Building parent involvement is among the most important efforts a parent group can can take on. Research consistently indicates that when parents get involved, children do better in school.
But growing involvement can also prove to be one of the most challenging parent group efforts. You can help alleviate that challenge by looking at involvement not as a big, scary endeavor but as something you can improve on bit by bit. Here are some ways to do that, right from the start of school and throughout the year.
Set a welcoming tone straightaway by making yourself visible to new families at your back-to-school night. Consider having a table and a friendly volunteer specifically designated to welcome them. You can even offer them a small welcome gift with your PTO’s name and contact information, like a candy bar or apple with a personalized tag to encourage them to stay in touch.
Show and Tell
Taking a soft approach—not making parents feel obligated to pitch in—is an effective way to get new people on board. The most important focus is your group, how cool it is, and ultimately how much you’re doing for the kids and the school—not immediate, vague “please help” emails. Host an easy back-to-school get-together like an end-of-summer barbecue or ice cream social that will give attendees a nice way to mingle and give you a way to talk about your group casually.
Up the Fun
Quickly dispel the idea that involvement equals sitting through a bunch of boring meetings by showing your fun side. Break out the “human bingo” sheets as a way to break the ice and open the door to some fun interaction. Also guaranteed to cause an outbreak of fun: a “you belong here” selfie prop to use for posing (and eventually posting) with one or two other members to attract potential members when the opportunity presents itself (events, meetings, etc.).
Let Parents Choose
Impart the message that not everyone needs to commit to a board position—all involvement counts. Giving new folks the option of a two-hour commitment lets them know that even help in small increments (such as setup or cleanup after an event, helping in a classroom, or distributing a newsletter) is valued and appreciated.
Also consider that while some volunteers might have the time and bandwidth to take on large commitments, you don’t want to lose out on potential help by making it seem like all you can offer are big jobs. Give parents ways to help at home, too, like sorting box tops, stuffing goody bags, writing or editing a newsletter, or updating a website.
Social media, in particular Facebook, can help groups build involvement by keeping parents in the loop in a fun and casual way. We’ve collected lots of good ideas to get more parents involved on your Facebook page.
More resources for building and focusing on involvement:
How To Put Parent Involvement First: 10 Ways (free; registration required)