If you’ve ever volunteered on a school fundraiser committee, you know that the crucial information behind putting on an event is lost between one school year and the next.
By Sarah Varney
If you’ve ever volunteered on a school fundraiser committee, you know that the crucial information behind putting on an event is lost between one school year and the next. And it’s those details that would help make the new committee’s job so much easier: What vendors to use, who has the left-over paper plates in her garage, which pizza place has gluten-free crusts, what schedule works best for volunteers, and on and on.
Combating that turnover and preserving the knowledge of the “hive” (school) should become easier thanks to SchoolBee founders Jeff Lewis and Kim O’Connor. SchoolBee has become the de facto mobile directory app for Rye school parents. And Lewis reports that over 90% of users access the data from mobile devices.
The Rye City School District PTOs started using the package last year to replace the traditional paper directories created for each school. Rye Middle School mom Chris Anderson took on the directory project for two years and helped spearhead the move from paper to online. Initially, the online effort used a primitive database that was not well suited for the task. “SchoolBee is more customized to our school needs,” she said. In addition, it gives parents more flexibility with information. Parents with children at different schools can now indicate that in their SchoolBee record, instead of juggling multiple paper directories.
The genesis of SchoolBee grew out of early efforts by the various PTOs to move from paper directories to online, recounted O’Connor. “I was watching everybody get five directories up and online and I thought ‘What if we went mobile? So I suggested that, and someone said ‘Good idea, tag you’re it!’” O’Connor reached out to software engineer Jeff Lewis, with whom she served on the Rye Nursery School Board. Originally, she asked him to help her vet five small vendors she’d found who did parts of what she envisioned for a mobile directory. Lewis suggested they just build their own from the ground up.
Lewis’ software development background includes building tailored customer relationship management (CRM) packages for financial institutions. CRM software manages calendaring, schedules, mileage, commissions, contacts and other information for particular businesses. He sees SchoolBee as being akin to those packages. “You could almost call it Sales Force CRM for families,” he said. Lewis plans to add on a one-stop-payment capability that will allow parents to buy anything needed for the school year. SchoolBee will take a smaller percentage transaction fee than companies like PayPal and A+ School Rewards.
Raising money, keeping a PTO’s collective wisdom archived for events, and getting parents together are worthy uses for SchoolBee, but O’Connor hopes that the software will also encourage like-minded parents to communicate more easily. Parents of Special Education students, for example, might have their own SchoolBee page that would let them compare notes on their experiences within the district.
“SchoolBee will let parents and PTOs customize it for their individual school cultures,” said O’Connor. “We expect that most of that growth and expansion will be organic.”