It’s no secret that between the fundraisers, open houses, teacher appreciation weeks, and many more projects, Parent Teacher Organizations/Associations (PTAs and PTOs) are extremely busy and essential to any school.
For parents and teachers alike, it’s rewarding to engage other parents to help the school and make an impact, but these endeavors are run largely on volunteer power. Whether your school is a large bustling public school or an intimate parochial school, it can often be challenging to find enough volunteers to pull off your PTO/PTA’s plans.
Step 1: Organize Your Group
You most likely have your President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. But think about which other roles would be helpful to fill. Do you have a volunteer coordinator who can manage the sign-ups and communications? Do you need specific volunteers to be a chair for each major effort?
Splitting out your yearly events and assigning a chair (and possibly co-chair) to each one will not only take the pressure off the whole of the group but will empower that person to put their stamp on the effort. Disagreements about how to run that event or project? It goes to the chair in charge. Next item!
Step 2: Make Signing Up Terribly Easy
Communicate electronically and use online sign-up websites like SignUp Genius, Volunteer Signup.org, or iVolunteer. Make it clear what the project is, what your goals are, and the commitment it requires and then let people sign themselves up. As slots fill, the remaining needed times are easily seen. Volunteers have the option to leave notes, sign up for several slots, change their sign-up, and can have the commitment automatically put on their calendar. Easy-peasy!
Step 3: Give Potential Volunteers Options
A common complaint among non-volunteering parents is that there aren’t any options that fit their schedule or their lifestyle. It is essential to break up needs into smaller or online options for those who work, those with little ones at home, or those who would rather help out on their own schedule.
- Preparing materials for an upcoming craft
- Being the email liaison (an electronic responsibility)
- Soliciting support from your place of business—whether financial or in-kind
- Drafting or organizing a newsletter
- Graphic design volunteer hours
- Chairing an evening event after work hours
No matter what someone contributes, it makes a positive impact.
Step 4: Make Meetings Fun and Meaningful
Nothing steers people away faster than the thought of boring, endless meetings. Organize a well-planned agenda, decide what you need to accomplish, and move on. Bring in coffee, treats, and allow some time for chit-chat, but be respectful of everyone’s time by moving through your agenda items. Some organizations choose to meet in the evening to accommodate working parents, and some meet for happy hour or dinner to balance the social with the business. Poll your group, find the best time and place, and have fun!
Step 5: Reach Working Parents
Naturally, you want to reach all parents so they can be an active part of your children’s school. Plan meetings during the evening and give plenty of options for volunteer opportunities outside of work hours so that working moms and dads can give their input and support. If daytime volunteering comes up in the classrooms, give people plenty of notice so that working parents can take time off or arrange schedules as needed.
Step 6: Offer Childcare
Just as working parents find it difficult to volunteer, sometimes stay-at-home parents find it hard to volunteer if they have toddlers or babies at home. Try offering on-site childcare during meetings or event prep time so that these parents can get involved without worrying about a toddler’s needs at that moment. Some schools use one of the preschool rooms or a church nursery to accommodate the little siblings, which can be staffed by a school staff member, another parent, or a certified teen babysitter(s) looking for experience.
Step 7: Reach out to Grandparents
Grandparents and other family members are an untapped resource! Especially if they are available during the day, these doting volunteers can offer help as well as advice and perspective on your projects.
Send out an email to existing parents that they can forward to other family members, inviting them to sign up to be on a volunteer newsletter list, or asking them to email the volunteer coordinator if they’d like to make a difference at the school. You may even find some retired teachers, nurses, artists, or fundraising professionals who could offer special insight into your school efforts!
With today’s busy schedules, finding volunteers can be a constant challenge. Making sure the experience is fun, impactful, and respectful of all types of parents is the key to maintaining support from your volunteers. Follow Gifts ‘N Things on Facebook for more tips and tricks. Best of luck!