CHEAT SHEET for PlanSocial (formerly PTAsocial) Community Managers
(Scan the words in bold for quick tips!)
You can search the helpdesk for particular words or phrases any time you need help with PlanSocial, but if you want to dive in and get an overview up front, this is for you!
Get yourself a cuppa, and take 10 minutes to read it now, but don't worry about trying to remember it all. It's just to let you know what you can do with PlanSocial, when you get round to it... :)
Launching & Growing
Be enthusiastic and make sure you make it clear to parents it's how they stay informed of PTA events, the volunteering bit is optional but highly appreciated. Of course it's good to let them know that some events will only actually happen if there are enough volunteers, to give them some further incentive to pitch in.
By the way, don't be tentative when announcing PlanSocial to the school parents, even if you are just trialing it. If you launch in a wishy-washy way, you'll get a wishy-washy response!
Make sure this is your main communication method for announcing PTA news and events and volunteering. If you hedge your bets and offer to email people separately on private lists, it is much less likely to succeed. Ensure your core team of committee members and event organisers understand this. If they are pulling in the other direction, they are not supporting you in launching PlanSocial and it may well fail. You need them to use PlanSocial for this to work, so make that clear up front! The results are worth it, and long-lasting -- you won't lose all that valuable knowledge and contact info when those parents leave.
Get your PlanSocial button up on your school website, and share the correct register link on Facebook and Twitter. Your PTA's specific link is displayed on your Manage page. That register link allow parents and teachers to register with your PlanSocial community and request approval. Handy if you do not have access to their email addresses.
Get people to sign up and volunteer directly on PlanSocial rather than ask you to assign them, mention this in every communication if you can! It definitely pays off pretty quickly, you will free up your time from admin burdens. Let's face it, it's a little lazy of them, when it only takes 30 seconds to sign up! This will also stop you being the bottleneck!
Invite all the PTA regulars you have email addresses for. Also ask them to invite others they know, and if you have a big list of emails already, email the Support team and we'll upload it for you in bulk in CSV format.
Think about having a PlanSocial stall at each event to keep getting more people signed up. We can even send you some balloons in the post. Just email Support again. :)
You can have more than one Community Manager on a paid plan, but this is not generally recommended as you'll both receive all the self-register approval notification emails and might get yerselves in a tizz. Community Managers also get access to sensitive information like all email addresses, and can add or remove bank accounts for ticket payments and donations, so it's best to keep a tight hold over this access. (PS Any new Community Managers will also be added to our product newsletter email list so we can let you know when stuff changes in the app.)
Setting up Groups
You can create Groups for year groups, classes, committees, staff, interest groups, after school clubs or whatever you might want people to join to have a private space to chat to each other. Encourage people to join the right groups when they sign up, or add people yourself. It is a really convenient way for people to connect with other and build community bonds.
Setting up Events
Put a full and welcoming description on every event, activity and task
This is really important. Spell out exactly what they personally will have to do, state the obvious if needed. The less unknowns and ambiguity, the more people will raise their hand.
- make a point of asking new people to jump in and help themselves to a task
- encourage people to post on the walls if they have something relevant to say or ask. The information is then right there for others to see, saving you the hassle of answering all the emails with the same question.
The minimum number of helpers should indicate the real minimum you need for the event to be viable. This total number will be displayed as "chances to help" on the event.
If you set a max number of helpers on a task, then once you have enough people the task will say "Full" so that no more people can volunteer for it. It is then easier for people to scan down the list of tasks looking for where help is still needed. Try to be inclusive when setting this number - don't shut people off from getting involved if they want to. (E.g. don't have the existing committee immediately pounce on all the rota slots and make everyone else feel redundant!)
Activities vs tasks
An activity is a related group of tasks within an event, a bit like a "sub-event" (ewww but that sounds too techie!).
So activities group your tasks together neatly and allow you to message a bunch of people involved in that area. Best of all you can delegate an activity to an activity manager and they can edit it as they see fit, changing descriptions, adding tasks and assigning helpers. They also then get the messages posted on relevant walls they manage, instead of you having to deal with all enquiries yourself.
If you are organising an event with more than 8 tasks, or with rotas or areas with different people in charge, it makes sense to use activities. For example rather than set up all your organiser tasks at the top of the event taking up prime space, gather them in an activity instead. They are still there for anyone to see if interested, great for transparency for future would-be volunteers. (Handily, it also means you can converse with just the organisers on that activity wall, selecting "Post & email helpers" to start a conversation with just those people doing the organising.)
Another great reason to use them is that you can easily copy activities, including all their underlying tasks. So, first create a volunteer timetable in an activity, with tasks for each time slot, and specifying your minimum and maximum number of helpers. Then copy that activity for each stall that has the same number of timeslots and helpers. Select the edit button (top right) then "Copy Activity". This will save you a lot of editing time.
Also note that you can set up certain details for each activity, like location, or start and end times. This is useful for example if you have fair stalls set up as activities, so you can explain where the stall is located and what time it is running.
Broadcast your community news on the main News wall - this will be seen by any new member joining, so is a good place to put a general welcome message, instructions (e.g. why not upload a profile picture?) or fundraising updates.
Broadcast event-specific information on the event wall it refers to. That way, the link in the email that goes out points directly to the event where they should volunteer.
BTW Please avoid double-clicking buttons when posting... It's the internet! Not Microsoft in the early 90s ;)
If somebody posts on the wall, a message goes to the activity, event or community manager (you) starting with the lowest level of delegating and escalating upwards if no manager is assigned. (So you don't have to ask people to email you separately - see below re private messaging.) Having one person ask a common question on the wall will save others wondering or asking you again!
Posting a message with "Post & email helpers" will email the people helping on that event / activity / task depending on which wall you post on. It will email your message and also remind each individual what they volunteered for and who else is helping on that task.
Posting a message with "Post & email community" will email all members your message, with a link back to the page you posted from.
Private conversations can be created with multiple people (envelope icon, top right) can be composed to one or more individuals. Those conversations are only visible to those participating.
Clicking on any person's name will let you send them a one-to-one private message, however if a user has opted out of private messaging, you will not be able to do so, nor will their name be found in the private conversations recipients list.
If your event or activity manager is super-keen and offers to run the whole stall themselves -- although it may not be obvious, this can be counter-productive in the long run. Remember, you are trying to show parents that helping the PTA is not an all-or-nothing commitment.
The managers should ideally be facilitators who organise the volunteers, not man every stall themselves! :) So try encouraging them to keep tabs on their volunteers, ask for help when needed and then fill in any remaining slots IF necessary. Funnily enough, seeing the same faces from the start can actually feel a bit cliquey and put people off stepping for a slot, let alone taking on the role of organiser next year!
Make the helper slots nice and short (e.g. 30 mins). This means more volunteers are needed, but you are a lot more likely to get people stepping forward if it's only 30 minutes and they know they are one amongst many helping, rather than one of the select few who sacrificed family time to stand behind a stall for the entire event. This is the single most important thing that will change the way people view your PTA, and the consequences for them if they get involved. So if you want to grow your pool of volunteers dramatically, so fundraising becomes a whole community effort, this is the way to do it!
When you assign (or unassign) a helper, they are emailed to let them know automatically. People who volunteer themselves also receive an email confirmation with details of what they have offered to do. You can assign a brand new member, or choose an existing member to assign.
Do be aware that any conversations posted on the message walls are visible to all members, including replies. There is a note saying so at the top of each wall, to remind everyone. However if the information is relevant to the running of an event, e.g. "how to organise.." then put it in the activity or task description - this bit will get copied across when an event is copied for next time - but the messages on the wall will not.
If you want to make an event announcement or update asking for more volunteers, post on the message wall of your event (NOT the general news wall) and select "Post & email community" before clicking POST.
This sends an email out to all members and automatically includes the event details and description, as well as a link back to the event to volunteer. We recommend you send a weekly email asking for more volunteers on the run up to a big event -- people usually need prodding a few times and volunteer in waves. We'll even send you a weekly nudge email with a list of the latest helpers :)
You can keep track and get a whole-event overview any time using the "View task tables" button top right of the screen, also great for printing out and pinning to boards if you are so inclined.
Just before the event, an easy way to send a personalised reminder to all helpers is by posting on the Event wall and selecting "Post & email helpers" and writing your message. Each volunteer will receive a summary of their own volunteering tasks and even be notified of who else is also helping on those particular tasks. Very handy on the morning of the event! It's also a useful way to thank just the volunteers after the event is over.
Selling Tickets for PTA Events
You can sell tickets easily with PlanSocial so that members can pay with their Debit/Credit cards and pay your PTA directly. Just go to the Manage page, set up a Stripe Payment account there and you're ready to accept payments!
Handling Online Donations
Our US customers have, by default, the facility to accept secure online donations from members and non-members. If you are based in the UK and would like this facility, please email our support address to let us know.
Profile & Preferences
People can edit their details in their profile page (top right, under your name), including setting their profile picture, and jotting down their bio. They can also see what events they are attending, and what they have already volunteered for. Here they can also edit their preferences, turning off notifications or opting out of receiving private messages (could be useful for teachers!)
Any conversation can be "followed" or "unfollowed", determining whether or not you want to receive an email notification for all further replies.
Help other PTAs to discover PlanSocial!
Finally, please ask parents in your school to refer PlanSocial to other PTAs. The more customers we have, the faster we can build you more awesome features and bring you shared insights from other PTA communities! We're a small self-funded startup and your support means a whole awful lot to us. All referrals and social media posts are greatly appreciated and we'll LOVE you forever xxx :)
PS You can also view short videos and in-app guides on most pages of the app. Look for this image at the top of the page: