Have you ever thought about how fun your PTO is? Do parents at your school think of your parent group as fun? Do your volunteers have fun while they’re doing all the hard work? Are there smiles and laughs and good memories associated with your group?
Or is it all seriousness and drama and bylaws and hitting up folks for money and then more money?
If it’s the latter—if your group lacks a fun quotient—then almost all of your other efforts will struggle mightily. It may sound shallow, but working hard to make your group more fun may be the most important thing you can do to change your group for the better.
Why does fun matter so much? The fact is that you’re competing every day for the attention of the parents at your school. You want them to volunteer. You want them to attend your events and support your fundraisers. You want them to be a part of the community you’re building in support of your school.
But you have a ton to compete with. You’re competing against other volunteer opportunities, like Girl Scout troops and Little League. You’re competing against second jobs and helping the kids with homework.
Your biggest competition might just be that very comfy couch in the den, and American Idol and Dancing With the Stars and Survivor. That’s right, you and Simon Cowell in a cage match. (Hint: If you’re not fun, he’s winning.)
Most parent groups tell me that increasing involvement—getting more parents connected with their group—is their number one goal, and yet those same groups spend little time actively working on making their group more attractive to all parents. There’s a small subset of parents, probably like you, who will get involved with their kids’ school no matter how fun (or not) the PTO or PTA is. To attract the rest, you have to earn it.
Get More Parents Involved
And it starts with fun.
Parents are busy. And parents are tired. They probably won’t give you a direct no when you ask for help. But if your group is dreadfully boring or serious or (worse yet) filled with drama, then they’ll find ways to stay away. You probably do it yourself with groups that just don’t get you jazzed up.
The best way to seem more fun is actually to be more fun. It’s OK to tell a few jokes. It’s OK to go out after meetings for some socializing at the Starbucks or—egad!—the local tavern. It’s OK to have a PTO bunco night. It’s more than OK to spend some of your budget dollars making your family events even better. Go ahead, pony up for that great DJ with the laser show.
I can also speak for all parents when I say it’s OK to forgo the reading of minutes at every meeting—put them on your website if you’d like—and to limit debate even if Mrs. Chatty is on a roll.
The good news is that this focus on lightening things up has very real benefits. Making things more attractive means more attendees at events. More attendees at events eventually means more volunteers. Serving more parents and keeping things fun even means more support for your fundraisers. More fundraising success means more good work you can do for your school and even more you can invest in fun. And what’s more fun than all that?
Still stuck? Find me on the ptotoday.com community and we can compare our favorite clean-enough-for-PTO-meetings jokes. I could use a few more for my repertoire.