Better School Communication: An Alternative to SchoolMessenger

Looking for a communication alternative to SchoolMessenger that families will love?

SchoolMessenger is a good platform for sending mass notifications and communications. However, many schools and districts want a better solution for connecting their families to the classroom, school, and district. After all, the closer families are connected to their child’s education, the higher their engagement, involvement, and satisfaction.

So, what would be a better alternative to SchoolMessenger to improve and consolidate communication? While both platforms do district, school, and classroom-wide communications, Livingtree Engage can provide families with a more personal connection to their child’s academic life.

What is the Livingtree Engage platform?

Think of Livingtree Engage as a mini, private Facebook for your community. It combines family engagement, mass communication, and urgent alert capabilities all in one place. This keeps even the busiest of families connected to their child’s education. With web and mobile applications that resemble social media networks, it’s easy for staff and families to use.

One Unified Family Engagement Platform - Livingtree

This guide will help you decide if Livingtree Engage is a better fit for your community over SchoolMessenger.

What’s similar about Livingtree Engage and SchoolMessenger?

District, School, and Class-wide Communications

Many people know SchoolMessenger for its Mass Notification abilities. Livingtree Engage makes it quick and easy to communicate with everyone. Staff members can simply write their message and then select the group or groups they wish to send it to.

Livingtree Engage Platform District-Wide Communication Options
The Livingtree Engage platform makes it easy for district staff to select exactly who they want to communicate with.

The customizable notification settings within Livingtree Engage make it easy for families to decide how they are notified about new posts and messages in the platform. For communications with additional urgency, staff members can choose to send their message via a Text Message (SMS) or Automated Phone Call.

Emergency Alerts

Similar to the Emergency Alerts in SchoolMessenger, Livingtree Engage is equipped with an Urgent Alert feature.

New - Livingtree Engage Urgent Alert Notifications for Schools & Districts

This option automatically pre-selects all associated groups and sends the message as a Text Message (SMS), Automated Phone Call, and a post within the platform that also generates a mobile push notification. In addition, it overrides any customized notification settings to ensure every family is notified in as many ways as possible. Have default wording that you use in urgent situations? You can use the “configure a default message” setting to make sending out communications that much quicker.

Attendance Alerts & Lunch Balance Alerts

Livingtree Engage and SchoolMessenger both have Attendance and Lunch Balance alert capabilities. However, this is not an add-on service for Livingtree Engage. This feature helps schools and districts keep notifications in the same platform for families, so we include it! Using this feature is as simple as uploading a data file!

Bonus info: Get the Family Engagement Technology guide for the 4 capabilities your engagement platform must have and the best practices for school districts to implement a unified solution.

How is Livingtree Different from SchoolMessenger?

Exceptional Live Customer Support

Hate picking up the phone to try and get ahold of customer support? Or filling out a contact form and hoping for a reply back? Livingtree offers live customer support service to administrators, school staff, AND families. Our Support department can be reached via phone, email, or live chat! Users can access our live chat from the website or from within our mobile applications. Just ask any of our partners – they rate our customer support as one of the best among school technology platforms!

Integrated Calendar with Event Management Features, Available on the Web and Mobile Apps

One thing you won’t find in SchoolMessenger’s parent platform – a calendar. Staff members and families love the ability to create events and see what’s coming up at school.

Livingtree Engage Platform Calendar
Families and users can see what’s coming up at the school or in the classroom with the Livingtree Engage Calendar

The event management features enable staff members to reach 100 percent participation when they need it. For example, staff members can set up an RSVP system, ask for sign-ups, and even set reminders so that families never forget! Moreover, users are also able to externally sync the Livingtree calendar with their personal calendars (iCal, Google, Outlook) with just a few clicks!

Livingtree Engage Platform Event Management
With every event, users can choose whether to send an event notification, require RSVPs, require a Sign Up, or include event reminder notifications.

Automatic Two-Way Translation in over 100 languages

Not only are all of Livingtree’s notifications (i.e. mobile push, emails, text message, etc.) automatically translated according to a user’s preferences, but posts and direct messages that users see within the platform are automatically translated for them as well. If they write back, their comment or message is then automatically translated back into the other user’s preferred language, providing complete two-way translation for all users.

A Livingtree Engage Message Sent in English:

Livingtree Engage Translations - Message Sent in English

The Same Message Received and Translated to Spanish:

Livingtree Engage Translations - Message Opened in Spanish
For users that set their language preferences to Spanish, their messages are automatically translated.

Text Formatting Tools

At Livingtree, we understand how important it is for teachers and staff members to communicate their messages effectively and clearly, especially when it’s about what students are learning. That’s why posts in Livingtree Engage contains text formatting options. Staff members can bold, italicize, and underline what’s important, hyperlink to learning sites or classroom files, organize messages with numbers and bullet points, or even justify certain parts of their text. The platform even converts video links into native videos, so families don’t have to open a new window.

Livingtree Engage Text Formatting Tools

Daily Summaries

For families who may miss posts and notifications, or just want to be notified less often, Livingtree includes a daily email with a summary of that day’s posts and activity. It’s all about making sure families never miss a thing!

As Easy as Using Social Media!

Livingtree Engage is an easy-to-use solution for administrators, school staff, and families. With a close resemblance to social media networks, Livingtree Engage is easy to use at every level of the school district. It also incorporates everything families would want for communications, including mass communications, direct messaging, calendars, events, and customizable notification settings that include translations in over 100 languages.

Need A School Communication Alternative to SchoolMessenger?

For a quick overview of how Livingtree Engage is different from SchoolMessenger, take a look at the chart below:

Livingtree-SchoolMessenger Comparison Overview

If you’re looking for an alternative to SchoolMessenger for school communication, Livingtree Engage can be the perfect solution, and these are just some of the major differences. If you’re a current SchoolMessenger customer, then you know first-hand! Don’t let us tell you. Schedule a demo and decide for yourself!

Click below to request a demo or ask us a question!

Need a better CMS Website solution as well?

The Livingtree Engage platform has a completely native integration with Edlio, so you can ditch your SchoolMessenger website and upgrade for a seamless suite of products that are easy-to-use with your community. Check out Edlio for a beautiful CMS Website solution.

PTA & PTO Online Fundraising: How One Raises $50K Every Year

If you had the choice to either run one fundraiser for the whole school year, or run several throughout the year, which would you choose? Most would likely choose the first. Because let’s be honest, organizing fundraisers isn’t necessarily a quick and easy process.

It takes a lot of time, energy, organization, and raw-raw to put together a successful school fundraiser. And coordinating these throughout the school year can be exhausting, even for the best school PTAs and PTOs.

But that’s why PTAs and PTOs are the heroes of our schools. When there are gaps in school funding, or opportunities to provide better academic experiences for students like field trips, assemblies, and better playground equipment, PTAs and PTOs find a way to make it happen.

Unfortunately, many fundraising programs can be costly – keeping more than half of the sales or funds raised. Regardless of whether you host a restaurant night in the community or sell products, many of these programs keep a large share of the funds that came out of your community’s pocket. In reality, most parents and community members would rather give to their school than have to buy something.

So, why go through these efforts for such little returns? What if it could be easier? What if PTAs and PTOs didn’t have to organize multiple school fundraisers every year?

Let’s examine that idea – how would you get away with running just one school fundraiser every year? Just like the Kent Gardens PTA does with their annual “One & Done” Fundraiser!

One & Done: Just One Annual PTA Fundraiser Raising $50K in 50 Days

Kent Gardens PTA Online Fundraisers on Livingtree Give
The Kent Gardens PTA’s Livingtree Give Fundraising page features their KGPRIDE “One & Done” fundraisers from each year.

The Kent Gardens PTA hosts one primary fundraiser a year called the KGPRIDE “One & Done” fundraiser, with the goal of raising $50,000 in 50 days. This is a convenient opportunity for families and supporters to do just that: make one contribution and be done for the year. With a successful campaign, the PTA can meet their annual fundraising goal and provide all of the funds for that school year’s projects, supplies, and activities. This fundraiser eliminates any other fundraising efforts throughout the year as well as the continuous donation requests that go along with them.

The Kent Gardens PTA KGPRIDE One & Done Annual Fundraiser
The Kent Gardens PTA hosts one primary fundraiser a year called the KGPRIDE “One & Done” fundraiser.

The PTA has been hosting this fundraiser on Livingtree Give for the last three years raising a total of over $156,000 in that time. With their previous two campaigns, the PTA has exceeded their goal of $50,000 by more than $4,500 each year, paving the way to fund projects and support student educational enrichment.

Their most recent campaign for the 2019-2020 school year raised $55,916.00 with nearly 400 backers. How’d they do it? Let’s take a look.

Breaking Down the Kent Gardens PTA Fundraising Campaign Page

A Brief Introduction and Description (Short Campaign Description Section)

PTA Online Fundraiser Page Introduction
The introduction section on Kent Gardens’ online fundraising page provides a brief description about the campaign for supporters.

In the Short Campaign Description section that you see in the first step of Livingtree Give’s Create a Campaign process, the Kent Gardens PTA did just that – they included a short description of the campaign goal, what the campaign is, what it means, and how it benefits the school. It provides enough information to draw interest from supporters and lead them to learn more.

Stats and Goals Around Family Participation

Tracking Family Participation for PTA Fundraisers
The Kent Gardens PTA tracks family participation to track goals and create a challenge

Tracking family participation stats can provide key insights into how successful your campaign is. Additionally, it provides your school with a natural participation challenge. Within the platform’s Short Campaign Description section, Kent Gardens PTA lists last year’s participation percentage, and this year’s goal to help them achieve their overall fundraising goal.

Classroom Competition

Kent Gardens Tracks and Posts their Classroom Fundraising Competition
Kent Gardens PTA tracks and posts updates for their classroom fundraising competition
Kent Gardens PTA Instructions for the their Classroom Fundraiser Competition
The PTA also lists instructions on their fundraising page on how donations can be counted towards their Classroom Fundraiser Competition

Creating competition among groups within your school is an effective way to drive fundraising. On the Kent Gardens PTA campaign page, supporters receive instructions right away on how to participate in the class competition within the school. Using the “Giving on Behalf Of” field within Livingtree Give’s donation form, donors can enter the students and classrooms they are giving on behalf of, and the PTA can track who to associate the funds to for the competition.

As an incentive to drive fundraising, the class with the highest participation receives a pizza party and the teacher receives a $250 gift card for their classroom. That right there is plenty to motivate a classroom!

Descriptive FAQ in the Campaign Body Text

FAQ section on the Kent Gardens PTA Online Fundraising Page
Kent Gardens PTA includes a helpful FAQ section on their online fundraising page

In addition to your short description, having a full description of your fundraising campaign is beneficial. This is where you can tell your story, answer questions, or include important details for donors. The Kent Gardens PTA took this opportunity to provide a helpful FAQ that answered everything supporters need to know about the campaign.

Motivational Picture

PTA Online Fundraising Page Main Photo
Using a motivational photo like the one above can help drive donations

Whether you’re going for funny, entertaining, or heartful, the main image or video of your campaign is where you can leave a donor smiling. The campaign picture for Kent Gardens PTA shows exactly how they celebrated the previous year’s successful fundraiser: by duct taping their Principal and Vice Principal to the wall outside of the main office.

Creating a Variety of Creative Donation Options

Custom Donation Amounts on the Kent Gardens PTA Fundraiser

In Step 3 of Livingtree Give’s Create a Campaign process, you can not only set your fundraising goal and timeframe, but you can optionally set your donation amounts. While donors always have the option to enter any amount, you can create customized donation amounts to give donors a variety of options to choose from, and also make it a fun or fulfilling experience. Kent Gardens PTA takes advantage of these customizations to create different donation levels (Supporter, Friend, Champion, Visionary, Superstar, or Idol), add related images to the donation amounts, and provide examples in the description of what their donation goes towards.

Promoting the Campaign

Using Social Media to Promote an Online PTA Fundraiser

In addition to including the campaign information in newsletters and emailing the supporters in their Livingtree Give Contact Manager, Kent Gardens PTA used social media to promote the campaign. This was an effective way for the PTA to post reminders, updates about campaign participation, as well as stats regarding the competition among their classrooms.

In addition, the PTA used a yellow sticker campaign to remind families about the fundraiser.

An Efficient School PTA Fundraising Strategy

All of these elements factor into the annual success for the Kent Gardens PTA. Not only do they create a fun and competitive environment that drives fundraising, but they market their campaign well and make it easy for their supporters to donate.

Through the combination of these fundraising elements, a great promotional strategy, and generous support from their community, the Kent Gardens PTA is able to successfully hold one primary fundraiser at the beginning of every school year. Supporters can make one donation for the year and they’re done – no more hassling to purchase something at a bake sale, attend a restaurant night, sponsor a student in another “fund-a-thon,” or buy any more food and products. Plus, with the lower fees of Livingtree Give, their PTA is able to keep most of the funds that they raise – a benefit to them and their generous community members.

Interested in learning more about holding your next online fundraiser on Livingtree Give? Visit the page to learn more and sign up.

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