Getting the most from Google

Janet Dawson, a volunteer at Kingsford Smith School P&C Association was frustrated with using personal email accounts for P&C business.

“With us all using our own emails, there was a lack of visibility for the P&C and we were forever losing important information or documents. When people moved on, we couldn’t get to the previous correspondence or contacts, and some people were filing documents or keeping them with email, but it was haphazard.”

Other P&C members felt the same, with the need for transparency and a single place for documents being important issues highlighted at a planning session the Association held.

So Janet did some research and signed up the P&C for Google Apps for Non-Profits, a free version of the Google Apps business productivity suite. It includes business-style Gmail, Google Docs and Drive, a shared Calendar and more.

“There is normally a fee for the Google business suite, but eligible organisations can get the Non-Profits version for free,” explained Janet.

Google’s ‘eligible organisations’ should include all P&Cs because it depends on having Income Tax Exempt status with the Australian Tax Office. Council understands that all P&Cs fulfil the criteria for tax exemption (see Council’s Treasurer Handbook, section 17).

“The system works really well,” says Janet. “All our documents are now in one place — the Google Drive — and emails relating to my role on the P&C are all together, not mixed up with my personal emails. The P&C stuff isn’t mine, so I don’t want it in there. This way, it is clearly available for the next person and doesn’t linger after I have stopped my role.”

“It has given us transparency from year to year as well as ensuring confidentiality for things like staff contracts. All emails between the committee are there, saved for next year, so it is clear why particular decisions were made.”

Many P&Cs have a Google account for the organisation, but there is only one email address associated with the account. The suite that Janet signed up for is more powerful.

“The Non-Profit suite is more like a business account. There is an admin person and they can set up additional users — such as the officer bearers — each with their own access rights and so on. People can be added at the beginning of the year and taken off at the end. You can choose which parts of the system, which email addresses, each person can access,” Janet says.

“Instead of having one email account — like 'schoolpandc@gmail. com' — we have a set of sub-emails, multiple addresses at the same domain. So we can have 'treasurer@kss pandc.org', 'president@kss pandc.org' and so on, all separate emails but all linked.”

“The one draw-back,” explains Janet, “is that you first need to have your own domain. This can be set up pretty easily and cheaply through Google.”

Another advantage with using the Google Suite is that it mirrors the system used at school.

“That means that parents can see the same system that the kids are using, so are in a better position to help them. Also, we are looking to share some folders with the school, like photos of events, logos and so on.”

“We also made a P&C website using Google Sites which was fabulously easy to use. It has drag-and-drop elements that you place to create your site. It was very easy to set up.”

The site certainly looks good and provides useful information for the school community – check it out at ksspandc.org. You can see why the P&C is a fan of Google!

This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 4, 2017.