I’ve been working with several booster organizations to assess and make recommendations around their use of various technologies. I’ve found that the following have helped some boosters become more productive and efficient.
1. WordPress – While wix, weekly and Squarespace are great for building a basic website for your band, WordPress powers over 64 million websites or 34% of the web. Therefore, the platform has thousands of developers and designers creating tons of plugins to extend your website with more features or productivity tools. One word of caution, however, you’ll need someone on your team who knows how to manage and update WordPress or utilize a wordpress-focused hosting company like WPEngine.com. If you host it on low-end hosting services such as godaddy, hostgator, etc.. then it isn’t automatically updated and could eventually become vulnerable to hackers.
Pros: Incredibly flexible, extensible and robust
Cons: Requires a bit more technical expertise to secure and host
Alternatives: Wix and Squarespace are also fine for a simple band website. Alternately, start with a WordPress site hosted at WordPress.com to avoid hosting & security challenges. However, it doesn’t allow you to install all the plugins and extensions as the self-hosted version.
2. Google Workspace – You’ll probably know this as Gmail or a Google account but Google Workpspace is the enterprise option that also includes access to Google docs, sheets, slides, drive and forms. Setting it up for your booster group allows you to create personalized email accounts for each board member and securely share documents between the boosters. If you name it as the role vs the person then you can then pass off the entire account to the next volunteer for that position and retain all the documents, email history, etc…
Pros: Convenient, simple, and secure option to share email, documents and files between booster members.
Cons: It can be expensive at $6/mo per user. It can also be technically challenging to set up and manage.
Alternatives: Consider creating free Gmail accounts with a generic name for each position and passing them off to the next volunteer.
3. Wufoo – Every band needs a solid system to register students and parents for events. If you are still using paper forms or email RSVPs then jump into WuFoo and create your first event registration form. You can start with something simple for free then move into more complex forms with conditional logic, the ability to collect payments, and much more.
Pros: Start for free and grow into it as your registration needs grow.
Cons: It can be quite challenging to manage complex forms. Also, it doesn’t integrate into your band management software (Charms, etc..) so you’ll likely end up with duplicate data.
Alternatives: Google forms will work well for simple registrations. It is free with a google account.
4. Mailchimp – Good communication with your students and parents is critical to a well-oiled booster organization. Many boosters use Mailchimp, the most popular newsletter software to send great-looking newsletters with all their band details every week. You can start with a basic template for free then grow into a paid program as necessary.
Pros: Nice-looking newsletters, easy to manage, and does a good job keeping the email out of spam folders
Cons: It does way more than most band boosters need and can get expensive for larger bands.
5. GroupMe – Email communication works well for regular updates but not so well for real-time communication required during trips, events, etc… Many people simply don’t check their email regularly so they miss the near-real-time updates. Group texting can fill in that gap but it be challenging across multiple platforms and can take over your phone notifications with too much chatter. Fortunately, GroupMe enables users to receive real-time messages but mute specific group communications when necessary.
Pros: Most students and some parents are already using GroupMe so its easy to get them on board.
Cons: It can get overwhelming for large groups with a lot of chatter.
Alternatives: Check out the Band app if GroupMe doesn’t work for your organization.
6 – Signup Genius – If you manage volunteers then Signup Genius seems to the go-to-tool. This is commonly used by parents for school events so many of them are familiar with the tool. It allows you to create volunteer events, invite parents and allow them to RSVP for events, items, etc..
Pros: Many parents are already using it.
Cons: it doesn’t integrate with your band management database. Also, isn’t great for multiple events, managers, etc..
Alternatives: You might consider signup.com as an alternative.
7 – Stripe – Every band needs a great credit card processing tool to manage payments for registrations and band events. We highly recommend Stripe as a processor as it is super simple to set up has great developer support so it integrates with most software out there today. So, you can switch tools and keep the same processor in place.
Pros: Simple to set up and tons of integration options
Cons: Could use some improvements on off-the-shelf tools
Alternatives: Consider Paypal for a good off-the-shelf payment solution
8 – Slack – Most booster or parent organizations utilize email to communicate between leaders. As people have moved more to texts for personal communication, they check email less frequently so they don’t always respond quickly. Many businesses are now utilizing Stripe for interoffice communication as it brings together the best of email and texting. It allows for long-form communication between individuals or groups but offers great tools (such as mobile apps) to receive messages and respond immediately if necessary or snooze and come back later. It also archives all communication so you can easily search later. Slack also integrates into a lot of tools such as Wufoo
Pros: Free, simple tool to improve communication
Cons: Might be challenging to get everyone to start using it regularly
Alternatives: If you have a small leadership group, stick with email.
9 – Airtable – If you are technically savvy and find yourself using Excel or Google Sheets for tracking and managing data, consider switching to Airtable. It is a fully-customizable database used to manage and track data without requiring any coding skills. You can then utilize forms and custom views to simplify access to the data. There is also an Airtable mobile app to access the information on the fly. This can be useful for managing information such as lockers, instruments, uniforms, etc…
Pros: Free, powerful tool for managing data
Cons: Requires someone technically savvy to create and maintain
Alternatives: Stick with Excel or Google Sheets if it works for you.
10 – Your favorite tool – tell us below!