A New Year – for schools, and…

It’s Labor Day weekend here in the USA. That traditionally marks the end of summer, in a way that seemed strange and sharp to me when I moved over here from Europe.

Things are starting up again. Maddie is already back at school, having started at Bannockburn Elementary on Monday.

It’s time for me to start inflicting myself on the web again, after having taken the summer more of less off. There were lots of reasons for the shutdown. One was that I realized I had set up too many sites. An idea, a new and cool (to me at least) URL, a little WordPressing, and voila! a new site. So which sites to shut down? Which sites to keep active? Which sites belong somewhere in between those two extremes?

There is one site for which the answer is sadly obvious. That’s the site for the PTA of Highland Elementary School. Since Maddie no longer attends Highland, and we no longer live a short walk away, I can’t continue to provide content for that site, or to be actively involved. Its state is: leave on the web, hope that someone takes it over, be very willing to help them do so.

The answer is just as obvious for this site. Changing Way is my home, home on the web. I’ll start posting here again, covering such vital topics as moving house, staying on the internet when Verizon strike and Comcast cable is hit by lightning, and so on.

Thanks for reading!

Fundraise While You Shop: eScrip, etc.

I’m setting up a website for the PTA of my daughter’s school here in Silver Spring, Maryland. The current post is You can help the PTA by shopping! The PTA treasurer made me aware of three retail chains that will contribute money to the school in proportion to purchases. There is of course some setup to be done, both by the PTA/school and by the supporter/purchaser.

For two of the chains – Giant and Target – supporter setup means linking your store card with the school. I already had a Giant card, and it was very easy. I don’t have a Target card, and wonder why I can’t apply for the type of card I want online – but that’s another story.

This post is more about the third chain – Safeway – or rather, about the way in which shopping at Safeway can result in the chain contributing to the school. It involves a firm called eScrip, of which I’d never previously heard. I became curious about eScript as a fundraising program, and about eScrip as an organization.

As a fundraising program, it stands out from the other two (i.e. Giant and Target) in a couple of ways. First, you deal with eScrip, rather than dealing directly with the store. Those who run their own websites and use commission programs might be reminded of the difference between using Commission Junction and doing affiliate setup at the merchant’s site.

Second, eScrip allows you, not only to register store cards, but also credit cards (and other cards too, but I’ll focus here on credit cards). You can register a credit card with eScrip. If you buy from a merchant that’s signed up from its end, your use of that credit card with that merchant will automagically result in that merchant donating to the school you told eScrip about. eScrip asking for my credit card made me ask about eScrip.

eScrip is a private company. I think that it’s a for-profit. escrip.com doesn’t provide a lof of information about the company itself. But it does have an FAQ including questions such as: who is ESI (Electronic Scrip Inc.), how do I know it’s legit, and who founded the company. eScrip.com links to a Better Business Bureau page, on which eScrip has an A+ rating. Googling does show up many fundraising organizations using eScrip.

I think that ESI is legitimate. I should probably provide my credit card number so that the school benefits when I use my credit card at Amazon and other participating merchants.

Interesting organization, this ESI/eScrip. Interesting stuff, this fundraising. But that’s just what I think. What do you think?


It’s been a nonprofit kind of month. The first session I got to at WordCamp Mid-Atlantic was Geoff Livingston on nonprofits.

More recently, I just set up a website for my daughter’ school’s PTA. Earlier this month, I posted about PTA websites, and got some good advice.

Some of the more interesting posts recent posts at Mashable have been in the Social Good category. One of these posts even defines the term social good: equal parts online fundraising and advocacy via social networks.

Then there’s the post in which Jason F of 37signals asks:

Why should a non-profit organization pay less for software (or supplies or food or rent or…) than a for-profit company? How is an automatic discount for a non-profit fair to a full-price paying for-profit?… The best pricing is clear, fair, public, consistent, and predictable.

By consistent, Jason means the same for enterprises, small businesses, nonprofits, etc. The ensuing comments make for interesting reading. I was surprised at how many come from people in nonprofits who agree with Jason.

Planning a PTA Website

I just got back from the first PTA meeting of the school year at Highland Elementary School, where my daughter Maddie has just started first grade (and where my son Max is likely to start kindergarten next year). I wasn’t able to make any PTA meetings last school year.

One of priorities for the Highland PTA is getting more parents involved. I see a website as a means toward this end, in that it would be available all the time, while real-world PTA meetings can never be. The site would also make involvement easier for some parents able to be involved anyway, but who might want to get or provide updates between meetings.

Were I to set up the site right now, my priorities would be as follows.

  • Provide updates on PTA activity. Some updates might be meeting-based (reminder of meeting, here’s what was discussed, etc.), some between meetings (we’re weeks away from the next meeting, but what do you think of this?).
  • Solicit input, especially from parents and teachers who are not able to attend meetings at the school. No time is good for everyone: this morning’s 9am meeting was well attended, but still must have excluded many families.
  • Be multilingual, or at least bilingual. The Highland community speaks many languages, with Spanish and English being particularly prominent.

I’ve done some searches on terms such as PTA website. There’s a lot of stuff out there, including:

  • PTA sites at the national (US) and state (MD) level.
  • A PTA website builder site. First reaction: the nonprofit side of my brain says that it seems expensive; the for-profit side sees an opportunity in the PTA website builder business, if my pro-bono efforts at Highland go well.

Now,to solicit input on PTA websites. I’ll send out a few emails. But if you, dear reader, have thoughts on PTA sites, please share them here, especially if they include links to successful PTA sites.