How to Get the Technology Your Local PTA Needs

The first question we often hear at National PTA is … are PTAs allowed to spend PTA dollars on technology? The answer is a resounding YES. Your local PTA is a membership association and a non-profit business. PTAs can budget for, and spend money on, any technology that will be used by the PTA. This year, PTAs across the country must pivot to the new reality of the business world during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means figuring out how to run your PTA either partially, or fully, virtual. This pivot will benefit your PTA well beyond the pandemic as well.

It is important to note that many of the below items have free and paid versions. You will need to look at your specific PTA needs to decide what product may work for you and if the free version is enough or if one of the paid versions is a better fit.  The items are linked so you can learn more about each, and remember, you can Google or YouTube just about anything online to find how-to videos.

Overall PTA Management Needs

  • G-Suite for Nonprofits— Looking for a little bit of everything? Offered by Google for free to non-profits, this is a suite of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products. You can upgrade for a small monthly fee as well. You can get Gmail accounts for your PTA and board members, online drive to store your PTA documents and photos, centralized calendar, Google Meet and other resources
  • Microsoft Office Online—Offers free online use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note
  • TechSoup—A non-profit international network that provides free or discounts on technological tools and support to non-profits.
  • Notion—An all-in-one workspace where you can share and work on the same content. Individual accounts are free and can be shared with up to five guests.

Virtual Gatherings

Planning on hosting a virtual meeting or event? There are many products out there to suit your needs, and some have free versions. Since this is the way your PTA will be doing business for quite some time, your PTA should invest in this expense. Each platform provides tips for setup for all the features, including screen sharing and login requirements. If you use a free version, you may be limited on the number of attendees and how long the event can run, so do your homework. Some of the platforms to look at are:

  • Zoom Meeting– The free plan allows up to 40 minutes per meeting with up to 100 participants. If you need more time, they have a $149 per year plan for unlimited meetings with up to 100 participants.
  • Facebook Live in a Private Group— Consider using this option for a board meeting! Make sure everyone on your board is on Facebook and in your private group.
  • Go to Meeting – $12 per month for up to 150 participants.
  • Google Meet– Free one-hour meetings up to 100 participants, more features if you have G-Suite
  • Skype Meet Now – Up to 50 people per meeting. Anyone can host or join with no need to download an app.
  • FreeConferenceCall.com– Up to 1,000 participants and up to six hours of conference call time, screen sharing and video.
  • WebEx – Can host one meeting free a month or look to upgrade to another option.

Survey and Poll Tools

Need to find out what your members and other families in your community need? Ask virtually!  See the links below for some online survey options.

  • Facebook Polls– This option offers instant feedback but is limited to people who follow your page or are in your closed group
  • Google Forms– Cloud-based questionnaire and survey software, can create reports of the survey responses.
  • SoGoSurvey– Free to non-profits
  • SurveyMonkey– The basic plan is free for up to 10 questions and 40 responses

Storytelling Tools

Showcase the value your PTA brings to the community by sharing #HowWePTA on social media, in your newsletters and more! These tools can help you create beautiful visuals to help tell your PTA story.

  • National PTA Membership Campaign—Check out the over 50 free graphics in the new PTA campaign that can help you highlight and share the benefits of being a part of your PTA.
  • Canva for Nonprofits—Use this easy graphic design platform to create social media graphics, posters and other visual content.
  • Need some free photos? Check out sites that offer many free photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock and iStock Photo.
  • Need to store and share files? Maybe Dropbox is just what you need. The basic version is free.

Other Online Tools and Resources

  • Another tool in your toolbox to help run your PTA virtually is BAND– PTA’s newest national sponsor. BAND can be a timely, modern, no-cost solution for PTAs that need to virtually coordinate activities and events and share information. BAND helps make it easier for parents, teachers and PTA members to stay connected and organized while embracing distance learning. PTAs can use the BAND app for scheduling, instant messaging, video calling and virtual meetings, conducting polls, managing signups, live streaming events, and other critical two-way communication features.
  • Need volunteers to sign-up to help? Try out SignUpGenius. Free option for nonprofits.
  • Need to randomly pick a winner virtually? Want to play a game virtually? Looking to create a word search? Check out Flippity, which is free, and offers all sorts of fun things you can create quickly and easily virtually.

Learn from Others

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Join the PTA Local Leaders Facebook group. Connect with over 6,000 other PTA leaders across the 54 State PTA Congresses. Click on the search icon to look for ideas on how to hold virtual meetings, virtual events or online fundraisers. Check out our other blogs on How to Make Joining PTA Easy, Ways to Make your PTA Virtual, Grow Spirit from Afar and National Volunteer Week blog which recognizes several local PTAs making things happen virtually.


Linda Johnson is the Manager of Membership Data and Training for National PTA.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

Top things to do in Las Vegas | #PTACon17

I have lived in Las Vegas for over 20 years with my husband and four children.  I am very excited to have the 2017 National PTA Convention & Expo in my home town this year and to share a few ideas for things to do while you are here!

Las Vegas is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week town.  There is something for everyone at all hours of the day and night.  Whether you are coming into town early before Convention, have a few spare hours in the evenings or staying a few extra days after, there is plenty of fun to be had.

If you love to shop, everything you could ever want is right here.  From high end designers to discount outlets, there are four malls within a 15 minute walk of the Paris Hotel and even more shopping experiences just a short drive away.  Several malls are even open until midnight, if you still have the energy to walk around a mall after the Convention day is over. See my full list of activities below.

Even though it will be hot here in June, there are still fun activities to be had in the great outdoors. You can choose from two water parks, if splashing in the hotel pool is not enough fun.  Hiking, rock climbing, bouldering and  scenic drives are just 30-40 minutes away at Red Rock Canyon Conservation area or a one hour drive to Mt. Charleston, where it can be 20 degrees cooler than the strip. Need more adventure?  Jump from a plane, kayak the Colorado river, four wheel through the desert, or ride in a hot air balloon. If there is an adventure to be had, you can probably do it here in Las Vegas.

Believe it or not we have many family friendly and fun activities that keep you inside with the air conditioner blowing.  If museums are your bag, we have everything from The Mob Museum, Natural History, Children’s, Atomic Testing, wax figures, old cars, old neon signs, pinball machines, and several quirky museums you could only find in a town like Las Vegas.  There is an indoor amusement park and many arcades on and off the strip to keep big and little kids entertained.

If you have little time and little money there are free activities up and down the strip.  Watch the Volcano show at the Mirage, the dancing waters at the Bellagio Fountains or stroll through the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. You can check out all things candy at the M&Ms World or at the Hershey’s Chocolate World.

Las Vegas is known for the many shows available at venues all over town.  Singers, bands, magicians, comedians, impersonators, Cirque du Soliel shows, variety shows  and even the occasional Broadway show.  Make sure you make reservations ahead of time if possible as many shows sell out.

Last but not least is the food.  You could eat at a different restaurant for every meal, every day of your stay and you will not put a dent in the number of great restaurants in Las Vegas offering every kind of cuisine.  Buffets and four star restaurants can be found all along the strip and you can also find food being prepared by famous chefs in small shopping centers away from the strip.  Choose a cuisine, check out the reviews and enjoy amazing food from around the world.

A few tips as you are having fun.  Drink way more water than you usually do at home. It will be hot and the humidity is usually around 10%, so it is easy to get dehydrated here.  Wear comfortable walking shoes.  The hotel buildings are huge and much farther away than you realize.  Try not to pay full price for anything. Check the internet or your favorite coupon app for available discounts.

Have a great time at convention learning, networking, and sharing all things PTA and then in your free time, enjoy all of the things Las Vegas has to offer!

Linda Johnson is a national service representative at National PTA.

Shopping:
Grand Bazaar– just north of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel in front of Bally’s.
Miracle Mile Shops– just south of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace– About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to Caesars Palace. Use the pedestrian bridge to cross the street.
Linq Promenade – About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to the High Roller observation wheel located at the end of the promenade.
Las Vegas North-Premium Outlets–  13 min drive
Fashion Show Mall– 8 min drive

Adventure:
Sky Jump Las Vegas– Jump off the Stratosphere tower
Slotzilla Zipline through the Fremont Street Experience
Flight Linez Bootleg Canyon
Vegas Indoor Skydiving
Hiking at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area– this is best done first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.  If you are not into hiking, you can just drive the 13 mile scenic loop.

Family Friendly Activities
WetnWild Las Vegas
Cowabunga Bay
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
Game Works at Town Square
Pinball Hall of Fame

Free things to do in Las Vegas
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the Bellagio Fountains
Take your Picture at the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
Hershey’s Chocolate World
M&M’s World Las Vegas
Volcano at the Mirage