“Where’s the directory?” my son asks, as he realizes, yet again, that he doesn’t have the spelling words for tomorrows test. The Family Directory is a staple at many schools and churches and a must for parents. We use it to contact kids and parents in my son’s class, create birthday lists and look up addresses for Christmas cards.
And while it’s probably the most important document published by our school, it also has the reputation of being the worst job to do. In this article, I’ll show school contact list database you how easy it is to do yourself using common (and some free) applications. I’ll also give you tips on making the job as painless as possible.
1) Decide what’s going to be in the directory.
This is the critical first step. You want the directory to be as useful as possible but you also want to keep the printing costs down. Are there items that get repeated every year but never read? It took me 2 years to get the school map removed from the directory. We have 23 classrooms at our school and we’ve haven’t lost a parent yet. Challenge yourself to cut 10% out of the next directory. Also try to avoid time sensitive data as it can quickly become obsolete. Consider moving this information to your school’s website.
2) Manage family contact information.
Managing the family contact data is critical to the final directory quality. You want the flexibility to add and delete families while keeping the data grouped and alphabetized. Spreadsheets can accomplish this task, but you will then need to mail merge the data into a word processor to produce a finished product. Do it yourself database programs are better suited to the data management task but there is a fairly steep learning curve. Because of this, I created a software package that’s built to easily create the family directory at schools and churches. Simply enter the family data and pictures and you have a PDF ready for distribution.
However you get there, make sure you have a solution that allows for easy data changes and can quickly produce rosters and alphabetical listings, preferably in a PDF format (more on that below).
3) Create the front and back covers (and other graphics pages).
As with any publication, you need front and back cover pages. You can include your school’s logo and fun clip art to make it more attractive. Also be sure to include school contact information. I really like Word 2007 for this task. It has its limitations, but for simple formats it works well. Just use the insert picture function and add text boxes to create some of the fun graphics. Tip for inserting pictures: after you select insert, go to text wrapping and select “tight”. This will make easy to move the picture where you want it.
To make your documents work together uniformly, use only one font for all the text. This is easy on the eyes and looks much more polished. Arial is my favorite.
Tip: Make sure your final product has an even number of pages. For booklet directories the page count should be divisible by four as a booklet directory is really just letter size paper folded in half.
4) Save all your files as PDFs.
When you’re done formatting the family data and the covers, you will want to save all your files in a PDF format. There are several reasons for this. First, a PDF can be read by most people using the free Acrobat Reader. When you’re done, you will want to send the final documents to several people in your organization for review.