PTAs, parent-teacher organizations, have the reputation of being the 'black hole' of volunteering. In other words, people feel that if you raise your hand to volunteer, you will immediately be expected to volunteer for every single event until the end of time. It's time to change that image. Branding is the buzzword for the new millennium, and it works for PTAs just as well as it does for celebrities.
1. Smile: If you look tired and overrun when you and the other die-hard PTA parents are volunteering, you scare prospective parents away. In fact, you only reinforce the image of the overworked PTA volunteer. Smile at people. It really works.
2. Get Signage: Call a local sign company and have a permanent sign made that can be set up at each and every PTA event. Many times people simply assume that the school is putting on the event, when, in fact, it is solely through the efforts of the PTA. Displaying a sturdy, sandwich board-style sign that simply states, "This event was brought to you by the ABC School's PTA." is great for your branding and image.
3. Stop Asking: Sometimes it is nice for parents to attend an event where they are not asked to volunteer and not asked to donate funds. Sure, it is tempting, but resist the urge to hit them up. Eventually they may stop attending altogether, if they feel embarrassed every time they come and have to say "no."
4. Use '2 Hour Power': PTO Today, a website dedicated to helping PTAs and PTOs succeed, has a pledge program called '2 Hour Power' that has had success in increasing parent involvement in their local PTA. Basically, the program asks parents to pledge just two hours of their time each school year. This really helps PTAs move away from the 'black hole' image, and towards a 'team effort' feeling.
5. Give Thanks: Volunteering is often a thankless job. Change that perception by saying thank you to your volunteers. A quick search of Pinterest boards will net you hundreds of cute—and inexpensive—ways to say thank you. Who could resist a little baggie of mints with a note attached that reads, "Thank you! Your help really 'MINT' a lot!" Taking the time and effort to say thank you helps brand your PTA as one that truly values its volunteers.
6. Avoid Meetings: No one wants to sit through a boring meeting. They do enough of that at work, and during every day life. Why not limit PTA meetings to three or four times a year? Use your volunteer force where you really need them—at events. In fact, do not make meetings mandatory. Many parents just want to help, not vote.
7. Be Welcoming: Unfortunately, there are parent-teacher organizations that are very exclusive, even to the point of being clique-y. Changing this image is imperative because it cuts down on available volunteers drastically. No one wants to be the odd-man out. In fact, many times the exclusion is unintentional. PTA members need to get in the habit of saying hello to other parents that are not in their normal circle of friends any time they are on school grounds. They represent the PTA—whether they are volunteering that day or not—and need to make everyone feel welcome.
Branding your PTA as inviting, fun, and all-inclusive takes work. It may even take more than one school year. In the end, the hard work will pay off with a more robust organization with a full volunteer roster to draw from and full coffers to pay for great events for the kids, which is what its all about.