The good news: You have a great board in place, ready to take on a new year with enthusiasm and focus. The challenge: Keeping them engaged at that level without burning them out. Here’s how to make it happen.
Set parameters for tasks. Being specific lets people figure out for themselves exactly what they can and can’t incorporate into their schedule. It’s much more effective (and more likely to keep people from becoming overwhelmed) than giving a vague, open-ended ask.
Support delegation. Once you’re confident your board members have a good handle on their jobs, let them know it’s OK to reach out for help or hand off some tasks.
Tap into passions. Plugging any volunteer, including a board member, into tasks she’ll enjoy can help her have a more meaningful experience, and it’ll keep up her enthusiasm for doing so.
Offer job sharing. It’s not uncommon for a parent group to split a board position. If your bylaws allow it, offering shared positions can be a great way to keep any one volunteer from feeling buried.
Don’t assume or take advantage. Most board members have had the experience of being asked to step in to help with events when there aren’t enough volunteers. This might be OK, but don’t assume it is. Always ask, and make sure they truly have the bandwidth to contribute in such situations.
Let them weigh in. Some parent groups fall into a pattern of having just a couple of members, say the treasurer and president, consulting on major decisions. Don’t be one of those groups! It’s a surefire way to lower board members’ morale.
Be gracious about glitches. Nothing derails PTO morale faster than when people feel they’re under a microscope for perfection. Remember that your board members are human—they’re bound to make some mistakes. Never dwell on them or make people feel embarrassed or guilty.
Let off some steam. Make time for fun! Once a month, organize a casual get-together at a local establishment or even someone’s home where everyone can share some casual chat and laughs.
Be alert to signs. If a previously reliable board member is failing to show up or not completing tasks, reach out to her in an understanding way. Ask her whether she is feeling overwhelmed and by what, and work with her on ways to reduce the pressure.
Communicate (and be gracious). Let your board members know you don’t expect any more from them than they can handle—and mean it! If someone needs to decline a request or a task, accept it graciously.
Say (and show) your thanks. Don’t wait until the end of the year—take the time to show members and volunteers how much they are appreciated whenever the mood strikes. A word of thanks, a thank-you note, a small gift, and a public acknowledgement are ways that leaders can make members aware that their contributions are valued.