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 your PTA could 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 administrative 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 schools’ heroes. 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 could you run 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 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.

Kent Gardens Tracks and Posts their Classroom Fundraising Competition
Kent Gardens PTA tracks and posts updates for their classroom fundraising 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 heartfelt, 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.

Urgent Alert Notifications for Schools & Districts – New Feature

No matter the scale, when you are dealing with an emergent situation, you should notify all of your staff and families in as many forms as possible to ensure the message is received. That’s why Livingtree developed its new Urgent Alert feature on the Engage platform.

The new feature is now available for school and district administrators on the web version of Livingtree Engage as a red “Send Urgent Alert” button, located at the top right of the screen upon logging in. Since school and district administrators are directly connected to families on Livingtree Engage, it made sense to incorporate a tool that could be used to communicate emergent or urgent situations.

New - Livingtree Engage Urgent Alert Notifications for Schools & Districts
Livingtree Introduces New Urgent Alert Notifications Feature for Schools & Districts on Livingtree Engage

The Livingtree Engage Urgent Alert feature quickly notifies all staff, families, and/or students in as many ways as possible. An Urgent Alert automatically pre-selects all of the classrooms and groups within a school or district network, and posts in the platform as a Text Message and Text-To-Speech Phone Alert. Families then receive the message via SMS Text Message, Automated Phone Call, Email, Mobile Push Alert, and on their Livingtree Engage Conversation feed. While every group in the network is pre-selected by default, the feature allows you to customize the selected groups for situations where only certain ones should be notified.

Notify All Staff and Families with Livingtree Emergency Alerts
Notify All Staff and Families with Livingtree Urgent Alerts

Typically, posts on Livingtree Engage notify families according to their set notification preferences.

Livingtree Engage Custom Notification Preferences
Livingtree Engage Custom Notification Preferences

But in certain situations, it is critical that a school or district communicates with everyone in more than one method. This feature overrides those notification preferences and delivers the alert in multiple forms to ensure every family is notified.

The feature also includes a tool to Configure a Default Message to make sending your school or district’s Urgent Alert that much quicker.

Whether you are experiencing severe weather, delayed buses, school delays, school closures, or any urgent issue that must be quickly broadcast to families, Livingtree Engage makes it possible to notify everyone with an Urgent Alert. For more information about the feature or to schedule a demo of Livingtree Engage, contact our team by emailing sales@livingtree.com or calling (512) 957-2313 ext. 1.

Teacher Appreciation Week: Saying Thank You During Coronavirus School Closures

What is Teacher Appreciation Week?

Teacher Appreciation Week, which also incorporates National Teacher Day, is a week-long celebration that honors and celebrates teachers for the contributions they make to education. It offers students, families, and administrators an opportunity to show their appreciation and gratitude for the things they do for their students.

Teacher Appreciation Week Students Saying Thank You

When is Teacher Appreciation Week?

Teacher Appreciation Week is celebrated the first full week of May each year. And in case you’re wondering, Teacher Appreciation Day is celebrated on the Tuesday of Teacher Appreciation Week.

In 2021, Teacher Appreciation Week will fall May 3rd – May 7th, with Teacher Appreciation Day on May 4th.

Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week During Coronavirus Quarantine and School Closures

This year’s Teacher Appreciation Week is probably more well-deserved than ever before. With families now at the center of their child’s learning at home, the respect for what teachers do every day is at an all-time high. Parents and families across the globe have humorously expressed their new respect for teachers on social media:

As the pandemic began, most teachers showed up to school with no idea that it would be their last day physically in-class together with their students. And their response to that was extraordinary. Ken Buck’s social media post said it best:

https://www.facebook.com/kenbuck/posts/10158290606057249

Teachers flipped learning overnight with no playbook to go off of, and they are feeling just as much stress as everyone else. Teachers deserve our appreciation now more than ever before. But with most of the country learning virtually at home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, this year proves a little more difficult to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.

With the pandemic, it’s not as easy to deliver tokens of appreciation to teachers. In fact, if your mind just went to mailing them something, remember that most teachers probably aren’t comfortable giving out their home address.

This year, Teacher Appreciation Week will look a little different due to the Coronavirus quarantines and school closures. Below are some ideas to show your appreciation.

Ideas of How to Say Thank You to Teachers During Quarantine and School Closures

Ideas to Say Thank You During Teacher Appreciation Week

Team up with other students and families to make a photo collage message

This one might take some planning and coordination, and it’s also kind of our favorite, so we’ve put it first to give you some time to plan. Since the beginning of the school closures, schools have coordinated efforts among their teachers to make photo collage messages for their students like this one posted by Briarmeadow Charter School:

This would be a clever idea to duplicate. It could even be as simple as teaming up with four other families and their children to create a short message like “Thank-You-To-Our-Teachers.” But, the more the merrier!

Send them a digital or e-card

Canva is a great option if you are looking to design your own digital card

If teachers aren’t in their classrooms, a physical card likely won’t work. However, it’s still possible to send them a digital card or e-card while in quarantine! There are a variety of websites that you can use to send a digital card or video to your child’s teacher.

One option is to use Canva. Their easy-to-use site allows you to design your own thank you cards or choose from a variety of templates. You can check out Canva’s Thank You Card Hub to explore all of their options.

Another option you can explore is Hallmark’s Teacher Appreciation Day cards. If you’re looking for a premade option that you can just purchase and send, they have a number of e-card options to choose from.

Make a personal thank you video

Create a Thank You Video for Teacher Appreciation Week

With everyone at home in quarantine, creating home-videos has really taken off. This opens a creative, personal way to show your appreciation to teachers. You can even turn it into the next home learning project for your child: have them write a script, record the video, edit it with a free video editing app or program, and publish it online for their teacher to see.

Create a voice recording

If you don’t have the means, or if you’re are a little camera-shy, creating a voice recording to say thank you is just as meaningful. Letting teachers hear their student’s voice is a very personal way to thank them for all of their hard work.

Create a hand-made work of art

Hand Painted Thank You Note for Teacher Appreciation Week

Even though you can’t physically mail it or send it with your child to take to their teacher, you can certainty scan or upload a picture of it! Have your child draw, write, color, or paint a thank you and send it to their inbox! If your teacher is on Livingtree Engage, use the inbox feature and send it as a direct message.

Email them a gift card

Gift cards are certainty still an option, especially since most are available to send via email. Here are a few great options to consider:

Amazon

Teachers can always use Amazon gift cards, whether it be for school supplies, home goods, groceries, or a movie night on Amazon Video.

Netflix or Hulu

Speaking of movie nights, a $10 gift card to Netflix or Hulu could mean a month of movie nights at home or binge-watching an addicting show.

Your local grocery store

Purchase them a gift card to the local grocery store in your community. Taking care of the essentials is always appreciated, especially during difficult times.

Food or grocery delivery

Purchasing them a gift card for a food or grocery delivery service is the perfect quarantine gift. A gift card to a grocery delivery service like Instacart enables your teacher to receive groceries while staying safe and healthy at home. Gift cards for food delivery services like Uber Eats, Doordash, Favor, and Postmates also make great meal gifts, and support your local delivery workers and restaurants.

Local shops or restaurants

Gift cards to local places help support your community during these difficult times, and make a great gift that teachers will appreciate.

Support their fundraising campaigns

Support a Teacher's Online Fundraising Campaign for Teacher Appreciation Week

Many teachers fundraise online for classroom supplies and projects. Sometimes funding requests for their projects and ideas are also posted and made available online as grants through their education foundations. Either way, if your child’s teacher has a fundraising project on an online school fundraising site like Livingtree Give, consider supporting it. A small donation, or even just sharing it out on social media can be a big help.

What Teachers Truly Want to Hear and Who They Want to Hear it From

Since we can’t show up this year and personally express our appreciation, or physically present teachers with a token of gratitude, it’s important to truly communicate how much their work means. It’s important to provide teachers with recognition of how amazing they are, how much they are appreciated, and tell them the stories and examples of how they’ve made a difference.

Teachers not only want to hear this from current students, but also their families, administrators, and even former students.

As challenging as you may find it to educate your child, just remember, teachers CHOOSE to do it day in and day out. Not for the money, and definitely not for the hours, but for the special opportunity to make a difference and move a child towards a successful future.

We hope this inspires you with a great idea for thanking a teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week. And to all teachers around the world, all of us here at Livingtree give you our biggest THANK YOU!


Are you a school or district leader looking to better connect families with their child’s teacher and school? Schools can benefit from a unified platform that enhances teacher-family communication, especially during remote learning. Download our free guide for engaging families through technology, or visit the Livingtree Engage platform page.

Family Engagement Technology Guide

Replacing Face to Face School Fundraising

How do you replace face to face school fundraisers?

The current global health crisis has thrown a wrench in a lot of activities related to K-12 education. School fundraising is an essential activity that happens in the background of the school ecosystem, so it’s not typically top of mind for most individuals. However, throughout a regular school year, teachers fundraise for extra supplies and student experiences, PTAs fundraise for student events and activities, school sports teams and their boosters fundraise to develop and advance their programs, school programs and clubs fundraise to support their groups and attend competitions/events, and education foundations are always fundraising to provide grants and better educational experiences across their schools. Unfortunately, that wrench has brought most traditional school fundraisers to a halt.

Even though there’s been a movement towards online school fundraising over the last few years, there are still many school fundraisers taking place in a traditional sense. Much of the fundraising that typically happens over the course of a school year is in the form of selling goods and products, hosting restaurant or food nights in the local community, or even hosting events, auctions, or galas. All of these require face to face interactions and community gatherings, which for the time being cannot be done. So how do you replace face to face school fundraisers? With online fundraising.

Although schools are closed and social distancing rules are in place to limit face to face interaction, effective school fundraising is still possible. Online school fundraising platforms offer a simpler and more efficient approach to fundraising, and a number of programs and organizations are transitioning. There’s been a growing recognition that families and community members would rather give directly than buy an overpriced item. And schools would rather take online donations with lower fees than have to sacrifice upwards of 50-70% of the funds they raise. So, for schools and programs in need of funding, it makes sense to switch to more efficient online school fundraising platforms like Livingtree Give.

How schools are successfully fundraising online

Many school programs, teams, organizations, and education foundations have already successfully adopted and embraced online fundraising, making it the primary and/or only fundraising activity that they do. Here’s a look at some school organizations that are successfully fundraising online.

PTA FUNDRAISING: KENT GARDENS PTA

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.

A great example of an organization that has successfully taken school fundraising online is the Kent Gardens PTA. Over the last 3 years, their organization has raised over $156,000 on Livingtree Give, with the bulk of those funds coming from their annual KGPRIDE “One & Done” online fundraisers.

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, with the goal of raising $50,000 in 50 days.

The KGPRIDE fundraiser is their one, main fundraiser of the year with a very simple concept: you make one contribution and you’re done for the rest of the year. It’s a convenient way to support the school and meet their fundraising goal early in the year, reducing the PTA’s other fundraising efforts and face to face fundraising activities like selling candy, cookie dough, and wrapping paper. In the last two years, 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.

SCHOOL PROGRAM FUNDRAISING: BASHA AFJROTC

Basha AFJROTC Online Fundraisers on Livingtree Give
The Basha AFJROTC’s Livingtree Give Fundraising page features their annual fundraisers from each year.

Another example of a school organization that has successfully adopted online fundraising is the Basha High School AFJROTC. Every year the program conducts an annual fundraiser, which is a crucial event to raise funds for program equipment, critical supplies, and educational field trips. Last year, the program tried the Livingtree Give online fundraising platform for the first time and set a goal of raising $15,000. Within a month’s time, the program surpassed its goal and finished with just under $18,000 in funds raised.

The Basha AFJROTC Annual Fundraiser
The Basha AFJROTC hosts one primary online fundraiser a year to support their program.

Feeding off of last year’s success, the program approached their 2019-2020 online fundraising campaign with a new goal of $18,000. The program again surpassed the goal and raised over $20,000 for their program. For more information about how they’ve been so successful, read their story here.

EDUCATION FOUNDATION FUNDRAISING: COPPELL ISD & AUSTIN ISD

School classrooms and programs aren’t the only ones finding success with online fundraisers. District education foundations are also finding opportunities online that go beyond their traditional fundraisers and galas.

Coppell ISD Education Foundation Online Fundrasisers for Grants on Livingtree Give
The Coppell ISD Education Foundation uses their Livingtree Give fundraising page to make Grants available to the public to support.

Take the Coppell Education Foundation for example – just following the fall of 2019, a news article was published highlighting the teacher grants funded by the Foundation, including the 10 grants that were funded online on Livingtree Give. The funding of those grants followed the new rollout of the Livingtree Give online fundraising format, which allowed the public to see and contribute to all of the grants submitted by Coppell ISD educators.

Austin ISD Livingtree Give Online Fundraiser to Help Keep Student Meal Accounts Active
The Austin Ed Fund runs an annual “Help Keep Student Meal Accounts Current” campaign, aimed at offsetting negative balances on student meal accounts and contributing to Austin ISD’s courtesy meal policies.

Another Education Foundation finding success online is the Austin Ed Fund. In 2017 amid the talks of student meal account debts, the Austin Ed Fund launched their “Help Keep Student Meal Accounts Current” campaign, aimed at offsetting negative balances on student meal accounts and contributing to Austin ISD’s courtesy meal policies. After launching the campaign, it was picked up by a blogger, which then led to news attention, resulting in over $20,000 in donations in just a few weeks’ time. The Austin Ed Fund has since continued this campaign annually, raising money every year to help keep student meal accounts current. The education foundation has hosted a number of other successful fundraisers through Livingtree Give.

Schools fundraising during the current health pandemic

If your school organization missed its main fundraiser due to school closures, or needs to replace face to face fundraising for the upcoming school year, an online school fundraising platform like Livingtree Give can be the perfect solution. Even though schools are closed, there are a number of online school fundraisers already taking place. Some organizations are on top of fundraisers for next year, and others are fundraising for important needs right now. Below are some of the reasons school organizations are fundraising right now.

Annual Spring Fundraisers Are Canceled

Those who typically host a regular or annual fundraiser in the Springtime may have missed their opportunity to raise funds because of school closures and the face-to-face nature of their fundraiser. For Spring sports like baseball, softball, golf, tennis, and track & field, many teams have lost their opportunities to raise the important funds that sustain and advance their programs. It’s especially disheartening for those who had plans for major program improvements, like raising funds to purchase new equipment, or to complete much-needed renovations for their facilities. Additionally, the face to face fundraising events like spring auctions and galas put on by school PTAs and district Education Foundations are also at a loss due to the current situation. Those who counted on funds coming in during the Spring have lost that opportunity.

Jump-Starting Next Year’s Annual Fundraiser

Some of those who typically fundraise during the summer and around the fall back-to-school times are actually making the switch to online school fundraising to get a head start on next year’s fundraisers. Already there’s been an increase in the start of fall athletic fundraisers like high school football.

Raising Money to Support Students and Their Families

The most prominent and heartfelt fundraisers right now are those supporting students and their families during this difficult time. A number of school districts are continuing to provide meals to students, and as a result, fundraisers have been started to support those efforts.

Midway ISD Hunger Free Fundraising Campaign
Midway ISD’s annual Hunger Free MISD fundraising campaign on Livingtree Give.

Midway ISD is a great example. The district runs an annual “Hunger Free MISD” campaign supporting backpacks full of nutritious food home for insecure students over weekends and breaks. The district is currently raising funds for this program so that they can support weekend food packs for students in need during this difficult time.

Additionally, some school districts currently have fundraisers to purchase technology for families who don’t have what they need to access online learning resources. Other school districts have fundraisers to raise money in support of families who are in need and going through a difficult time.

Moving to online school fundraising

Regardless of the reason, online fundraising platforms can be a tremendous help, especially for replacing typical face to face fundraising events. Where traditional fundraisers can be limiting in their audience, school fundraising platforms can allow schools to track and grow their supporter bases, and reach a larger community through the power of online sharing. Online school fundraising platforms like Livingtree Give are extremely effective, and help school organizations maximize the funds they raise through professional-looking and customizable fundraising pages, promotional tools, and low transaction fees. So when it comes to raising funds for your school, forget the worries of face to face school fundraisers and give a school fundraising platform a try.

Ready to get started with online fundraising in your school?

It’s FREE and easy to get started on Livingtree Give. Just visit the free fundraising account page to learn more and sign up.

Online & Home Learning Resources for Schools, Teachers, & Families

With millions of students experiencing school disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both teachers and families are making plans to keep students on track and learning while at home. That means that students and their families are now in the position of driving that learning. But, teachers are still working around the clock to deliver content and curriculum to help with that at-home learning. That means the demand for e-learning and remote learning resources are at an all-time high.

To assist schools and teachers who are looking for free resources during this difficult time, we’ve compiled a list of them to help. We recognize that there are many sources who have already created quality lists of free educational resources, so we’ve taken the time to find and share them below.

Internet Access & Connectivity Resources

COX
Through their low-income Connect2Compete program, Cox is providing new customers their first month of internet for free, as well as increased speeds for current customers. They are also providing resources for discounted, refurbished equipment through their association with PCs for People, and a Learn from Home toolkit for schools that includes instructions on how to fast-track eligible students without internet access.

Spectrum Internet
Announced by their parent company Charter, Spectrum is providing free internet for K-12 students for 60 days.

Comcast
Comcast is providing two months of free internet for new customers, increased speeds for existing customers, and free internet hotspots.

Free Online & E-Learning Resources

Livingtree’s Favorites

Scholastic Learn at Home
Scholastic just recently launched Learn At Home, a free, open-access digital hub with content for students of all grade levels. The hub was created to help keep students learning while school schedules are disrupted, and has daily courses that teachers and families can utilize for their students. Read more about Learn At Home here.

Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a free educational resource for students, families, and teachers. It offers exercises, quizzes, and tests so students can practice and master skills, as well as instructional videos to help students learn or review material. Their library of standards-aligned lessons covers kindergarten through early college math, grammar, science, history, AP® courses, SAT® preparation, and more. It’s available in 40 languages and can be accessed on their website or through their smartphone apps. During the Coronavirus school disruptions, Khan Academy is hosting daily (weekdays) 9 am PST/12 EST live streams on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for students, families, and teachers. Learn how it can be used for Remote Learning here.

Duolingo
Duolingo is a free language learning site that gamifies its language lessons. This is a fun and effective way for students of all ages to learn or practice other languages, and is also available on the Apple and Google Play app stores.

BrainPOP
BrainPOP is a learning resource supporting hundreds of topics across all core and supplemental subject areas for K through 12 students. Their cleverly animated movies and primary sources build knowledge on topics across the curriculum, while concept-mapping and movie-making tools prompt students to think critically and creatively about what they are learning. During the COVID-19 pandemic, BrainPOP is offering free school-wide, teacher, and family accounts. Family accounts will receive free access to all BrainPOP products for 30 days, and will be extended as long as schools are closed.

Other Lists of Free Online & E-Learning Resources:

145+ Amazing Online Learning Resources from weareteachers.com: https://www.weareteachers.com/free-online-learning-resources/

Education Companies Offering Free Subscriptions due to School Closings (Updated) from amazingeducationalresources.com: http://www.amazingeducationalresources.com/

Free resources and subscriptions for remote learning and home schooling due to coronavirus from qns.com: https://qns.com/story/2020/03/16/free-resources-and-subscriptions-for-remote-learning-and-home-schooling-due-to-coronavirus/

Free primary home learning resources for parents during school closures from teaglo.com: https://www.teaglo.com/blog/free-home-learning-resources-for-parents-during-school-closures/

12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch from travelandleisure.com: https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

Coronavirus Resources for Students:

The resources below can be used by teachers and families to teach students about the Coronavirus. The resources were created to ease students’ fears and empower them with knowledge about what is being done to keep them safe and how to prevent germs from spreading.

Scholastic
Teaching Our World: The Coronavirus
– Articles and resources for hard-to-teach topics, chosen by the editors of Scholastic Classroom Magazines

BrainPOP
Help Your Curious Learners Stay Calm and Informed

Fundraising for Schools:

A number of school fundraisers are still taking place, but are now shifting online. Some Spring sports and programs are still carrying out fundraisers in support of growing next year’s program, and other fundraisers are kicking off already for Fall of the 20-21 school year.

Some of the most critical fundraisers we’ve seen taking place right now are those supporting student meals for those who are in need. School districts across the country have been doing amazing work to ensure students receive meals during this unprecedented time, and many have fundraisers in place to allow community members to support students who are in need.

Midway ISD Hunger Free Fundraiser Tweet
Midway ISD Hunger Free Fundraising Campaign

If you’re looking to take fundraising online for your classroom, team, program, booster, or parent organization, click here to sign up for a free Livingtree Give account and get started. If your district uses Livingtree Give, make sure to contact your administrator about setting up your account.

If you are a district administrator interested in learning more about how our platform can provide oversight, tracking, and reporting for fundraising in your district, visit the Livingtree Give page for more information.

Scholastic Creates Free ‘Learn At Home’ Digital Hub to Keep Students Learning

As recently featured in a CNN article, the educational company Scholastic “has launched a ‘Learn at Homewebsite that has daily courses for students from Pre-kindergarten to grades 6 and higher.”

This free, open-access digital hub was created to help keep students learning while school schedules are disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, which is increasingly affecting millions of students.

The Scholastic Learn At Home digital hub supports virtual learning plans, with open access to daily learning journeys. Learning is divided into four sections based on grade level, and covers ELA, STEM, Science, Social Studies, and Social-Emotional Learning. The hub provides approximately three hours of learning opportunities per day, for up to four weeks of instruction.

Scholastic Learn At Home Digital Hub
The new Scholastic Learn At Home digital hub is divided into four sections based on grade level, with four weeks worth of learning content.

The free hub provides a great opportunity for teachers to plan virtual learning meetups to discuss and expand on any of its resources. It’s accessible on any device, and no sign up is required. Scholastic plans to keep it free and open indefinitely.

In addition, the editors of Scholastic Classroom Magazines also launched a collection of student-friendly resources for learning about the Coronavirus. The resources aim to ease students’ fears and empower them with age-appropriate information, helping them to learn what is being done to keep them safe and how to prevent germs from spreading.

Scholastic Classroom Magazines Learn About Coronavirus
The editors of Scholastic Classroom Magazines launched a student-friendly collection of resources about the Coronavirus

For educators using Livingtree Engage to engage families in remote and home learning, these are excellent online resources to share and work into learning plans.

For more information about Scholastic’s resources, you can view their news release here: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/press-release/scholastic-creates-free-open-access-digital-hub-help-keep-students-learning-while-scho

What School Districts Should Communicate to Families About Coronavirus

Just last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread a global pandemic. What we know for sure is that this virus is at the top of everyone’s mind, especially the minds of family members with children in school. This pandemic is something the world has never dealt with before, and these are uncharted waters for all leaders, who are making significant decisions to protect the health and safety of their communities with no playbook to go off of. And unfortunately, there is no predictability in any of this, and things may develop within 2 hours, 2 days, or 2 minutes.

Families are worried, concerned, and have dozens of questions regarding what’s happening. Ultimately, families want to know that their child is in safe hands, they want to feel that they have the latest information and are being kept well informed, and they want to know the district is on top of all matters with their child’s best interest at heart.

To help ease the concerns of the families in your community, it’s best to understand exactly what information families want to know. We went out and analyzed some of the many concerns that families had and compiled them here. As you plan to communicate with families regarding the Coronavirus, we recommend you consider addressing the following:

1. Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases or suspected cases within the district or community

Families want to be well informed of any cases or potential cases of the virus within the district or the community. They want to know that the district knows about them, and is openly transparent about what the infection. This may require your district to work diligently with local officials, and to quickly/openly share this information. If this is indeed your district’s plan, continuously providing this information for families can be reassuring.

2. Your district has a plan

Many families just want to be assured that your school district has a plan. It sounds so simple, but in fact many families worry that you aren’t prepared. Those families just need reassurance that you have a plan, or even that you plan on sharing additional information soon. Now, the number of “what if” scenarios makes this tricky, because as of right now, nobody has a clear path forward. Many decisions will have to be “game time” decisions, but reassuring families that you have plans to enact for different scenarios can help.

3. Your district is taking proactive steps

Remember how we said families want to know that their child is in good hands, and that you have their best interest at heart? Here is where you let them know. Make sure you communicate the proactive steps your district is taking to keep everyone healthy and safe. Whether that be extra cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing, or that you are working with officials to stay up to date, families want to know what you are doing to keep their child safe.

4. The effects on Spring break, testing, curriculum, and upcoming events (school dances, graduation, spring sports, etc.)

For some families, their child may be missing tests and curriculum. For others, they may have high school seniors who are looking forward to their final year in sports, Senior Proms, as well as their big graduation. Again, families only want the best for their children. These are not easy questions to answer, especially since the future is uncertain for so many schools. However, as these events draw nearer, families will want to know your intentions for them.

5. Updates to policies

Families will want to know whether or not you are making any exceptions or updates to certain policies. For example, have you allowed any flexibility in your attendance and/or sick leave policies? What about the perfect attendance award/incentive program? Even if you haven’t made any updates to these policies, families will want to know exactly that, so make sure to include that information in your communications.

6. If schools are closed, will meals still be provided?

Some families rely on school lunches, may not have access to what they need at grocery stores, or may not be prepared to have their child at home full-time. While schools are closed, many districts are still providing students access to lunch at their schools or specific pick-up locations. Your families will want to know if you are providing this option as well.

7. If schools close, what can families do who have limited access to internet?

With public locations such as coffee shops and libraries closing, and some families having limited-to-no access to high-speed internet, this is a legitimate question for them. Consider providing a list of resources to those families, and potentially even reaching out to local providers to see what they can do. Many internet providers are creating better access to the internet for K-12 students during this time. Check out some of the resources we found below:

Cox: Through their low-income Connect2Compete program, Cox is providing new customers their first month of internet for free, as well as increased speeds for current customers. They are also providing resources for discounted, refurbished equipment through their association with PCs for People, and a Learn from Home toolkit for schools that includes instructions on how to fast-track eligible students without internet access.

Charter/Spectrum: their companies are providing free internet for K-12 students for 60 days.

Comcast: Their company is providing two months of free internet for new customers, increased speeds for existing customers, and free internet hotspots.

Sharing with Families:

When it comes to sharing information with families, the goal is to reach every family, wherever they are, with clear and concise information. For schools and districts using Livingtree Engage, sharing with families there is the most effective place to start since your post will be delivered on the platform, and notifications will be sent via email and mobile push alert. Plus, your post will be delivered in the preferred language of every family member, ensuring everyone can receive and understand key communications.

Resources for Schools & Districts:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently has regularly updated resources available to school and district communities, including how your district should plan, prepare and respond, preparation checklists, and FAQs. Those resources are listed below:

Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Childcare Programs

Checklists for Schools and Childcare Programs

FAQs for Administrators

Livingtree Services During the COVID-19 Crisis

First and foremost, we hope you are healthy and safe. Our thoughts are with everyone and all of the school communities affected by this phenomenon. This is something the world has never dealt with before, and these are uncharted waters for leaders across the globe. COVID-19 is at top of mind for all school leaders, who are making significant decisions to protect the health and safety of their communities with no playbook to go off of. These are tough times, and we stand by you in support.

At Livingtree, we realize our platforms can play crucial roles in some of the urgent situations that are developing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. In the wake of this crisis, we’ve seen many school districts and states closing their schools, and we realize that the Livingtree Engage platform is playing a pivotal role in directly connecting schools and families regarding the steps and actions being taken. We’ve also seen a number of fundraisers taking place to assist students who are affected by these school closings. Many of these fundraisers are raising money to fund student meals, books, supplies, and technology while schools are closed.

Here at Livingtree, we are taking steps to ensure the safety of our staff and their families, and contribute to the effort in stopping the spread of the virus. Starting today, March 16th, our staff will be working from home indefinitely.

How does that affect our services and our customers?

It doesn’t, other than you may see us in our home-offices if we are on a video-chat. That being said, our customer support and engineering teams are hard at work to support our customers and users. We want to ensure that schools and districts are closely connected with their families and communities during this difficult time.

If you run into any issues, or have a question or a concern, we strongly encourage you to contact our customer support team by starting a live chat on our Support page, emailing support@livingtree.com, or calling 512-957-2313 ext. 2.

In the end, we want to help: make sure students have what they need to succeed, and engage families in their child’s learning, regardless of whether that student is at home or in the classroom. We will get through this, and we will get through it together!

Sending our best,

The Livingtree Team

What You Need to Know About School Crowdfunding

Whether you are a district administrator, a school administrator, an educator, or even a community member, chances are you’ve seen an online fundraising campaign from one of your local school classrooms or programs. With the reported rise in school crowdfunding campaigns across the country, it’s clear that this new avenue of fundraising is a great opportunity to fund additional materials and experiences for K-12 students. However, the sea of crowdfunding sites and lack of consistent controls specific to raising money for public school entities has raised a number of concerns about the potential liabilities associated with this type of fundraising. These concerns have led some districts to put holds or even bans on the crowdfunding efforts of their schools.

With so much opportunity for schools to quickly and easily raise funds, it’s best to understand the full picture, including why crowdfunding is so necessary today, how crowdfunding can help schools and students, and what liability issues to look for. Find everything you need to know about school crowdfunding in the infographic below!

What You Need To Know About School Crowdfunding-Infographic

Looking for more information about what your school district should consider when it comes to determining crowdfunding policies and platforms? Download our free guide!

Free Crowdfunding Guide for K-12 Districts

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