What's the best way to launch PlanSocial in our school, for maximum impact?
We've had a couple of schools who have made a half-hearted effort to launch PlanSocial. Sadly, this is not the best use of their time or effort. We don't want you to make the same mistakes, so we're telling you up front how you'll get the best results and make it a roaring success.
The schools that have followed the steps below have had a fantastic upsurge in volunteering and have had parents gushing with positive feedback!
1) Follow our advice for getting to know the app with your committee.
Get your committee comfortable with it, allay any fears that you have to be some sort of technical genius to navigate the app. You really need your key allies on board before you start rolling it out to the rest of the school. Make sure you are all pulling in the same direction, explaining how using the app will LESSEN their workload, save them time, and create a more sustainable volunteer base to continue the good work that you all do, long after you have left.
2) Speak to the Headteacher
Explain why you'd like to roll out PlanSocial, and how it would benefit the school. Parental involvement is of huge benefit to the school, leveraging goodwill and skills, improving parent participation and shown to lead to better pupil behaviour and results. With the school on board, things will go swimmingly! It often makes things easier for the already-over-stretched front-office staff.
3) Set up all your known upcoming events
Use the examples or start the events off with basic tasks and descriptions. Then invite any known event volunteers to the app, assign them as event managers and unleash them to do their own thing, editing away. (Enjoy that feeling of liberation that comes with delegating!) Make sure they create welcoming descriptions on each event and an explanation on each task, so that a newbie volunteer will feel comfortable stepping in to help with anything listed. Put as much detail as you can in, so the volunteers have all the information they need right there, no need to be emailed long-winded attachments. Each helper then only needs to read about the bit that affects them. It's also a brilliant way to hand over everything to next year's committee, who can copy whole events, ready to go with a clean signup sheet!
4) Announce that PlanSocial is coming!
Ask your school to add the PlanSocial registration button on the school website, and also ask the school to email the unique registration link to all parents and explain the benefit of PlanSocial to parents. See this example in our launch pack that you can edit or use. Use the opportunity to allay any fears about spam, pressure to volunteer, or technical prowess required. You could also have a little launch event, with a stand with balloons and a few committee members to "demo" and sign people up. Get a mention in the school newsletter too. Just make some noise! You'd be surprised how oblivious people can be.
5) Invite people!
Start with your most active volunteers, e.g. your event organisers and class reps. Ask them each in turn to invite more people. It grows very quickly! When they log in, they should see an informative and clear list of what's coming up at school, and how they can offer help with a simple click!
6) Send out an event update message on the run-up to an event
Using the event message wall, select "Post & email community" to send a timely email to all your members. The email will contain all the event description details and a link to reply on the message wall. When they click the link, any opted-in invitees who are not yet active will be requested to accept their invitation. They can then reply or just RSVP and volunteer directly for tasks. Space these updates out so you do not annoy people but give them a timely reminder to help if they can.
7) Promote your event offline too
Carry on as usual with the posters, meetings, playground canvassing, pub/coffee brainstorming. No need to stop all that and miss the fun of getting together. PlanSocial is not about stopping real-life interaction... it just facilitates how offers of help are handled, intelligently. Event managers can easily assign helpers to tasks on the go, from their phone if somebody offers help while out an about, so people don't always have to volunteer their help online.
BUT... don't be tempted to use multiple channels, asking people to email you at another address if they can help, or using paper reply slips too if they don't want to bother registering. People sometimes need a little nudge if they are asked to change how they do things. If you make it too easy for them to do things the old way, they probably will. They don't realise it's just a matter of a click to accept the invite, set a password and then a tick to help. It takes about 20 seconds. So tell them! If you shy away from this, and pander to the minority who dig their heels in, you are limiting your chances of making PlanSocial a success in your school. It's possible you could end up running around collecting paper slips, replying to emails and checking PlanSocial too. Don't let this happen. So while you may use other methods in parallel, ensure that the bit about RSVPing or volunteering directs them to PlanSocial.
If you follow the above steps to direct people back to PlanSocial to volunteer their time, your PTA Committee will be able to track event progress on the go, with your "digital" finger on the pulse at all times. Once parents are signed up, they all report how much more convenient they find it to pick and choose what suits them, and offer help so easily. It's a piece of cake for Event Managers to have PlanSocial 'conversations' with their groups of helpers for each event or task. There's SO much less email tennis, paperwork, effort and stress, and more time to focus on the fun, social and creative bits!
If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing well, eh? Best of luck with your fundraising efforts and let us know how it goes!