Making yourself visible is an important step to getting more people involved. Make sure parents know the PTO welcomes their input. Include officer email addresses or phone numbers on emails and newsletters. At school events, wear a name tag or T-shirt that identifies you as an officer, and tell new parents what the PTO does.
Put fun before fundraising. Plan a fun event before your first fundraiser so parents know your group is about more than raising money. A low-key event like a cookout or an ice cream social can make a good first impression. Parents who enjoy your events will be more likely to volunteer and support fundraising efforts down the road.
To draw more families to its events, the Cottage Street PTO in Sharon, Mass., made its events bigger and better. The group increased the budgets for its free family events, including bingo and Iron Chef Night, and lowered the prices on non-fundraising events with admissions fees. With lower costs, more families chose to spend their free time at PTO events.
One way to encourage more fathers to become involved at school is to set up a dads club. At Janie Stark Elementary in Farmers Branch, Texas, the PTA’s Dads Club holds a back-to-school picnic, organizes Bring Your Dad to School Day, and helps with the school carnival and auction.
Try a proven way to draw families to your school: Feed them. Many schools find success with spaghetti suppers or potluck dinners. Another option is to add food to your existing events, like offering pizza at meetings or inviting a food truck to your school carnival. Try to keep costs low. If you sell food as a fundraiser, tell people how the profits will be used.
There aren’t many occasions for school parents to meet one another, outside of kids’ birthday parties. Some PTOs are changing that by offering parent-only social events. Consider organizing a wine and cheese reception, a dinner at a local restaurant, or a night out at a local comedy club.
Many parents want to support the work of the PTO, but don’t think they have the time. Offer a variety of ways for parents to get involved, including short-term volunteer jobs and tasks that can be completed from home in the evenings. Emphasize that every amount of volunteering helps and is appreciated.
When parents volunteer for an event, assign them a well-defined task and a time frame in which to complete it. (For example, sell carnival tickets from 2 to 3 p.m.) Knowing the specific expectations can make committing feel less overwhelming to new volunteers in particular.
Thank volunteers in person and give public recognition, as well, through bulletin board displays, newsletter articles, or on social media channels. Volunteers who feel valued will be more likely to volunteer again.