BY SUSAN LAHEY
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
“We have all these different ways to keep track of the projects at work and our kids’ soccer teams and the boards we’re on and the second grade class activities. It’s in all these different silos. But that’s not how we live our lives,” says Rallyhood founder Patti Rogers.
Rallyhood provides private dashboards for any kind of group to communicate over issues, share photos, build a community calendar, sign up volunteers, collect RSVPs and dues and more. It can replace giant streams of email, Facebook and Yahoo group pages, Google shared calendars, Evites and Paypal accounts, all in one application. And that doesn’t include the customization the company can do for groups with premium services.
Plus, you can build a “Rally” around anything, from a company project to a youth sports team to your parents’ anniversary party. And if you have multiple “Rallies” you can get a daily schedule that incorporates all your group activities and deadlines, right in your inbox. The calendar can be exported to other sites like Google and Outlook. It even has integrated maps so you don’t have to look up where you’re supposed to be.
Kevin Embree, CEO of Online Persona, used to run his online marketing company on Base Camp. But there were issues. Techies related comfortably to Base Camp, but clients who weren’t particularly tech savvy, including many of the non-profits the company works for, didn’t want to mess with it.
“They were wondering ‘What is this I’ve been invited to? How am I going to use this?’” Embree said. Clients who rejected Base Camp stuck to emailing, which required tens of emails back and forth every day and made communication a chore. That resulted in lower client satisfaction rates.
With Rallyhood, Online Persona could maintain running conversations on the dashboard, download screenshots of social media and other campaigns, and divide information according to who needed access. One of his clients, YMCA, became so enamored of the tool it started using it nationwide to keep track of all of its offices.
Plus, Embree says, he keeps track of his daughter’s volleyball. It’s right there on the dashboard with his work stuff, which is a pretty snazzy marketing strategy on Rallyhood’s part. Each person who is won over converts others, because it makes his or her life easier.
This might prove a giant coup in the case of some of Rallyhood’s customers, like the Girl Scouts of Central Texas which includes 22,000 scouts and 13,000 adults, all of whom are converting to Rallyhood for Girl Scout related communications over the next two years. Lolis Garcia-Babb, Director of Marketing and Communications says some members have fallen in love with the application while others are putting off learning it as long as possible.
The organization has 85 service units, each overseeing 60 troops. It puts out a magazine twice a year. But quickly communicating something important–like when a Central Texas girl was named among only 15 recipients of a national award–is an emailing nightmare. With Rallyhood, it’s put on a central Rally and everyone gets the news. More importantly for the organization, it gets the news privately. Girl Scouts is extremely cautious what information the public has access to. When they used Yahoo Groups, too much information was accessible.
Rogers is thrilled about groups like the Girl Scouts and its talking to other regions. But that’s not what she had in mind when she first envisioned Rallyhood. In fact, in many ways the company started the day Rogers found out she had breast cancer. She was 41.
“I was merging into traffic, wearing a Bat Girl suit because we were having a big ol’ Halloween party and I was planning to pick up my kids dressed as Bat Girl,” she recalls. “And they called and said ‘We wanted to let you know you have breast cancer….’ My first thought was ‘No, this is Patti ROGERS…R-O-G-E-R-S, not Roberts….’ I kept it together and at the end of the evening we kicked out the last few neighbors and unplugged the margarita machine and I told my husband.”
The next many months would bring surgeries and chemo and a hugely supportive community that was a full-time job to manage. Many people wanted to help, but didn’t know how. People wanted to bring meals but didn’t know what. Rogers’ sister tried to orchestrate the tremendous outpouring but it involved a jillion emails and phone calls that ate up her time. And that’s what sparked Rogers’ idea. When she recovered, she considered how great it would be to have a central place where people can go to get information, sign up to help in an organized way, without having to bother the family or lamely offer “If there’s anything I can do….”
If someone uses Rallyhood for support around a sick friend or family member, people can sign up for meals on a calendar. They can see, without having to ask, if the family is gluten free or vegetarian or really hates broccoli. They can make sure that not everyone brings lasagna or offer to help carpool, if that’s what’s needed instead.
But Rogers wanted to make the tool “group agnostic” so it wouldn’t create just another silo. She wanted it to be something that schools and organizations, businesses and families or really any group could use and incorporate other groups. One of the first groups she took it to was a school that had not only classrooms, but teams, organizations, teacher groups, parent groups, boosters and more. The key was getting rid of clutter and chaos. So when the date for a meeting has to change, the site administrator can change it on the calendar and the word will go out to all the group members, rather than having to send a mass email.
Another organization that uses it is Komen Austin. While it’s a small office, when it comes to organizing committees and volunteers, say for Race for the Cure, they needed a tool that could encompass a crowd.
“I love it,” said Christy Casey-Moore, Executive Director. “I can’t be involved in all the nitty-gritty of the committees but I’m on all the rallies and I can go to rally, click on it, and there’s everything.”
Rogers has a web design background. Her husband is in IT in software. They bootstrapped the company in 2010 when she recovered from her cancer and began to wireframe the new site. In 2011 they raised $500,000 of angel seed funding with an additional $1.3 million injected by a group of professional angels led by Tom Meredith and Calendars.com. The company has nine employees at its downtown offices and several engineers off site. As a team, they not only provide the basic Rallyhood services but a high level of customization, said Garcia-Babb.
“I’ve been told I am a good listener,” Rogers said. “I’m eager to find out what isn’t working and fix it in the marketing and design before we build it. Then we measure and iterate. What is it about that feature that is slowing up adoption, making it difficult for leaders to use?” At first, for example, she focused n making the application easier to use in terms of membership lists and data but that left something to be desired in engagement. So then that piece needed attention.
Her real focus is building community and reducing chaos and clutter. That, she said, leads to a happy life.
A Rallyhood account is free and small groups can use it without cost. But there are premium services offered to large organizations based on the scope of services required. Those services include customization of the dashboard, advanced branding solutions and community-specific templates and advanced analytics and products. Enterprise services include gray and white labeling for organizations who want to create their own branded communities with Rallyhood’s feature set.
Now it’s just a matter of making it the go-to in the world of social communication and organization.
As Garcia-Babb said: “If you can capture the imagination of your audience, and if they feel like they’re getting left out, that’s what’s going to drive them there.”