In May 2007 my kids were all in elementary school. I attended the end-of-year PTA meeting, mainly because they promised free food and wine; I’d not attended many previous meetings and wasn’t really involved in it. Of course, the food and wine was a trap designed to lure unsuspecting people like myself in so that the officers could pressure us into volunteering for the next school year.
And sure enough, here came that woman with the clipboard, making her rounds and headed right for me. I turned her down once. She persisted. Twice. I got a nasty scowl and she left. My friend helpfully suggested I just take over membership chair from her. She said it’s so easy, and it’s all over by the end of October. Sounds good, I’m thinking, and I can get that other woman off my back.
So when she came around a third time, I said I’d do membership. Everybody’s happy now.
A few weeks later, my friend stops by my house and hands me two thick binders with all these ragged papers shoved inside, scraps of notes hastily scribbled on torn corners and napkins. I said, “What’s this?” “It’s the membership stuff,” she says. I guess the look on my face said it all because she laughed all the way back to her car — still running at the curb for a quick getaway.
And so began my entry into the PTA world.
I made it through the first membership season, sort of, all the while thinking there must be a better way than this. I’m a computer programmer and web developer, after all! An exhaustive web search turned up a lot of super-expensive options, none of which our type of organization could afford. Then I hit on Wild Apricot and the sun came out, the birds began to sing, and all was right in the world again.
By summer of 2008, I had finished up my first WA site. By August, we had our first online membership sign up. That year we did pretty well, adding about 50% more members than the previous year. The real test came the following year, however, when automatic membership renewals kicked in.
In mid-August the first renewal reminder emails went out, and people started renewing online. By the first day of school we had about half of the previous year’s members already signed up for the new year — unheard of in previous years! By mid-September we had met the previous year’s numbers and by November we’d more than doubled the membership from just two years before.
My experience with WA — both the product and the support staff — was so positive that I became a Wild Apricot Partner and incorporated it into my business. Over time, Wild Apricot work became my primary focus and I’ve had the privilege of helping other dedicated volunteers grow their organizations using Wild Apricot.