Develop a strong volunteer base to build a sustainable PTA while better serving your school community
Volunteers are the base for a successful PTA. Volunteers help with programs/events and become comfortable doing so. Identify and “promote” volunteers who have the potential to assist with managing programs/events, then move them onto chairperson roles. Identify chairpersons who could be future PTA leaders. In addition to helping to fill future boards, having more volunteers lightens the load for those involved and reduces burn out.
Let’s begin by looking at how to attract and involve today’s parents. The following are from my notes of an excellent workshop I attended while at convention a few years ago which were included in the March council newsletter.
Understanding the Challenges of Today’s Volunteer Environment
- In today’s environment, people value time as much, or even more so, than money
- People would rather talk to each other than to the “organization”
- Image and impact are two critical factors in gaining anyone’s support – make sure parents see your PTA and programs as REALLY serving the students and making a difference
Understanding Why People May Give Their Time
The following are 8 of the top 12 answers given by 4,000 salaried employees when asked, “What are you looking for from your employer?” which also apply to volunteering:
- A sense of accomplishment
- Recognition for good work
- Making use of my abilities
- Doing challenging work
- A feeling of achievement
- A sense of competence
- A feeling of belonging
- Appreciation from others
Squaring Our Needs with Their Needs
- People want to know how they and their family will benefit from volunteering
- Helps them learn more about the school and the school system
- Helps them improve the school community
- Helps their child have a better school experience
- Allows for personal development
- Gives them a opportunity to interact with other parents
- Take a resource check – use parents’ talents, NOT just their time
- Always identify what people can expect to accomplish, not just what they are expected to do!
- Give people as many options as possible on how they can participate
- Use technology to get people involved and to recognize their efforts
- Welcome, educate, and support new families
- Match up new parents with experienced ones
- Learn to create leaders
Asking so People Want to Volunteer
- Make the contact personal and individual.
- Ask people in a way that will make them feel they are committing to a worthwhile, rewarding experience which fits into their lifestyles and will allow them to make use of what they have to offer.
- Do not ask, “Do you want to …?” Instead ask, “We would like you to join PTA in making a difference at our school. What talents, past experiences and time do you have that you could share with our students?”
- Give volunteers the tools and support to allow them to be successful.
- Don’t waste their time.
- Carefully match individuals’ talents, experience, and time availability to committees’ needs.
- Recognize their efforts and accomplishments, both personally and publicly.
- Be sensitive of differing styles when matching chairs to co-chairs.
- Invite them to volunteer in the future and help develop those who have the potential to be leaders.
Keys to effectively reaching out to volunteers
- Plan ahead to identify when and how volunteers are needed– have this information available for parents/guardians at the beginning of the school year combining with your membership drive. Designate a volunteer coordinator or add to the membership chair’s responsibility.Provide an opportunity to sign up via a form or on-line AND BETTER YET, follow up by holding an event that allows your PTA to personally interact and ask parents to join you in your efforts to make a difference at your school.
- Communicate Volunteer Opportunities with when, what and time info –Be specific! People are more likely to volunteer when they understand when they are needed, what they will be doing, how long it will take. Add a volunteer opportunities tab to website. List PTA events and programs with volunteers needed. Include tasks that can be completed at home. Ask parents to list special interests or skills. Add the types of volunteers needed to PTA program and event listings with contact info or a link to the volunteer coordinator or chairperson.
- Personally ask people to help with an event or program– people are more likely to say yes when they are asked personally to lend a hand than an appeal for volunteers through the Yahoo Group or newsletter. Often times a phone call or face to face invite yield the best results.
- Allow volunteers to become comfortable– don’t ask the new volunteer to chair the fall festival or serve as the PTA president. Instead allow volunteers to become confident before asking them to take on more responsibility.
Where to find volunteers
- Kindergarten parents– PTA needs to be at events where incoming/new kindergarten parents will be such as kindergarten orientation, sneak-a-peek, assessment, etc. Serve refreshments; share with parents what PTA does and how they can make a difference in their child’s education by volunteering. Involve board members and chairpersons to mingle and meet new parents. Create display boards or demonstrate programs such as FAME or Music for Minors.
- Back to School Coffee/Breakfast/BBQ – use same techniques as listed above, these parents have higher potential to get involved as they made the effort to attend the event.
- Coffee with Principal type events – use same techniques as listed above, these parents have higher potential to get involved and tend to want to be in the know.
- Ask teachers, the principal, school secretary or attendance clerks– elementary school teachers often ask parents to assist in the classroom, many who may enjoy helping with PTA. Office staff interface with many parents and could recommend those who may be good volunteers.
- Don’t overlook dads, grandparents, school neighbors – consider starting a dad’s club or service group to encourage men in your school community to volunteer. Grandparents and school neighbors may have time to volunteer, especially during the school day, and would enjoy helping with PTA programs and events.
- Contact people who have signed up to help with events or programs– we’ve heard time and time again of people who signed up to help never being contacted. Why sign up again if no one contacted them the year before?
- Utilize those who come to help– thank them for coming and give them a task to complete. Be available to answer questions and keep them busy.
- Be organized and plan ahead so tasks can be clearly communicated– be prepared to give volunteers direction, have a list of things to be completed. Consider providing written instructions for large events with many people assisting. Make sure needed supplies are available.
- Thank volunteers as soon as possible– make a point to thank people as set-up is completed, as they help during the event or when everything is cleaned up afterwards. Follow up with a thank you within a day or two. Tell them how they made a difference, “We were able to set-up much quicker with your help.” or “Family Math Night was a big success thanks to you.”
- Publically thank volunteers– include a list of people who helped with events or programs in the newsletter or on the Yahoo Group (make sure you follow PTA guidelines for doing so). This could encourage others to volunteer.
- Thank volunteers at Founders Day and the end of the school year– participate in your school’s volunteer recognition event or hold one of your own. At Founders Day, thank ALL who make a difference in your school community, not just award recipients.
Develop volunteers to become chairpersons and future PTA leaders
- During/after events or program work is completed reflect on those who helped – note those who didn’t need repeated direction, took the initiative to go beyond what was expected of them, suggested an easier way to do something or other improvement, etc.
- Collect the names of strong volunteers– ask chairpersons to report volunteers who have the potential to take on additional responsibility. During the school year, ask them to help with other programs and events.
- Create committee/program assistance – identify and ask strong volunteers to fill assistant and co-chairperson positions. Ensure that chairpersons work closely with them to lessen the load and make for easier transitions when chairpersons move on to other positions or leave the school.
- Encourage assistance to become event and committee chairpersons– people are more willing to head up a program or event if they are familiar with it. They are usually better at delegating and cultivating new volunteers when they are comfortable as chairpersons.
- Develop strong chairpersons to become future PTA leaders– invite them to attend executive board, planning and council meetings, trainings and convention plus serve on the nominating committee. Understanding the role of the executive board usually makes it easier for someone to accept the nomination to serve as an officer.
- Look to build a board beyond the minimum president, treasurer and secretary trio- use historian and secretary positions to recruit new officers, encourage VP(s) to develop into the president role, ask past presidents to serve as parliamentarian and past treasurers as auditor. Make training mandatory to develop leadership skills/PTA knowledge.
- Look ahead to the next president– it easier to say yes if a person has had the opportunity to shadow the current president. Have those who may be good candidates work closely with the president; join her at council meetings and meetings with the principal or teachers and while researching potential new programs or events, serve on the bylaws review committee or helping to set the PTA calendar of events.
Other helpful information: