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 difference 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 payments. 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 a 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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