If your school office often has a long line of students and parents waiting to sort out fees, trips, and stationery orders, it’s probably time to review the school’s e-commerce options.
In this digital age, most financial transactions and communications can be completed online – saving administration staff a great deal of time. This of course translates to more money in the school coffer – a win win for everyone.
Whether it’s fees, donations or stationery, payments for trips and camps, or even orders for uniforms and lunches, there are e-commerce systems available to take the weight from the school office.
Sandra Finlay, founder of e-commerce system Kindo, and online lunch service ezlunch, says cashless payments take the work out of processing parent payments and permission slips.
“Kindo integrates with some Student Management Systems (SMS) to provide a completely hands-off process, updating account information on the fly. This saves hours of administration, as do the online permission slips and volunteer requests that accompany sports, trips and other payments. If forms are needed with a payment, we gather that as part of the transaction, which saves a huge effort in collation and reconciliation.”
The system enables parents to view and pay for all their school expenses in one place whether they’re SMS-managed, sports payments with permission slips, lunches, uniform or fundraisers. Kindo is now being integrated into app-style interface for smartphones, the device most commonly used by parents of school-age children.
Ms Finlay says parent feedback is very positive. “Parents can pay at any time, from anywhere, and they love not having to fill in names and room numbers over and over again.”
Schools can easily add or remove items themselves or invite suppliers in with their lists to take orders directly. The SMS integration automatically displays the latest account information to parents and posts payments into the SMS. For other things, administrators can click to print out labels, lists or download spreadsheets with all the details they need to efficiently run a uniform, lunch, stationery, fundraiser or show ticket ‘shop’.
“It takes a minute to set up and invoice an item on eTAP. After that, payments are automatically updated into etap the moment a parent pays for them. If you look at the volume of work compared with old-style invoicing, it doesn’t even compare.”
Kindo, currently in more than 130 New Zealand primary, intermediate and secondary schools, also handles merchant accounts so there are no additional costs or delays, and offer parents all ways to pay. Some use the system as a savings account making regular deposits throughout the year to manage bigger costs such as camps and donations.
The charge to school is the lowest of 2.5 per cent + gst or $5 per item. There are no set up, monthly or additional fees, but some additional functions such as SMS integration carry a small monthly charge.
Some schools report that using Kindo is actually saving them money. Administration time is down 60-70 per cent at Auckland’s Campbells Bay School, according to executive officer Karen McNair. “And it has completely eliminated incorrect and poorly-coded bank payments, lost coins, detached notes and human error.”
Ellerslie School noted it “more than pays for itself” with not only a 20 per cent increase in donations, but $10,000 more fundraising income and reduced use of teacher aides to cover busy office periods.
For SMS payments, no training is required. Administrators raise invoices in the SMS as usual and everything else happens through Kindo, including updating the payment back into SMS records.
“Training for listings such as sports registrations and forms or other payments that are not raised via the SMS is covered in weekly, hour-long sessions online with ongoing free helpdesk support,” says Ms Finlay. “Our implementation programme also includes customised templates for parent communications, posters, detailed website recommendations and more. These things are often critical to the success of a new system at school.”
The optimal time to transition to an e-commerce system is before busy patches, traditionally the start of the school year (school fees, donations and stationery), change in seasons (school uniform), change in term (term clubs and sports), and the lead up to school productions and fundraisers.
“Get it in place before these busy times and you’ll see foot traffic to the office reduced, and you won’t have long bank statements to reconcile, or huge paperwork piles, any more. Kindo really simplifies it all.”