At our P&C... moving online

The sweep of shut downs and restrictions imposed by COVID-19 have created a whole new range of challenges for P&Cs. We caught up with a few to see how they were adapting. 

online Tumisu pixabayjpgSarah Everingham, President at Gordon Primary School P&C says that at their first ever online meeting (using Google Meets... we’ll talk about that in a moment), their committee rethought their plans for the year to include online fundraising.  

"Obviously our usual events are not possible, and we felt it was inappropriate to ask everyone in our community for donations, as some people have lost jobs and are struggling due to the effects of COVID-19.  So something like a whole school raffle is out. We are looking instead at background fundraisers where people can participate if they wish. We have signed up to do the bulb fundraiser. You can opt for direct delivery of what you've purchased so it is contact free and leaves very little work to do - you just make a little less money,” said Sarah. 
"We are also investigating a cookie dough fundraiser, along the same lines. 
"We also found this great online fundraiser at Parents join the website, shop for their needs online, and every purchase they make results in a donation to the school at no extra cost to the shopper.  There are lots of big-name retailers on there and parents benefit from special deals like free shipping or discounts,” she explained. 
And how did they find their online meeting? 
"It went really well,” Sarah said. “We had about 13 people attend and the video held up well.  We also used the chat function so people could ask questions during the meeting. Questions in the chat were either answered by the Principal and Deputy Principals, who were at the meeting, or the chair invited that person to speak.” 
“We used Google Hangouts Meet and the meeting was set up by the school Business Manager, at the request of our Principal.  She organised everything - we sent her all the email addresses of people who were attending and she sent out the invitations and so on." 
“I did it all on my child's chrome book - it worked really well,” Sarah told us. 
Council is pursuing an arrangement with the Education Directorate, so that all schools have a procedure for P&Cs to use a Google Hangouts meeting via the school's Google Account set up. 
It is possible to send an invitation to people who do not have a Gmail account, as long as the person sending the invitation has a G Suite account. 
Judi Barton, President, at the Farrer Primary School P&C also found their online meeting worked well, despite it being the first meeting of the 2020 committee.   

“Luckily everyone has been using virtual technologies in their working environments so we used some of those strategies we’d found successful, like putting everyone on mute until they spoke and being proactive and allowing time for questions and discussion,” said Judi. 
"We used Webex, which is a free online application which I had been using for work. Like Zoom, you have to sign up for it for free, then download an app - which is free - onto your computer or phone. The host schedules the meeting and sends the link to everyone participating. If you don't have video you can just call in. Unlike Zoom it's not limited to a certain number of participants or a certain time,” Judi explained. 
“We had about 10 people at our meeting. We didn't invite the whole community, just the people who would normally come to a P&C meeting - our committee, because we thought a bigger meeting would be too hard to manage. Ahead of the meeting we invited questions from the whole school community, discussed these at the meeting and the Principal provided answers for us to share.  Our executive staff have been really timely and transparent with the comms so there wasn’t any major new issues identified. In retrospect it would've been good to have live streamed the Principal‘s report and this discussion on Facebook - something to try next time!”  (Read how Gold Creek P&C do this.)
So what else has changed for their P&C? 

“We cancelled our Easter raffle, gave parents the option of a refund or making it a donation, then gave the donated eggs to staff,” Judi told us. “Now we will use the down time to tidy up the back end of things and do some planning. Things you don't usually get the chance to do.  
The Farrer P&C have also created some new events to try and keep our community connected. Judi explains: “We've started a series of challenges which have been lots of fun. We've got 10 different themes planned - things like making art from nature, recreating old family photos, building Lego creations. People send in photos of their entries. We share some on Facebook, choose a winner and they get a voucher for a milkshake at the local café, Fox & Bow, which has proven popular and fun. We’re thinking about running virtual trivia and possibly an online disco, really focusing on events that will allow for community to thrive, and not focusing on fundraising.” 

Read more about making online P&C meetings work.

This article is part of a series "At Our P&C..." sharing great things that ACT P&Cs are doing.