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Unified solution vs. individual products for your school's digital platform
A unified solution for your school website, online payments, and communication will save your school money in redundant softwares your school might already be paying for.
By this time of year, most schools have received an invoice for what services they will be renewing for the upcoming school year. The conversations about what are we using this for, do we still need this, and how many people are engaging with this, are going strong. In my experience in demos for schools, I found there were tools being used in different departments that did the same things. For example, the district used one communication tool while teachers used a different one. Sometimes it was the first time the technology department was in the same room as the communications department for the website demo, and they were learning about these duplicate tools as I asked questions about solutions they were currently using.
Here’s a list of all the things you could be paying for separately and might want to consider consolidating with one provider.
Email sender software
Email sender services such as Constant Contact and Mailchimp can run from $1,000-$3,000 annually. Partnering with a company that includes an email sender would save that money to put into other forms of advertising—or just enjoy the savings. A lot of these services charge based on the size of your list. If you’re a school district of 5,000 students, and we can assume every student has approximately two guardians, therefore two email addresses attached, then that would mean each email sent would go to 10,000 contacts. It could add up quickly. Work with a website company that offers unlimited emailing from cloud-based hosting. Then there’s no “cost” to increased enrollment.
Email Newsletter Software for Schools (digital flyers)
Some schools use companies like Peachjar and Smore to send PDF newsletters and flyers. Newsletter software services can charge per “mailing” or distribution. Some allow you to sell advertising as well, which can help offset the costs. But that’s another thing for your school’s to do list. What if it was included in your website package? Some school website companies will provide a newsletter functionality with built-in integrations for calendar and school news feeds. You can even download them to pdf if families want to print it out. With newsletters being integrated into your school website software, they will be translatable and accessible—everyone wins!
Form Builder Software for Schools
Some form builders are free, but others can be up to $70 per month for the premium version. Schools then have their choice of what features they want, and which ones they want to pay for. With Google Forms, although free, not everyone can have access to the data unless the form owner shares access. In contrast, when forms are integrated into the CMS for schools, everything is all in one place and website administrators (school administrators) have full visibility and control on what information is being collected and by whom. Because these forms are integrated into the software they will translate and be mobile responsive. You don’t have to worry about linking a third party forms company on your ADA accessible site and hoping that company also follows ADA guidelines.
Social Media Manager for Schools
School social media schedulers cost a monthly fee, and some companies even charge a fee per user. Imagine a district with ten schools having to pay per user at each school. If you are paying per user, from an administration standpoint, just like forms, there’s very little visibility on what’s being posted until it’s already posted. Some providers have you to toggle back and forth between platforms instead of creating your post and clicking what platforms you would like to send it to. Unifying your social media accounts under your CMS is ideal—especially if you can still schedule posts and post to all platforms and accounts at once. No more paying a monthly fee per user when your CMS for schools has unlimited users—or, at least, it should.
Online Payments for Schools
Schools need payment software. One school or district can be using multiple payments platforms such as:
Vendor 1: Online school store
Vendor 2: Live campus store/cafeteria POS payments
Vendor 3: Form payment for online forms such as PayPal
Each of these vendors requires a different login and different reports with your school’s bookkeeper. Accepting payments should never be a line item for schools. The school payments software company gets money (part of the transaction fee) every time a purchase is made. There should also be the option to pass the transaction fee to the parents. How much money and time would your district save if they moved to one online payments platform that handled forms, a store, and all other payments? Not only would it simplify workflows for your bookkeeper, but it would add more accountability for all the money being transacted at school.
School Website Accessibility Tools
Is this something your school is paying for as an add-on product, or is it included in your website platform? Are you paying a third-party company for accessibility advice? Or are you waiting for a school nearby to receive an OCR letter before addressing accessibility? Accessibility doesn’t have to be an additional line item. Having built-in accessibility tools in your CMS, as well as accessibility support from your CMS provider, will keep your school compliant, and your budget less depleted.
User error and user time are additional factors to consider with the products listed above. There’s often minimal or no live tech support, and you won’t get a person on the phone who knows who you are. Unifying your solutions with a company who offers one account manager for all solutions can give your school personalized and unlimited support. Having multiple products from different companies creates a visibility nightmare from a school administration perspective. Most, if not all of these products can be consolidated under one platform which would create one login and password for all users—and even better if they could do single-sign on. There will be more transparency to administrators, more consistency with messaging, fewer contracts to manage, and less money spent on redundant services. Unify your information, be more secure, and save money! It’s worth a quote.