Annunciation Orthodox School

CO-ED, INDEPENDENT SCHOOL | HOUSTON, TEXAS | 700+ STUDENTS

annunciation orthodox school

 

"I love everything about Finalsite! But if I had to choose, my top three things are: the level of admin permissions, the user experience, and the design capabilities. And with all three together, the amount of time I save is the biggest benefit for me when it comes to Finalsite products."

- IsABELLE DOM| director of communications at Annunciation ORthodox School

With Finalsite for their Content Management System and Blackbaud for their Student Management System, Annunciation Orthodox School (AOS) gets the best of both worlds. Communications are easier than ever with a drag-and-drop, intuitive website and marketing platform; on the backend, automatic data transfers from Blackbaud ensure that all of their constituent information remains up-to-date and secure.

Isabelle Dom, Director of Communications at AOS, and Jeri Lodato, Web Specialist, are always striving to offer the best digital experience for community members — which became especially crucial during COVID-19. Fortunately, they had the integration between the Finalsite and Blackbaud platforms working seamlessly to ease the stress of an unprecedented year.

Accurate Mailing Lists in Times of Change

"When it came to supporting our current parents and onboarding them into this insane school year, Composer and Messages (Finalsite’s email marketing platform) without a doubt saved the day," said Isabelle. For the 2020-21 school year, AOS split their classrooms into cohorts to allow for social distancing, which also meant separate email communications were needed.

"The data integration piece was key because all of a sudden we needed different mailing lists for different purposes. So just knowing that our Finalsite emails and Blackbaud data were synced up was fantastic and crucial at such a period of crisis."

The data flow from Blackbaud to Finalsite syncs hourly, eliminating the need to manually update constituent data or worry that new families weren't getting essential updates. "If it wasn't integrated, having to take the extra time to export and import lists and all of that would have just been added pressure to the situation," said Isabelle. 

Plus, with Finalsite, Isabelle can create dynamic emails that pull in content from the website and reflect the AOS brand, visually. "Finalsite Messages has just been life-changing for me, especially with the design components. I used to have to do all these weird tricks to force designs into our old messaging system, but I save so much time now by purely dragging and dropping from preset templates."

email example from Annunciation Orthodox School

This AOS email, designed with Finalsite Messages, announced a virtual adaptation of their annual book fair 

Automated Sync for Faculty Directories

The Blackbaud data integration also saved AOS time with pandemic-related staff transitions. When lots of changes needed to be made, the team only had to update the directory in one place: Blackbaud's database. The integration took care of the rest. 

"When we moved into cohorts, so many of our teachers' titles changed. For example, our music teacher is now a fourth grade lead teacher," said Isabelle. "So the fact that we only had to update once in the Blackbaud directory and it was automatically updated on our Finalsite website was awesome."

screenshot of the AOS directory page

"I did some spot checking in the Finalsite directory when we made those big changes," added Jeri, "and everything was right. I didn't have to edit anything on the website. I look at it and go, 'Oh, that's wonderful!'"

The hourly sync removes the need for manual updates, freeing up Jeri's time so she can focus on other website projects. 

Easy Updates with Composer

Before switching to the Finalsite, simple tasks like uploading photos took a long time. "I used to need to have a cheat sheet," said Jeri, "It's gotta be this particular size to fit into this particular spot. Now, I'm just like, 'Oh, I have this picture, I want it to go here. And it just kind of magically works!'"

"The user experience before [switching to Finalsite] was not intuitive and it was not obvious where to find things," Isabelle added. "Jeri and I both had notebooks with written instructions and it was difficult to train others. But with Finalsite, the user experience in the backend is ready-made — you can walk into it and figure out what you're trying to do without really needing any big training."

screenshot from Annunciation Orthodox School's homepage navigation

Simple Website Admin Content Management with Permissions

Isabelle delegates a lot of the content creation to other departments. "The amount of people that we've been able to onboard, even if it's in a limited capacity, into Finalsite without them needing to take any training is a testament to how easy it is," she said. "Our athletic director, for example, updates all of the information that gets populated on our team pages." 

Still, Isabelle and Jeri have control of the design and how that information is laid out on the page, using Finalsite's Admin Users customizable permissions. "The levels of permission settings that Finalsite provides is fantastic. I've been able to assign specific pages to other people at the school so they can update them directly. The Forms tool, too — I get to assign permissions out to other people to build their own forms, which has been great."

Mobile-First, Family-Centered Pages

The AOS team continues to streamline school-to-home communications with informative website pages that are easy to read on mobile devices. The school's reopening plan communications hub is just one fantastic example. 

screenshot from Annunciation Orthodox School's reopening plan webpage

"We received all of this information internally from our reopening committee in a Google doc, and the challenge was communicating such a large volume of information in a way that was readable," said Isabelle. With a variety of formatting elements at her disposal, she took the time to create tags and categories to pull the page together.

"We used everything from Posts to Accordions, to the block lists and even anchor links," said Isabelle, "Our biggest challenge during COVID was putting this together, and the different formatting elements that Finalsite has was super helpful. I think we did a pretty good job meeting the challenge!"

Key Takeaway

The AOS website is more than a marketing and admissions tool — it has also become an essential tool for providing timely updates with current families. With the ease of the Finalsite Platform, the AOS team had a full suite of communication tools to aid in their COVID-19 communication efforts, all while keeping data intact with Blackbaud’s data integration.

About Annunciation Orthodox School

Founded in 1970, AOS offers independent school education for students in grades PreK-8. The school is rooted in Greek traditions and culture, providing students the foundation to build strong character and academic excellence. 

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