Is your PTO struggling with getting enough volunteers? You are not alone! All parent groups struggle with this issue from time to time, unfortunately.
Here are some ways you can put an end to this problem. These are the same tactics that I use in my own parent groups to attract and retain volunteers! In other words, these are tried and true methods.
Make it fun
This is a no-brainer! No one wants to do more work!
Most parents are now working and in order to get them on board with PTO stuff, it’s going to have to feel less like work and more fun!
The one time in my PTA volunteer career where I had more than enough volunteers to go around was the second year my PTA put on Super Games. Super Games is like a modern field day with about of dozen interactive stations with everything from pedal go karts to a Wipeout style inflatable obstacle course.
Why did we have so many volunteers? Because parents knew what to expect: F-U-N! The kids and school staff went wild for this event and parents turned out to support it!
Not every event can be on the level of Super Games, so how to inject fun?
Adding food to every event is an easy way. Now it doesn’t have to be a huge spread, but a little chocolate goes a long way, my friend! Unexpected surprises like that are like icing on the cake.
Another way to ensure a fun time is to plan and be organized for every meeting and event. Events that are hot messes aren’t any fun for anyone and meetings that go on forever aren’t either.
By the by, PTO meetings shouldn’t be longer than an hour. If your meetings are routinely over an hour, you gotta reign that baby in and get organized!
I know this is an issue for a lot of PTOs, so I wrote a How to guide on running short, yet effective PTO meetings. I’ve been there, feeling like I might die in a seemingly endless PTO meeting that’s dragging on, and on and on so this guide will help save you from a similar torture.
And the last tip for more fun is to not take any of this PTO stuff too seriously! At the core of everything PTA /PTOs do, it should all be for the benefit of the students and staff.
Keep things fun and as light as possible.
… Make it a small ask!
Don’t even think about asking a parent who’s never been involved with PTO stuff before to be an elected leader. If they’re sane, they’re likely start running in the other direction. before you even finish asking But if they say yes, then they’re likely a little not right in the head. I’m kinda joking here and kinda not about this last part!
So make your asks in line with what that potential volunteer’s experience has been so far. If they’ve been to a meeting, but haven’t signed up for anything, ask them to help you with a small task at the net event.
Parents are more likely to agree to help out when they know what they’re signing up for and when the request is limited in time!
Your ask should be something like- “can you help serve dinner at the Third Grade Dinner Dance on May 5th from 5:30-8?” instead of “can you help at the dinner dance?” The first request gave the potential volunteer all the information they needed to know and had the amount of time needed defined, whereas with the second request, that volunteer had no idea what they might be getting themselves into! And that may have be the difference in getting another volunteer and not.
Make any request for help, whether it be in person, or in an email, or even on a sign up sheet, be clear and communicate all of the information parents are going to need to have in order to know if they can help.
For more tips on recruiting volunteers and leaders, be sure to check out this post.
Cut out the drama
This really should go without saying! In PTO land, you need to be hyper aware of anything that even gives off even a whiff of being catty and not inclusive. You already know that the perception that PTA/PTOs are cliques is a myth that runs DEEP y’all. In fact, I couldn’t even make it through the movie Bad Moms because I was so turned off by the portrayal of the PTA moms.
Now keep in mind, some people are just looking for ways to be offended and it doesn’t take anything for them to feel excluded… But you really have to watch yourself when you are asking for help with PTO things!
You simply cannot be gossipy, passive aggressive or talking behind people’s back and expect that people will be ready and eager to help out. In fact, just the opposite will happen and you’ll find yourself stuck without any help or support.
You’ll need to talk with everyone, or at least wave and smile. Even when you don’t feel like it. And I know that at the core, you’re not a drama queen and have the best of intentions, so this shouldn’t be a hard thing for you to do!
My last tip is a really, really good one….
Talk to people when you don’t want something
Yes, that’s right. You totally have to talk to people even when you don’t want something.
Serious, you’ve gotta cultivate relationships with people so you can help when you need it!
You can’t just talk to people when you want something (for oh so many reasons!).
Successful PTOs are those with strong relationships between the members. Now, you don’t have to be BFFs with them, but you’re far more likely to help a friend in need versus someone you don’t talk to except for at the monthly PTO meetings.
So be a nice human and chat with people.
Otherwise, they’ll start running the instant they see you!
This video covers this same topic. Give it a watch!
Over to you!
Hope this post has given you some ideas for how to be strategic about getting more volunteers for your PTO!