Enter to Win $50 Gift Card for your Parent Group!
It’s Easy! Just add your favorite strategy to get parents involved in your parent group below and be automatically entered! Drawing at the end of October.
It’s Tuesday night, you just fed your kids raw carrots and hot dogs for dinner and you ate their leftovers. After wiping the ketchup out of your hair, you head out the door to the school where you will sit with the same five die hards to discuss the goals and activities of your Parent Group. You spend your evening discussing how to enrich the lives of not only your kids but every single student in the school. The question often drifts to how to get more parents involved with all of the do-gooding.
Instead of feeling frustrated, empower yourself with the ideas discussed here. These techniques will help get the participation you desperately need to achieve your Parent Group Goals. It can happen! Not only that, your parents will feel they contributed while not feeling overly burdened with commitment. Remember, parents who do participate in Parent Group events are the most likely to become volunteers. Those who volunteer occasionally are the most likely to take on more responsibility, such as organizing an event. And those organizers are the most likely to become interested in serving as board members. Be patient and it will happen quicker than you think. Moving people from step to step takes the stress out of finding future leaders. With this approach, you will build good will and a legion of volunteers that will pick up the phone when you call. Here’s where we start…
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Make it a priority! Make parent involvement, not fundraising, your priority. Run two or three major fundraisers a year. Then concentrate on activities that get parents connected to the school. The kids, teachers and administrators, and the Parent Group will all benefit. There are so many things you want to accomplish during your time with your parent group. Think of what you could accomplish with the help of others. It is Job #1 to plan ways to get other parents involved. If it is not a priority, you will find yourself trying to do it all. Once you have moved it to the top of the pile, the next step is to make a plan.
You gotta ask! If you want people to participate, you must ask. The number one reason people cite for not volunteering: “Nobody asked.” We just assume all parents know what we are doing to bring unicorns and rainbows into the classroom but the truth is, they are as busy as we are and probably eating the same cold leftover as they run out to karate or ballet. So, the best place to start is to ask your parents to participate in a friendly and upbeat way. Remember, it is likely that your audience is afraid that if they volunteer, they’ll be sucked into a black hole of time commitment from which they can’t escape. Let them know up front that your group is not a black hole. Then, make sure you honor their time constraints.
Don’t overlook excellent volunteer groups. Fathers, Grandmas and Grampas are great groups to reach out to. Fathers may want to be involved but may feel excluded from messaging. Grandparents tend to have a little more free time and often play an important role in their grandkids’ rearing. Be sure to make a special effort to reach out to them. Parents new to the school need your help. You can provide them with information about the school, teachers, schedules, and productive, flexible ways to contribute to the Parent Group. Reach out to them early—and individually—to give them a positive feeling about the Parent Group and give them options. Whenever possible, seek to unite diverse groups. Work together with teachers and administrators, parents of varying ethnic and economic groups, people with a variety of views. Make the parent group a source of strength for the school.
Make sure you deliver your message with a smile. What we contribute as parent groups is very important but it is also important to remember why we do it. Some special people will dedicate their time and energy to a group because it’s the right thing to do. Many, many more will participate if it’s fun. Make sure your group has a culture of inclusion and tolerance. You’ll build involvement and fight burnout, too.
Communication is Key. The best way to get parents involved is to extend a personal invitation. People are most likely to take part in any group when they know someone who already does and when they have been asked to participate in a personal way. Don’t just send flyers home, then wonder why nobody “signed up.” Create situations in which you can communicate with people one on one. Be visible at all events. Set up a table at open house, registration, and school activities. Assign a board member to walk around at parent group functions; she or he should introduce herself or himself and make sure people are having fun and feel connected to the effort. Put a welcoming face on the Parent Group.
Use a variety of communication to make sure your message gets through. If you cannot get in front of them in real life, send a private message or personal email to ask your parents to participate in a specific way. Instead of asking them to volunteer, ask them to man the photo booth. Be specific. If they say no to the photo booth, ask them what they want to do. Flyers and blast e-mails are good for communicating a date and time and supplementing the face to face requests.
Be careful not to give volunteers a job they’re not ready for. Make sure people know what is expected of them and have the resources and knowledge to do the job. If you don’t, volunteers won’t return. Don’t just ask for your volunteers’ time; ask for their talents. Use a questionnaire to discover parent interests. You’ll find dedicated volunteers more easily if you match skills and talents to the jobs you need done.
– Add your comments below to be eligible for a $50 giftcard for your Parent Group-
Sing their praises. Awards, compliments, a simple thank-you go a long way. Always let people know that you appreciate their help, whether they just organized a smashing fundraiser or spent an hour selling tickets at the carnival. A great way to do this is to send out a thank you note after the event and to acknowledge their contributions in an ad hoc environment. Think about what you would do for a simple acknowledgement.
As much as it is important to recognize your volunteers, it is important to brag about the accomplishments of your parent group. Make sure people know what your group does. When you donate an item to the school, put a plaque or sticker on it that gives you credit. When you raise money, make sure people know what it was able to buy for their kids. A little basic marketing goes a long way toward building your reputation with parents—and encouraging parent involvement. It doesn’t make you boastful. It makes you productive and it brings good things to your kids and your school community.
Plan: It is always important to know where you are headed. It is difficult to lead when your group lacks direction or firm goals. Parents can feel the difference. So, plan your annual activities ahead of time while building in some flexibility. Use your checkbook to create a budget, so you’ll know how much money you need to raise. Balance your activities throughout the year so you won’t burn out your volunteers or yourself. Take the pressure off with good planning.
The goal is to build a successful parent group that brings good things to our school community and finds ways to fund it. If you don’t have a plan or priorities like boosting parent involvement, you can run a good event or fundraiser without it. But to sustain a group over the long term, you must find balance: work and fun, Parent Group time and personal time, fundraising and involvement events. With these reminders, you will begin to build a network of reliable and enthusiastic volunteers that will be with you and become part of your legacy to the next group leadership.
Please feel free to add your ideas on how to increase parent involvement below. At the end of October, 2016, we will be picking the contribution we think is the most useful and awarding the Parent Group a $50 giftcard.
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