    For those inclined to take on the extra big school or community volunteering jobs (walk-a-thons, carnivals, tournaments, etc.), VolunteerSpot’s premium service includes hours tracking and extra registration fields for capturing information like group affiliation and t-shirt size. We also have free eBooks for parent leaders such as the Room Mom’s Survival Guide -(Kudos to you for being the Kindergarten class parent!)

    Have an awesome school year and here’s to saving time through electronic scheduling!

    Karen

    Karen Bantuveris
    Founder & CEO, VolunteerSpot
    http://www.VolunteerSpot.com/school

    (btw – Doodle.com is a terrific tool for choosing the best time to meet.)

    • I was so happy to learn about your site! I will be using VolunteerSpot as the Kindergarten Room Parent and will let my mom super volunteer friends know about your tracking and registration services for more ambitious projects!

      Doodle! That’s it! Yes, I swear the hardest part to any group meeting is finding a time that works for most! Thanks! I personally need Doodle!

  2. Karen,

    Thanks for the great post and for including TeamSnap in your bag of electronic organization tools! We are glad that you have found it so easy to use. We built it from the ground up to be powerful but easy to understand.

    We also have a few cool updates such as our messaging feature which makes it incredibly easy to e-mail or text message the entire team or individual players. Also, we are getting ready to release our iPhone app in the next few weeks which will offer lots of the same functionality from a convenient mobile platform. Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions, we’re always happy to help!

    Margaux
    TeamSnap Community Development Manager

  3. Margaux

    Insert foot in mouth… Sorry about that Mia!

  4. Nancy

    SignMeUp.com is great for scheduling a unlimited number of volunteers for open slots for a specific time or purpose. It allows the volunteer the ability to “undo” their scheduled spot if their availability changes. It will also email the event coordinator of sign ups as well as those that un-volunteer. They have a free version as well as a paid version.

    For meeting coordination we use MeetingWizard.com. You can email invitees with the proposed meeting date/times and very easily coordinate your group’s availability. This is a free feature of the site.

  5. Hi, Mia,
    Love your blog. Just stumbled on this post and wanted to add my site Sagepoint (www.sagepoint.com) to your list of free electronic organizers.

    Our goal at Sagepoint is to make life easier for busy parents, volunteers, and activity organizers. As such, the site includes:

    – Event tools with RSVP’s and sign-up sheets for organizing anything from potlucks & parties to volunteers, donations, and fundraisers

    – Schedules for publishing practice, game, and performance information with optional sign-ups and RSVP’s by event

    – Group folders with a discussion board

    – A sharable calendar to keep the whole family in sync

    Automatic reminders, maps and directions, photos, custom links, and custom text can be added to any of the above. For those situations where paper is still needed there are automatically generated flyers, printable views, exportable reports, and options to add responses from paper sign-ups or verbal RSVP’s.

    Would love to get your thoughts on our site when you get the chance.
    Vivian

    Vivian Wied
    Co-founder Sagepoint
    http://www.sagepoint.com

    P.S. We’ve got some exciting features in the works to make fundraising easier for parents too.

  6. As a new teacher getting ready for parent-teacher conferences, I am looking at creating an online sign un system. Here’s my problem so far:
    I tried http://www.signupgenius.com, but I have to enter or schedule every time slot before I send the form out to parents.
    This is the same issue I have with Google calendar and http://www.sagepoint.com
    http://www.volunteerspot.com looks really cool, but it won’t allow me to make a form using my Samsung tablet.Will the Android app allow me to make a sign up form? Anyhow, I’ll check it out later when I’m actually out of bed at a regular computer.
    So, here’s what I (and other school teachers) would LOVE to have:
    The ability to input our Total conference time, tell the computer the length of segments to break these into, and the ability for us to sign up for more than one of these segments (to schedule breaks, lunch, or parents who don’t go online.
    For instance I already know I have Conferences on Thurs. And Fri. From 9:00am until 4:00pm (Step 1)
    Then, I figure I want to schedule 25 min. Slots (Step 2).
    The program should be able to break this up for me instead of me having to input 24-30 individual appointments.
    I should have administrative control to change the length of individual appointments, once they are broken up, as well as schedule or sign up multiple slots. (Step 3).
    To make this system Awesome and potentially sell it to schools here’s what the designer should do:
    Have a custom website or subdomain for the school that lists the names of all the teachers, and the suggested conference times (arrange this with principals), but allow teachers to modify times for their classes. Then have a period when only parents with siblings in the same school but in different clssses can sign up first, before opening it up to all parents (possibly do this by invitation only).
    I’ll send this info. To Volunteer Spot and Google, or post on here if this already exists somewhere.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for your helpful insights into what teachers need for organization tools! I agree from a parenting perspective as well that the ability to schedule conferences would be so helpful! There doesn’t seem to be a good system for it and it makes so much extra work for the teacher!

      I will send your comment to Volunteer Spot. I hope they are able to implement it!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Exercise: A Small Change for a Big DifferenceMy Profile

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