Online Help for Parents Who Volunteer

Pui-wing Tam:

It takes a lot to organize a classroom of 20 children. It can take even more to organize the kids’ busy parents–and that often means turning to technology to get everyone on the same page.
Over the past nine months, my first-grader’s school has seen that in spades. Like many elementary schools, ours relies on parent volunteers to help out with one-on-one reading with students and math exercises. In my 6-year-old’s class, at least two parent volunteers are needed a day. In the past, volunteers were organized the old-fashioned way on paper, with parents signing up for their preferred time slots for the month on a calendar sent home with their children.
But in recent years as more schools and families have gone digital, parents are opting for an online solution to organizing volunteer class time. And a host of volunteering and calendar services have popped up on the Web to oblige them. When I asked our school’s room parent which online sites people were using to organize volunteering, he blasted out an email to poll his network of room parents. The informal survey yielded one conclusion: Each classroom was using different services, each with their own perks and drawbacks. Among the hodge-podge of choices were well-known applications such as Yahoo Inc.’s Yahoo Groups and Google Inc.’s Calendar, as well as less familiar names including VolunteerSpot Inc.’s VolunteerSpot and Doodle AG’s