Parent Organizations that support schools—PTAs, PTOs, PFCs, PTSAs, Booster Clubs, to name a few—are made up of volunteers who have indicated a willingness to dedicate precious time and energy (which many don’t have) to assist their public and private schools. By raising money, working with school administration, sponsoring after school enrichment programs and arranging family, student and community-wide events to foster spirit and involvement among the school’s families, parent organizations provide an invaluable asset for schools.
Unfortunately, many groups are hindered by lack of support and appreciation by other parents; inefficiency by Board leadership in running the organization, and lack of awareness of what is required to run this—like any other—organization successfully. Experience in managing school, business and our own schools’ parent organizations has allowed us to develop a list of the top FIVE things to focus on for leading effective parent groups:
1. MANAGE YOUR LEADERSHIP—All members of the Leadership Structure should be given the opportunity for some training in organizational effectiveness, leadership development and being an effective manager. Many PTA volunteers have no background in effective leadership and organizational management, many have not had experience in working in organizations, and thus are “shooting from the hip” in performing their role. While time is limited and this goal is difficult to achieve, your organization will be healthier, more effective and thrive longer as an institution if there is a foundation of leadership skills to pass on from one Board to another.
2. SOLICIT SUPPORT……RECRUIT!—Part of the ongoing effort for an organization to be successful is to establish a person(s) whose main responsibility is to solicit and recruit volunteers for the current year and for the future. This cadre/person is tasked with the chore of contacting individuals throughout the school year to serve on subcommittees, assist current committee chairs and Board members with their chosen and elected assignments, and be groomed for later involvement on the Board or within the organization. Recruitment of people who can bring value, skills and talent to your organization needs to be an integral part of the workings of the organization.
3. MARKET, PUBLICIZE, SELL—Do most of the parents in your school really know all that your parent group does? While most parent organizations do not see themselves as “selling” anything, the reality is that parents of students in the school are being asked to support the school-affiliated group by purchasing tickets, donations, spirit wear, class seats, memberships, and many other items. Rarely do any of us buy things without some appeal by a company, manufacturer, or merchandiser. Yet we have found that most PTAs/PTOs/Booster Clubs are reluctant to promote their organizations and what they do because it is assumed that parents know what they do, and many parents may find it offensive. This notion flies in the face of how most of us conduct daily affairs. School community parents need to know what’s going on, when and why. They need to understand that people running the parent organizations that support THEIR kids are as busy as they are, that you are volunteers doing this on your own time, and that EVERYONE SHOULD BE INVOLVED!!! Parents tend to take the parent organizations for granted and not understand what and how much is involved in running your group effectively. Get the word out in local newspapers, your own website (make sure you have one!), in the school, in the local food stores and businesses, at rec league sporting events. Get their kids to hold signs and rallies and car washes for the PTA.
4. Spread the Wealth (and Responsibility)—Too many parent groups are run by a handful of parents who are running themselves ragged trying to perform the work of ten people by themselves. No organization is successful with one or two individuals doing everything alone. Get more people involved by beginning to discuss committee and Board positions in August before school starts FOR THE FOLLOWING YEAR, instead of waiting until February/March before spring Board elections, and August and September for committee volunteers. This effort needs to be conducted year round by a Human Resources arm of the organization leadership (See #2 above.) More people mean more support, more activities, more buy-in, and more success.
5. MANAGE YOUR AFFAIRS ONLINE—Many online tools exist to help parent groups be more successful. Continuing to collect checks, paper forms, standing in line to register for classes, having parents run back and forth to drop off paper registrations and memberships in the school’s front office, depending upon teachers to collect fees and forms from kids transporting these in backpacks to and from schools, was essential in 1965. Things do not need to be done like this now. More and more parent groups are beginning to understand that electronic transmissions of payments and information can save time, money, labor and help your organization run more smoothly. Pay4SchoolStuff.com is one such web tool that can do all of these things for your organization—securely, conveniently, and easily. By eliminating forms, consolidating fees, collecting information for free, and moving your affairs to an online platform, Pay4SchoolStuff can modernize your parent organization instantly. Visit www.pay4schoolstuff.com to learn more.