What are the best online tools for planning class parties or group events?

This week one of my kids’ classes has been planning its fall party. All of the parents are always willing to help out and that is wonderful, but my inbox now has more than 30 reply-alls. I was afraid to even start opening them to see what was still needed. I felt overwhelmed.

So I set up a closed Facebook group to help the parents communicate, as well as help manage the email traffic. So we’ll see if it works.

A closed Facebook group allows you to add members from a certain group and outsiders can’t read what you are posting, similar to a profile page. You can also create an open group if you don’t care if people read it.

(You can also create a page for an organization, which is different. Those are generally public and function a little bit differently than the group set up.)

We’re in the middle of trying to get all the moms added as members. I went with a closed group so no one would have to worry about the class, school or kids being identified online.

The class mom can post the list of things that are needed and then let people sign up by commenting below. Then the room mom could go through and quickly create a master list without having to open 30 separate emails.  Also the other parents could easily see what was taken, also without having to open 30 extra emails.

The class can also coordinate on games, activities, or needs of the class. As well as ask questions about homework or tests.

The nice part about it being closed is that you could even add photos from class parties and only the parents could see and share. (You could download from Facebook ones that you like.)

So far the only bad part is having to get all the families signed up as members on the page. They either have to be added by “Friends” already added or ask to be added. We have about half of the parents after one afternoon so hopefully we can finish everyone up today.

It doesn’t do you any good if everyone is not on the page. You don’t want to be switching between email and Facebook. You could send out the final master list by email at the end but I’m not sure why you would as long as everyone is in the Facebook group.

(You can hit a button to leave the group if you don’t want to be on there. I’m not sure what the downside is especially now that all the email notifications have been turned off on Facebook. You can just peek in and see what’s up. No pressure.)

There is also a group chat function that might be useful when trying to figure out a particular detail of an event.

We use a public page (which is different than a group) for our swim team, and that does make it very easy to communicate about swim meets and equipment. The parents can hop on and ask questions and other more experienced parents can answer. The leaders also hop on and answer as well. They use the event function on the page to remind people when events are. (You can do that with the Facebook group page as well.)

I am wondering how Evite would be to set up class parties and events. You could list what was needed then people could log on to see what was left to take. You wouldn’t even have to create a master list then.

I don’t think Evite would facilitate the conversation though. You couldn’t really ask question and answer back on there.

I just think there have got to be easier ways to go about coordinating class parties and group events other than through email. What software and websites are you using to coordinate class or group events?

39 comments Add your comment

Kat

September 29th, 2011
12:50 am

I just received an invitation the other day that came from the location of the party place rather than the mom involved. It’s a great place, and we plan to attend. But, I’m less likely to open an email from a “place” versus a “person” with whom I’ve spoken.

ABC

September 29th, 2011
6:14 am

What about those of us who are not on FB and refuse to join? Would we be left out of this type of setup?

mom2alex&max

September 29th, 2011
6:41 am

ABC: we ran into that issue when we tried to set up a FB group for our scout pack. So we went back to e-mails.

Anyone tried Volunteer Spot? I liked it a lot, but the problem was that the free version was very limited.

t4

September 29th, 2011
6:46 am

I’ve set up a Shutterfly site for my class. It’s free, and super easy to use.

Me

September 29th, 2011
7:07 am

We aren’t Facebook fans – although my wife does have an account. It’s not something that we personally would use. At this point, we prefer email or something like Evite which is web-based since, combined, we have 2 iPads, 3 BlackBerries, and 2 iPhones — And, currently, there hasn’t been a true FB app released for the iOS -although that is changing in October.

Aren't having iPhones and Blackberries...

September 29th, 2011
7:35 am

…redundantly redundant…

DB

September 29th, 2011
8:31 am

An easier option is just setting up a Google spreadsheet or Word doc with the things that need to be done and give all the class parents access to it, so they can sign up on line. Be sure to leave a place for comments, so that people can add suggestions, etc., but basically, do you really want a committee of 25 people trying to run this project? Probably not, and that’s what happens with FB, sometimes. If you’re the “boss” of this project, then have the confidence to manage it, don’t throw it open to being micromanaged by 25 other participants!

Honestly, 30 emails just doesn’t seem that overwhelming to me — I get about 250 a day . . . :-)

Football mom

September 29th, 2011
8:44 am

Just send a note home in the folder and tell everyone what to bring. Seems pretty simple.

JOD

September 29th, 2011
8:58 am

I prefer Evite. It’s been upgraded recently so you can include polls and sign ups for food. It has always had the option of adding comments once you RSVP, so there is room for back-and-forth discussion, just not as pretty as Facebook does it.

Facebook event pages are nice, but I don’t know how useful they would be for a class party (seems like there is more discussion/work than should be needed). I think DB hit the nail on the head (and oh, yeah on the email).

JJ

September 29th, 2011
9:04 am

Facebook is the best way to communicate with people. Just about everyone I know is on there, and it’s quick and very convenient.

ABC

September 29th, 2011
9:12 am

@JJ, it would seem that most people are on FB but there are some of us holdouts who have no plans to ever join for a number of reasons. One of our son’s sports teams uses TeamSnap to coordinate game/practice schedules, player availability, who’s bringing snack and a lot more. It was probably created for sports teams, but I don’t see why any group of people like class parents, couldn’t use it.

Cammi317

September 29th, 2011
9:15 am

This seems over-the-top for a class party, and I have planned plenty . I have also organized Teacher Appreciation Week’s, Fall Festivals, etc. over the years. It’s really not that complicated. Like one of the earlier posters said, send a note home. This facebook page, while good in theory, is going to eventually cause problems. Everyone is going to want a say in how things are going to get done and feelings are going to get hurt.

Lori

September 29th, 2011
9:19 am

Wow, you are way over-thinking this. I agree with Football Mom with the note in the folder. My son’s room mothers have always done that. They send home a list of everything needed and each item has 1 or 2 kids names next to it so everyone knows what to bring. Works just fine. If you open up the party planning to a whole committee of mom’s on Facebook, you are just asking for disaster! Best to have a person of two in charge and just tell everyone else what to do. If they don’t like it, then they should have volunteered for room mother!!

Lori

September 29th, 2011
9:19 am

And chances are, they probably prefer just being told what to do. I’m a working mom, I don’t have a ton of time to browse FB or emails all day. I just want to be told what to bring and when!!

motherjanegoose

September 29th, 2011
9:30 am

We did not have technology when I taught school nor when my kids were young, so I can’t give you a good answer. I will tell you that my neighbor, many years ago, called me exasperated after a spring party. She was in charge and her son was 10 or 11. She is quite organized and thought she had communicated well. She had asked for: sweet, fruit, salty, drinks, paper goods etc. The mom who agreed to send in grapes did so: a baggie of twently little grapes. ARE YOU KIDDING? I still laugh about that one. Guess it seemed about the same as sending in a snack for her own child and not too much work. Good thing she did not sign up for popcorn or chips…it may have been twenty pieces too!

Techmom

September 29th, 2011
9:34 am

I really don’t understand all the FB haters except that they’re afraid. If you only want to use it for specific things like a private group or two, then set your security high and lock your page. No one said you had to accept friend requests. BUT c’mon, everyone from my kids to grandmas are on it; there’s no giant conspiracy. OK, stepping off my soapbox.

We use a private FB group for our youth leaders. We meet regularly and there are only 6 of us so it’s fairly simple to communicate and know what’s going on. We have an open group for the actual youth group and send invites to events via that group so kids and parents can see what’s going on.

My son’s school FINALLY switched to VolunteerSpot (at my recommendation!) for all concession and PTA events. It’s just way too much to get an email every week from the school that says reply to this person (parent/non-school coordinator) about which shifts you can work. And then that person has to constantly respond to people telling them they are confirmed or that shift is already full. Royal pain in the butt IMO. They started this year and so far, so good. I don’t think they’ve moved down to the classroom level yet but after being the grade parent organizer and team mom several times, I’m ready for them to. Each person just goes on and chooses what shift to work or item they want to bring and that’s it. It will email remind you in advance and everything.

M1chelle

September 29th, 2011
9:39 am

I think my message is in “review” because I used a link. But we use Signupgenius. It’s really EASY and was created for these type of events.

The site says:
SignUpGenius is a FREE online tool for creating and managing group sign up lists.
Simple wizards for creating your sign up
Public or private online group sign up
Automated email reminders
“Swapping” ability for schedule changes
Attractive and customizable templates

Easy administration tools and stats

cobb mom of 4

September 29th, 2011
9:44 am

Agree with ABC…I shut down my FB account about 3 months ago. I would certainly not reopen it just to be involved with a class party. 2 years ago my teenage son lost his part-time job because of something he posted on his FB account about another employee….they were “friends”. I had already warned him about posting his personal life for his 625 friends to see and that it would come back to haunt him…..sure enough it did.

Having used my own FB account simply to connect with long-lost friends I thought I was safe from repercussions until I was looking for a job and the HR rep (prior co-worker) told me about the various ways companies search FB to find out information on prospective employees. They do more than just look at your wall or public profile. I closed my account the same day.

Techmom

September 29th, 2011
9:48 am

The problem with sending notes home is that it doesn’t work beyond elementary school and if you’re dealing with more than a single class/team, email can definitely get out of control. I don’t think 30 emails is that big of a deal T but when dealing with large groups like grade-wide or school-wide events, it is.

DB

September 29th, 2011
9:52 am

@M1chelle: That sounds like a great program!! I’m going to check it out!

Becky

September 29th, 2011
10:17 am

I’m with Football Mom..A simple note works just fine…

@cobb mom of 4..They just banned FB from our work computers..Some of my coworkers are in DT’s over it..It’s really funny to see..Of course the one coworker that is most of the reason that it was banned has figured out how to get into FB and is still on there most of the day..

Me

September 29th, 2011
10:20 am

@Aren’t Having… BlackBerries, iPhones, and iPads are not redundant AT ALL when some of these devices are provided by our respective companies and used for work use only while the others are personal devices. Call it what you wish but neither my wife nor I care to mix the data contained on the individual devices.
I also have to agree with @BD — 30 emails is nothing. I would actually consider 250 emails a day to be a “slow” day.

Kat

September 29th, 2011
10:21 am

It burns me to my very soul when a list of 20 items goes out and the room mom says, “Let me know what you want to bring…” and the emails start flying! Ugh!

I’d rather a list of items comes home with “my” item checked so I know what to get. Later, I can always see if anything else is needed.

Kat

September 29th, 2011
10:32 am

And, you still have to go through all of those emails to see what has been “taken” so you don’t seem foolish for signing up for something else already taken.

motherjanegoose

September 29th, 2011
10:35 am

@ Kat…I would have rather made the assignments too but many parents despise being assigned something without having a say in it. I always told my kid’s teachers, at the beginning of the year, I will bring the paper goods for ALL class parties. That way, I could buy them when I saw them and they could be sent in early without a fear of going bad like food. That is just me.

Becky…I do wonder how many are on the computer when they are bing paid to work. Since I work for myself, it does not matter. Are most bosses o.k. with those who spend an hour or so online each day total? Just wondering.

MomsRule

September 29th, 2011
11:16 am

I do not like getting E-invites from anyone that requires that I set up an account. Then you sign up and get pestered with advertisements. No thanks.

Way to much thought and effort is put into some of these class parties IMO. And I’m so thrilled to be past this stage. If I’m in charge…I’m in charge and I will make the decisions (and no, I don’t need a co-chair, I always seemed to end up with the busy body that had nothing better to do but discuss the party for hours on end). If I’m not in charge…tell me what to bring. I do not need to waste my time with 5 other Mom’s spending 45mns discussing whether to bring grape or apple juice.

Becky

September 29th, 2011
12:14 pm

@MJG..I have a couple of coworkers that are on FB any given day about 3-4 hrs. per day..One girl has about 150 “friends” and she goes on their page every day to send stuff to her farm or what other game that she is playing..

The other girl, came in to my office about 9:15 this morning and said that she was through with all of her work today and was going back upstairs to watch movies for the rest of the day..She says this about once a week..In both of these positions, no other person has ever had that much “free” time..

As some of us say, thinks around here that make you go hmmmm..

Becky

September 29th, 2011
12:15 pm

oops..things..

Wayne

September 29th, 2011
12:18 pm

@Becky: what time does that girl start in the morning?

shaggy

September 29th, 2011
1:06 pm

No Facebook EVER, and I refuse to do anything called a “tweet”.
I am fine with my 2 cans and string connectivity. I will throw you a line for networking.

shaggy

September 29th, 2011
1:07 pm

Becky,

Your co-workers are goof offs, geting paid, and apparently, that’s OK there. Do they have any openings?

Denise

September 29th, 2011
1:10 pm

Sounds too complicated and that too many people have input. There needs to be someone or a small group that makes assignments or has more “control” over things.

Kat

September 29th, 2011
1:52 pm

The poor room mom with the parent who thinks 20 grapes is sufficient for a class party. Even if added to a fruit tray, it won’t fly. I like it when the room mom says “send in food for x number of students.” Granted, I don’t think my kids would run to the grapes, but they did ask for them this past weekend, so apparently I need to branch out.

Becky

September 29th, 2011
1:55 pm

@Wayne..She usually gets here about 7:30/7:45..When I get here about 8:10 or so, she’s on her cell phone talking to her daughter and FB’ing..Then she hangs up with the daughter and calls her Mom..She has diabetes (sp) and told the boss lady that she has to take a “break” from the computer screen so that her eyes don’t get out of focus..

The funny thing is her brother works here in the whse and his girlfriend works in another office..My coworker goes home and tells her Mom about all the work that she has to do during the day..Makes her Mom think that she does so much here..Then she comes in here and tells us about all the work that she has to do at home..Yet, the brother says that all she does at home is sit in the recliner and their Mom waits on her hand and foot..She has been doing this for so long that she thinks that she has all of us fooled..

@shaggy..you are right and sorry, but we don’t have any openings..

Wayne

September 29th, 2011
1:58 pm

Cripes! Beat me to it Shaggy! I’m hard-pressed to read this blog (and send in the occasional comment), nevermind watching movies. And your boss(es) don’t see this? Man…

Patrick

September 29th, 2011
2:03 pm

Check out Constant Contact’s Event Marketing solution. You can even tie in email with this, track opens and ask questions with online surveys. http://www.constantcontact-event.com/

abc

September 29th, 2011
2:04 pm

At least with Facebook, the participants have given approval for Facebook to sell information about them. They don’t mind if their political orientation, religious affiliation, and endorsement of causes, in addition to all their contact information is sold freely. Even if you don’t put it on your Facebook page and profile, it can be aggragated with that information from other sites.

With Evite, though, you give people’s email addresses to evite.com and their 3rd parties to sell freely, without permission of the owners of those email addresses to do so.

I suggest the old fashioned way: send paper invitations, request RSVP, and don’t count on those that don’t respond. ‘Course, I’m a security and privacy guy by trade.

Becky

September 29th, 2011
3:03 pm

I agree Wayne..As we all can see, there are lots of times when some of us don’t post on here for days on end..Mostly (for me) because not enough time, some topics, just not interested in..She does have a boss up there with her, but she runs the show..

DB

September 29th, 2011
5:39 pm

Here’s how we handled parties in elementary school:

At parent’s night, there was a sign-up form for various activities throughout the year. Including all the parties, their dates, etc. You signed up for whatever party you wanted to work on. There was a maximum of five sign-up slots, and you could only sign up for one party. (Two, if they didn’t have enough sign-ups, but that seldom happened.)

Those four or five moms were in charge of the party. One planned a craft, another planned an activity, and the other two decided who was going to bring paper goods, cupcake/cookies/fruit and lemonade. The KISS principle was very much in play. And once you were done, you were DONE for the year, unless you just really got off on classroom parties. :-)

A class party shouldn’t require a cast of thousands.