How Not to Recruit Leaders for Your PTO


 
There’s something we need to talk about.
Something troubling that keeps happening in PTO land.
It’s bad.  Worse that most realize, or else they’d quit doing it.
Before I tell you what it is, story time…
 
Not so long ago, I was at my child’s school and was chatting with a fellow PTA volunteer .  She asked me if I had anything that would help her friend in another school district who had just been elected Fundraising Chair.
 
She went on to say that her friend, Cara,  hadn’t really been involved in the school PTO before, and hadn’t been given a binder or any information to go on.  Cara was overwhelmed, pretty lost, and a little scared.
 
 
When I said I sure did have a fundraising guide for Cara, my friend was relieved!
 
But then I asked how the heck Cara had come to be elected if she’d not been involved in PTO before. My friend said that Cara had been elected at a meeting she wasn’t even at!  In fact, Cara had no clue that she was even being considered for such a position.
 
And at that point, I swear my head started spinning and expletives started flying out of my mouth…
 
I cannot think of a worse way of electing new leaders to your PTO.
 
And here’s why:
 
It’s just not fair.
 
I generally try to live by the Golden Rule of treating others as I wish to be treated.  And I would never put someone on the spot like this.
 
And part of the reason is that I’ve had it happened to me.  Not in the scope of PTO land, but another volunteer organization.  And It didn’t make me feel very good.
 
I felt rather disrespected.  In full disclosure, I had been President of this organization before, so I did know what to do and how to do it, but it came at a time in my life when I really didn’t have the time to commit to this organization.
 
I should’ve said no and declined to take on the position.  But I didn’t.  And I was bitter about it for the months that followed.  It didn’t make for a good situation because I was over committed and stressed out.  That’s just no way to be.
 
If someone declines to get involved, don’t ignore that and elect them anyway.  They probably have a very good reason for not wanting to step up, and it may not be something you have even the slightest idea about.  Trust and respect their decision.
 
 

Do this instead

 
Ok, now that I’ve told you about the WORST possible way of recruiting new leaders for your PTO, I’m stepping off of my soapbox.  Now time for some advice on what you should be doing instead!
 
 
If your slate has a bunch of holes in it and you’re out of ideas for potential leaders, go talk with your principal and teachers.  They’ll know who is in the building as a parent volunteer and who might have an inclination to step into a leadership role for your PTO.
 
As you know oh so well, is that a lot of people don’t like to come to PTO meetings, so don’t just limit yourself to looking at who shows up at meetings. If you do, you’re limiting the possibilities, so a chat with your Principal is a great place to start.

Make the Ask

Once you have a few names, reach out to those parents and let them know that you’ve heard that they’ve been volunteering at school and your Principal suggested you reach out.  Ask them what they’ve been helping out with at school and see if there is a correlating leadership position open on your PTO.
 
If there is, ask if they’re interested in taking their involvement up a notch to the next level.  That’s all being a PTO leader is, after all, making a commitment to step up and be a decision maker and an action taker.
 
Even if they aren’t interested in being a leader right now, know that their position could evolve over time, so make sure to invite them to the next few PTO events.
 
If you want to know even more about how I feel about this and some other reasons why you should stop volunteering people for leadership positions, watch this (and ignore the bad hair day):
 

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