Want to know what PTOs do that parents really hate?
Read on, my friend to discover five ways that PTOs turn parents off and cause them to not only ignore your PTO but possibly even run when they see you coming.
If your PTO is struggling to get parents involved either as leaders or volunteers, your PTO may be making one of these mistakes!
1. PTO Board-only shirts
I know that PTO Board members do a lot, and those in the group want to be made to feel special and every celebrated for all that they do.
But I gotta say, I think that Board specific PTO shirts are the totally wrong way to go.
And here’s why: In PTO Land, you’re dealing with a whole bunch of different personalities.
This is the great thing and also the sucky thing about PTO Land!
You never know who you’re going to get and ideally, you gotta play in the sandbox nicely with one another.
And I’m just gonna put it out there that the cute PTO Board T-shirts, while they may be a bonding thing for the Board members themselves, they can seem downright cliquish to anyone not on the Board.
I know that’s not the intention with the shirts.
But that’s the reality of how it’s playing out for some of the parents in your school.
I’ve been in this same position myself: dealing with a parent who was saying not such nice stuff about me and other Board members.
She even declared us to be clique-ish snobs to anyone who would listen.
In reality she was saying these things because she was insecure and either undiagnosed or unmedicated (or both)!
But that’s a story for another time…
So instead of getting Board specific PTO shirts, design or find yourself a cute PTO shirt that would be appropriate for all PTO members and volunteers to wear.
Because in reality, it’s probably only going to be the Super PTO Nerds a.k.a. Board Members who actually wear the darn things anyway.
And when you have a more generalized shirt, no one will use the shirts as an example of “how they’re not even going to bother going to a meeting or helping out, because those awful women are so cliquish and catty.”
2. Don’t give enough notice
I don’t know about you and your friends, but mine are all super busy.
Busy enough to have to work on scheduling a family dinner three months in advance.
Parents in your school are not any different.
They have a lot going on and need notice to switch up their schedule to attend PTO events.
And I’m talking about at least 3-4 weeks notice!
Two weeks or less notice virtually guarantees that no one will come.
Not because they don’t want to.
Because they can’t juggle everything successfully in that time frame.
Remember, you are practically Wonder Woman because you, my friend, have the capability to get more done in less time, than pretty much anyone else (except for fellow PTO nerds).
But other people?
They just need more time.
So give it to them!
This is exactly why I highly recommend mapping out the entire school year before the start of school.
The planning parent types at your school will be eternally grateful for having all of the dates ahead of time.
And you will love yourself for not having to do the last minute scramble to make an event happen.
3. Doing the newsletter info dump
All too many PTOs open the floodgates of information in every single newsletter.
They list everything and anything that is going on at school and in community.
Um, we’re all busy people.
You gotta limit your focus in newsletters to the priorities of actions you want parents to take.
You can’t provide them with information about everything because in reality, you’ll be providing them with more information than they can handle.
And parents will just ignore it all because it’s just All. Too. Much.
4. Having meetings during the day
I know many PTO folks will disagree with me on this one, but I’m gonna take firm stance on this issue!
Unless 100% of all school families have at one stay at home parent who’s not working, you shouldn’t have meetings in the middle of the day.
Nope, never, ever, even if “no one” comes to meetings at night or says they can’t come because they have kids.
I’ve had too many friends move to a new school and lament how they wish they could be as involved in the new school’s PTO as they had been at their old school.
Only they can’t because they’re at work when all of the meetings happen.
And not only were they not able to attend, they felt specifically excluded.
Like the PTO didn’t want working moms to participate.
Is that really the message you want to send?
Bottom line, you’re missing out on great potential volunteers and leaders when you have PTO meetings during the day. Don’t do it!
Also, Executive Board or small committee meetings during the day are A-OK by me!
That’s a different situation, entirely.
5. Ever-changing meeting times + days
I’ve seen somewhat of a trend lately in the PTO Land where people are trying to please everyone, and in the process, please no one!
Pick a day and a time that the majority of your Board members and volunteers can attend and stick with it!
If you’ve tried all sorts of days and times for meetings and nothing seems to be working, then there’s the proof in the pudding for what I’m saying!
You have to pick a consistent meeting day and time so that parents can make childcare and work accommodations in order to attend.
So do something like pick the second Tuesday of the month from 7-8 pm and ink it in as the new PTO meeting day and time.
Parents will attend.
Life will be good!
Over to you!
Now that you know five things that PTOs do that totally turn parents off, make sure to pivot away and begin in a new direction that will engage parents instead!
Need even more help?
If you need even more help boosting parent engagement, snag the Parent Involvement Success Kit.
It massively builds upon the concepts outlined in this post and perfectly positions your PTO for an influx of engaged and involved parents!
Check it out now to see how you and your PTO can benefit!