One of the biggest concerns about putting on a big PTO event is being able to recruit enough volunteers to run the event successfully.
Here are some things to take into consideration before you start planning your event!
Have a Plan
First, make sure you know exactly what you need to put on the event.
How many volunteers will it take?
Think about how many time slots make sense to have, especially if it’s a longer event.
Leave enough time for volunteers to enjoy the event with their families in addition to helping out. Otherwise, people will not want to volunteer!
If you’re not entirely sure about what goes into an event, do some research to find out.
A great place to ask is in the PTA/PTO SuperStar Leaders Facebook Group.
There are so many knowledgeable PTO leaders in the group, so there will be someone with the answers to your question!
Next, do enough advance publicity for the event. No way can you start looking for volunteers just two or three weeks out!
Start by announcing the event about 6 months out and then give reminders about the upcoming event as soon as more details are known, with increasing frequency as the event approaches.
Make sure to blanket families with information about the event: announcements over the school PA system, flyers home, Facebook posts, newsletter blurbs, posters around school, etc.
I think you get the point!
Don’t miss an opportunity to let families know about the event and also that volunteer are needed.
But on that last point, make sure that the asks for volunteers are clear about what exactly is involved.
The misconception with all things PTO is that if you even look at a PTO leader, you’ll get sucked down the rabbit hole of never-ending volunteer requests.
To avoid this, clearly present what’s needed from volunteers.
Make it crystal clear what the volunteer job entails as far as time commitment, event specifics (when, where, etc.), whether or not they can volunteer with their children and anything else that’s relevant to the event.
Another tactic to encourage parents who’ve never stepped up to volunteer before is to have other volunteers share their experience in the form of a “testimonial.”
My PTA has had success with this. We’ve held an annual dinner dance for Third Graders and their parents for years and always need volunteers to help set up and serve dinner as well as clean up.
Quite often, without prompting, when the dinner volunteer sign up sheet gets passed around during the PTA meeting, parents who had volunteered before would speak up and explain how much fun it was!
It never failed to prompt a few more names to be written down on the volunteer sheet!
Another way to do this is to have former volunteers write up their experience in a few sentences and make this testimonial into a Facebook post or include it in the PTO newsletter.
This method is more clunky and can come off not as natural as the in-person method, but if you’re stuck for volunteers, it’s worth a shot!
Get Another Plan
To easily manage volunteers during the event, ensure you have a solid plan in place!
Bring at least one list of volunteers with their stations and time slots notes to the volunteer check in table.
Make sure that the volunteer coordinator has a few helpers that aren’t assigned to a station so they can act as runners and get whatever might be needed.
And most importantly, don’t leave volunteers stranded and never assume they’re ok!
Swing by about every 15-20 minutes and see if they need a bathroom break or need to check on their kids or grab a drink.
Have a few floater volunteers that can temporarily fill in for volunteers that need a break.
If you need extra help from the volunteer beyond their time slot, make sure they’re ok to stay on, but never assume that they are!
After Carnival one year, I overheard a volunteer complain that she had gotten stuck at a booth for over an hour past her time commitment and she was more than a little upset about it.
Not a good situation and she probably won’t volunteer again.
When I was in charge the following year, I made sure to start checking in with volunteers frequently like I described earlier.
Want even more advice about recruiting and managing volunteers for big events?
If you’re looking for more guidance on how to greatly expand your volunteer base and members, grab a copy of the Membership Master Plan.
It’s a step by step guide that walks you through the process of how to put a strategy in place that works to attract new members and volunteers.
The Membership Master Plan isn’t a “plan in a vacuum”, but rather a set of highly customizable strategies that all PTA and PTOs can adapt to find growth success!