I’m often asked: How is SimplyCircle parent portal different from regular email, where as a teacher or a PTA leader you just send emails to an email distribution list? I’m so glad you asked!
I’m admittedly biased (I’m the founder of SimplyCircle, after all), but in this case, I can honestly say that there’s no comparison.
There are 10 main differences between what you get with SimplyCircle vs. a regular email distribution list:
- With SimplyCircle, the information you send is kept private and secure. Attachments, photos and private messages can only be viewed by members of your circle. Non-members can only see a small thumbnail of a photo, or an icon of a document. As a circle manager, you have full control over who is in your circle. In contrast, once you send a group email, it’s out of your control. It can be forwarded to anyone, and anyone can view attachments or photos. If these are photos of the kids from a recent school field trip, that’s not the kind of information you want falling into the wrong hands.
- When you use SimplyCircle to organize events, tasks, or volunteer signups, all the reminding is done automatically for you. The content you create is automatically included in a Weekly Planner email, which summarizes all the events and tasks due that week, and in a Morning Reminder email, which includes all the events and tasks happening that day. In contrast, regular emails don’t write themselves. You have to do everything manually, and remember to send out the reminder at the right time. Before SimplyCircle, I had to send a reminder email to myself to send out a reminder email to my group. Yikes!
- With SimplyCircle, you don’t risk losing group members who just want to receive fewer emails. For example, if one of your circle members doesn’t want to get Morning Reminders because she imports all the SimplyCircle event to her Google calendar, she can easily adjust their email preferences and turn off Morning Reminders. She stays in your circle, and continues to receive your communication. In contrast, email is binary. People are either on your list, or they asked to get removed from your list, and then you can’t reach them at all.
- SimplyCircle makes it much easier for your circle members to act on your information. So, as a group leader, you get better results. More people show up to your events, more parents sign up to volunteer (and then show up!), more people respond to your content and engage with other members of your group. Events, tasks and volunteer signups can be exported to personal calendars with one click of a button, and signing up to volunteer is also a one-click experience. The ROI (return on investment) on your time is much higher – both because the R is higher, and because the I is lower – than with regular email. Not only that, but your group members will appreciate you more, because you’re making their lives easier too!
- With SimplyCircle, you control when and how your group members receive your communication. If you want to communicate something time-sensitive and important, you can send it out instantly. If you have multiple communications going out on the same day, you can choose to consolidate all of them into a single Daily Digest email, which comes out at 5 pm. If you have a Pro Gold version of SimplyCircle, you can even schedule your emails for specific days and times in the future. That comes in handy when you like doing your communication work in batches (e.g., once a week), but you don’t want your group members to receive a mile-long daily digest that day. By reducing the email overload – and by making it really easy to see which items require action vs. are just FYI – you make it much more likely that members will respond to your communication.
- SimplyCircle keeps you in compliance with CAN-SPAM laws. Did you know that by law, you’re supposed to follow certain practices when you communicate with your group members? Things like providing instant unsubscribes for people who want to opt out of your emails, indicating your physical address, reminding people why they are on your list, and so forth? Regular email makes it quite onerous to comply with these laws, whereas with SimplyCircle, you know that you’re always 100% covered.
- With SimplyCircle, you don’t have to worry about your group members changing their email addresses. Does this sound familiar? You start the year off strong, with “fresh” emails for everyone in your group. As the school year progresses, emails start to bounce – i.e., they return as undeliverable. That’s usually due to people changing their email address, e.g., because they switched jobs. With regular email, you have to track down these people in person to get them to update their email address. With SimplyCircle, people can update their email address themselves. In fact, almost half of the SimplyCircle users choose to sign up for our service with their Facebook or Google credentials – which typically stay the same, year after year. That means that your emails are reaching more members of your group, with no extra work from you!
- In fact, with SimplyCircle you don’t even have to know everyone’s email addresses! One of the best features of SimplyCircle is that every circle you create comes with its own unique circle code. You can provide that code to your group members however you want – text them, tell them in person, post it on your group’s Facebook page, send it home in the kids’ backpacks, send it by carrier pigeons 🙂 Members of your group can then join your circle by entering that code. Of course, you still have complete visibility into who’s joining your circle, and you can remove them from your circle if needed.
- With SimplyCircle, there’s no risk of “reply all” email threads spinning out of control. Don’t you hate it when you send a simple request, and before you know it, a “reply-all” thread starts: “I’ll bring watermelon”, “I’ll bring strawberries”, “I’d like to bring cheese but I’m not sure what kind to bring – any ideas?”. A few back-and-forths like this, and people start saying, “Please take me off this email thread”. With SimplyCircle, you control whether your communication stays one-way (though people can still reply to you privately), or if you allow group commenting. Group members’ comments never result in endless emails. Instead they are nicely summarized in a News feed as comments on the original post. And when you’re asking people to volunteer or to bring something, it’s very clear who is coming, and who’s bringing what, and our email inboxes are spared.
- In short, SimplyCircle is much more than “just” email. It’s a true parent portal that parents can log into any time, on any device – all they need is an Internet connection. They can even access your content through SimplyCircle’s free mobile apps for iOS and Android. Basically, SimplyCircle is an email distribution system, an online calendar (complete with automated reminders), a messaging app, a volunteer signup system, and a private and searchable archive of photos and documents – all in one!
But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what one of the teachers said after she switched to SimplyCircle from regular email:
“As a first grade teacher, I organize 5 field trips per year for my students. Before SimplyCircle, I used to dread field trips. No matter how many reminder emails I would send to parents, somebody would always forget to sign the permission slip. Somebody else would forget to send in the booster seat. Somebody else would forget to send in the lunch box. And one of the volunteer drivers would forget to show up, and we would be short of drivers for the trip. The morning of every field trip was a mad scramble! I would text and call parents to get them to bring in the missing stuff, or to show up themselves. With SimplyCircle, it takes me less than 5 minutes to set up each field trip, attach the permission slip, and ask for parent volunteers. Then all of the signups and all of the reminding is done for me. No more mad scramble, no more stress. And most importantly, nobody forgets anything! I get to actually enjoy the field trip, take great pictures of the kids, and then use SimplyCircle to share them with parents. Before SimplyCircle, I used to dread field trips, now I look forward to them!”
If you’re still on the fence, just try SimplyCircle for free, and then decide if it’s right for you.
SimplyCircle is easy to use. If you can write emails, you can use SimplyCircle.
SimplyCircle is always free for one-way (broadcast-style) communication for groups of up to 50 people, and even the free version includes most of the benefits listed in this post. If you want more parent engagement, or if you manage a larger group, paid versions of SimplyCircle are available as well, and all of them come with a FREE 30-day trial.
So what you waiting for? Give it a try today – for free. Chances are, you will never want to go back to regular email!