Friday, September 14, 2012

Group Search Enhancements...

Based on Feedback from Chase Oaks Church's use of the Group Search, we have made some improvements and some tweaks.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Some email process and format changes...

All email addresses must now be verified before use

One of the unique design decisions we made for is to base all sign ups on families, and not on individual users. We feel that, for most small group logistics, it is the family signing up to participate, whether that be for little league, scouting, or study groups.

When families accept invites to join an group, only one participant in that family usually accepts the invite, which allows us to ensure that family members email address was correct (how else would that family member have accepted the email based invite?). This left any other participant email addresses in that family unverified, that is, we were not sure that email address was correct.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Changing Email

It happens; for one reason or another, someone may need to change their email address. It could be that you've changed internet providers, moved job location, or just decided that you no longer want your college email address to follow you into "adulthood." Being an email based service, in order to fully utilize your groups you MUST update the email address associated with your account. The good news is that this is a very easy process.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

How to remove a family from your group...

A frequently asked question is "How do I remove a family from my group?"

Monday, June 25, 2012 5.3.1 released!

This release contains some tweaks to the Group Search feature, some usability optimizations, and some bug fixes

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to represent "Work Shifts" for Service Projects makes managing the resources, people and tools, you need to run service projects quite easy.

I was recently contacted by a leader who wanted to allow multiple families to signup for shifts for an upcoming service project (a setup shift, a serve shift, and a tear down shift). In addition, she wanted to allow those same families to sign up for multiple shifts. She asked how to best represent that in I replied: Quantity Signup Sheet Items. We discussed Quantity Signup Sheet Items briefly before, but let's show how to use Quantity Signup Sheet items for this example of work shifts.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Group Search iNquiry Attention Governor

The worst thing to happen to a potential group member is for them to submit an inquiry to a group, and hear nothing. No email, no phone call, no nothing. How demoralizing that would be, especially for those who are hesitant to join your groups as it is.

With the goal of not letting anyone slip through the cracks, the iNquiry Attention Governor was created.

Quite simply, the NAG system will escalate emails to Group and Organization leaders based on the recorded interaction with inquirers. There is one set of rules for inquiries which have been set to contacted, and another set of rules for inquiries which have not.

Custom Group Meta Data

Every Organization needs slightly different information from their small groups when advertizing their small groups to potential members. For a softball team, it may be open positions, or when they practice. For study groups, it could be normal meeting times, or what they are studying, or if childcare is provided.

Without this kind of meta data about the small group (meta data means data about the data, or data above the data), potential group members have incomplete information on which to base their group selection criteria. solves this challenge by allowing Organization leaders to set meta data about their organization. This is presented as a set of questions to each Group leader who answer those questions. These answers provide rich detail to potential group members when using the Group Search feature.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Group and Organization Leader Inquiry Management Pages

Organization Leader Inquiry Management Page
Group and Organization leaders are provided simple tools to manage their open inquiries. The primary intent behind the inquiry process is to not let anyone fall through the cracks. So, getting the right information, and making the right decisions on how to proceed with an inquiry is important. This is why the Organization leader should establish inquiry process expectations and communicate those expectations to their group leaders.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Group Search Inquiry Process

The new Group Search feature has an Inquiry process which allows potential group members to easily submit inquiries to groups in which they are interested, and then allows the group and organization leaders to manage the queue of inquiries. The key goal of the inquiry process was to "not let anyone slip through the cracks".

Once an organization leader decides they are interested in being searchable, there are some steps they should follow:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Group Search Site

The core of the brand new Group Search functionality for is the aptly named Group Search Site.

Once an Organization decides to set their Organization as Searchable, they automatically get this new Group Search Site, and it's URL is displayed on the main Organization Leader Site. This allows Organizations to add a link from their web site to the Group Search site. Group Search Site
The Group Search site will display all groups within an Organization in both a map and list view. The map begins centered on their location based on the best guess to their location based on their internet address. Potential Group members can then enter a specific zip code, and specify a smaller or bigger search radius.

Each group then displays the Group name, description, and some information derived from data already stored within like age ranges and next scheduled event. You can see those details on the Blue group, which is the 3rd group from the bottom of the list in the screenshot. (This is test data to protect the anonymity of current users and groups). This initial information provides a first pass at filtering groups.

The logo in the upper left corner of the page can be uploaded by an Organization Leader to personalize this page.

Group Details
Clicking on one of the groups brings up more detailed information about the group. Each Organization may define a set of meta data which they would like each group to fill out. For instance, on this example, the current series, gender, and marriage status for the group was requested by the Organization, and answered by a Group leader. This once again allows potential group member to filter the groups in which they are interested.

Once a potential group member finds a group in which they are interested, they may submit an inquiry. This inquiry is emailed to both Group Leaders and to Organization Leaders, and will be listed on specific pages on the Group and Organization Leader Sites to allow Group and Organization Leaders to follow up as appropriate. A 'Inquiry Sent' marker will be shown on each group which a potential group member has submitted an inquiry, in addition to the confirmation email sent to the potential group member.

The iNquiry Attention Govenor and inquiry process will be detailed in a subsequent blog post. Click here for more details on the overall Group Search release.

Group Search release!

We've been a bit quiet here at while we've finished up our newest feature: Group Search!

Most users of only interact with the Member Signup Sheet site. However, there are simple but powerful leader tools for Group leaders to manage their groups. In addition, all groups in belong to an Organization, and Organizations also have leader tools to allow them to manage their hundreds of groups.

This new Group Search functionality is optional for all Organizations, and defaults to off. However, if you are an Organization which wishes to provide a self service ability to potential group members to search for good matching groups, this feature is for you!

Group Search contains several specific enhancements:
  • The Group Search Site
    The site which potential group members seek groups and submit inquiries to group leaders
  • The Inquiry Process
    A set of emails, rules, and descriptions which ensure that inquiries made from the Group Search site do not fall through the cracks
  • The Group and Organization Leader Inquiry management pages
    New pages on the leader sites allowing Group and Organization Leaders to manage their open inquiries
  • Group Custom Meta Data
    Allows custom information to be set by Organization Leaders and answered by Group Leaders. This allows for information specific to your kind of organization to be displayed on the Group Search Site
  • And the iNquiry Attention Governor
    We can't just call it the Nag system, can we?... A set of emails which are generated to Group and Organization Leaders intended to keep Inquiries from sitting without followup for too long.
We will post Blogs on each of these systems over the next week or so, the first of which, the Group Search Site, is already posted via the link above. We'll update this post with the links as we post subsequent blogs.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What do you bring to the party?

Have you noticed the text field that appears next to Signup Sheet items after you've signed up for an item? This is a great way to specify what you are bringing to the party. No pressure, but if everyone who signs up uses it, you will have fewer instances of two varieties of baked beans as the only evening appetizer. (Unless of course you are having a baked bean tasting party. Hopefully, that event will not be lasting longer than 2 hours.) Even if you do not know what dish you will be bringing when you initially signup, you can always go back in later after you've decided and add the information.

Pappa and Momma Bear are signed up... but what are they bringing!?!

You could also use that field to make a short note (30 characters max) for everyone in the group to see. The Special Notes box on the top of the signup sheet is only visible to the leaders of your group, but the details field is visible to everyone.  You do have to sign up for an item to do this, however.
What they are bringing is just nuts!

As a side note to the leaders setting up the Signup Sheets, remember that only the 'check box' Signup Sheet items have the optional detail field.  The 'quantity' Signup Sheet items do not have it.  Even though it would save a few seconds of time by setting up a quantity item for multiple appetizers, if you want your members to be able to specify what kind of appetizer they are bringing, you must use the 'check box' Signup Sheet items.

So what are you bringing to your next event?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Group Membership and Leadership Email Address - bonus!

Communicating with your small group should be easier than it is. Finding current email addresses, using internet email lists, all of which is a hassle for small group leaders. Whose email is or isn't on that list, in my contacts, on that slip of paper I got that one time with that email on it... more chaos. has a built in membership email address which can be used to send an email to your entire group. You may choose to use's built in group membership email functionality, or you can choose to use your existing email list system. We think's group email functionality is cooler, and much easier to use, though we may be biased.

Event Notice Email's Group Membership Email
When anyone in your group receives an event notice email, either manually or automatically generated, the last section of the email contains a link to your group's membership email address. This allows anyone in the group to just click that link and send an email to the entire group. (Bonus question: why shouldn't the event notice email be forwarded to anyone ever? Answer: it contains a link to your signup sheet which is yours and yours only. If others clicked on the link in your email, they could sign up on your behalf. We will have a blog on this in the future!)

Group Leader's Site Membership/Leadership email address
Group leaders can easily decide whether to use their existing group list management tool, or to use the built in's group membership email address. Why use's group email functionality? Since already has a current and up-to-date roster of your group member's emails, anytime a new member is added, or their email changes, or a member is removed, or any of the other conditions in which you'd need to update your email list, will automatically keep your group roster up to date with the group membership email list. In addition, can provide a leadership email address which will only go to the group's leaders (those families with leader titles in your group). We've found this to be a fantastic and quite easy way to communicate with the group leaders things which are sensitive or specific to the group leadership.

Group leaders will usually have a default group membership email address provided to them when they first begin managing their group. They can easily change that default membership or leadership email address by clicking on "Change the Group's Details" at the bottom of their Group Leader Site.

Have fun communicating with your group!

Monday, February 27, 2012

"What was Momma Bear's Phone Number Again?" is designed for groups that stay together and interact on a regular basis. One great tool offered by is the Group Rolodex. Have you had a chance to check it out? Just click the link on the right side of the screen labeled Group Rolodex. It lists all the families of all the groups that you belong to in a mostly alphabetical fashion. Every once in a while I have one family that is alphabetically in the wrong place, and we have a bear of a time getting them home.

Rolodex for Bear family

Families will be shown with their primary phone number, home address, anniversaries, and then the individual members within that family, their birthdays, email addresses and phone numbers. Other family members (such as children or spouses that are not signed up as email receiving members of a group) are then listed with their birthdays. The groups that you have in common with each family are also shown, which can be helpful when you belong to more than one group.

There is a semi-private option that allows you to leave out a select few bits of information from being displayed in the Group Rolodex. If you check the "Hide Contact Info in Rolodex" option on the Family Info tab of "Edit My Information", your address and primary phone number as entered on the Family Info tab will not be displayed in the Group Rolodex. What will be displayed is your family name, member names, email addresses, groups in common, and any other optional information that you have entered, such as wedding anniversaries, birthdays, individual phone numbers for each member, and other family members and their birthdays. To keep these optional bits from being displayed, simply do not enter them. Please do keep in mind, however, that sharing this information can be beneficial to the bonding process within your group. Who doesn't like receiving birthday wishes, or at least being able to send them to others? Personal phone numbers can be very helpful for communicating with each other outside of official group meeting times.

Edit My Information Option to hide your contact info from the Rolodex
If you do choose to make your primary phone number and address private, please know that the leaders of your group will still have access to that information. Also, if you sign up for an item that has been tagged as a "show address" item, such as a hosting location, your address will appear on the signup sheet for that particular event for all members of your group to see.  How else are they going to know where to go for those yummy snacks?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reusable Signup Sheet Templates, the key to! is dedicated to managing small group logistics for groups which meet consistently. And, when meeting consistently, you usually have the same kind of signups, maybe some food items, maybe some dessert items, maybe some donation items... each group is unique, and is designed to handle all kinds of sign up sheets.

Signup Sheet Template information
Other online signup tools want you to recreate the items for which you want your group members to signup for every event. removes this hassle with the use of reusable Signup Sheet Templates.

Before you create your event, you first create a Signup Sheet Template which will later be "associated" to your event. Let's walk through the creation of a Signup Sheet Template. Once you are on the new Signup Sheet Template page from the leader site, create a descriptive name and description for your template so you can find it later. As most events using this template will have a consistent intent for children, you can also set the childcare attendance type here: children can participate, have childcare provided, or are not allowed.

Signup Sheet Template Categories
Then, you begin to create your signup sheet. You can group your signup items in categories, this just gives them a distinctive section on the actual member signup sheet. We've created three categories, one for Hosts, one for Food, and one for Donations. Note that for the Hosts, we've checked both the Mutually Exclusive and the Show Address. We only want one family to host children, and one family to host the adults, not the same family to signup to do both. So, this is how you tell that you only want one family to signup for an item in a category. As this is hosting, we also want the family who signed up to host to have their address visible on the actual signup sheet.

Host Checkbox Signup Sheet Items
Next, we will add signup sheet items to the categories. First for the Hosts. As stated, we want both an adult host and a childcare host. We will use "Checkbox" Signup Sheet Items. These will just display a checkbox upon which members can click to signup for that item.

Our Food signups will be similar, with as many checkboxes and we want families to bring food.

Quantity Signup Sheet Items
Finally, we'll add our donations. We want to donate to our local food bank, so they are looking for canned goods. We've asked our group to provide 100 canned goods. For this, we are going to use a "Quantity Signup Sheet Item. With this kind of signup item, you can specify how many and in what quantity. Each family should be able to bring a minimum of 5 items, but they can bring any multiples of 5 up to 100 items.

That's it. Here's what the member signup sheet will look like once your members begin to signup for the event you created with this Signup Sheet Template:
Member Signup Sheet based on our created Signup Sheet Template!