December 4th, 2013 by Tim Sullivan
Is your group in auction planning mode?
I’ll give you one kind of crazy thought right here. If you have a silent auction, then I bet you always have one or two items that are highly sought after with a couple of parents boxing it out and trying to get that last bid down on paper before the deadline. My advice: Your group loses when you have really hot silent auction items. The winner shouldn’t be the person with the fastest pencil.
What can you do? State in your auction rules that you reserve the right to have an impromptu “quicky live” auction for any highly competitive silent items. Just before deadline, let the competitors know that you are going “quicky live” and have a small live auction just for the hotly sought-after items. Your goal is to raise as much as you can for your school and your cause, and letting items go for less than an attendee is willing to pay is a mistake.
We have lots of auction content to help you have a great event:
Auction Planning FAQs
5 Trends To Help Your Auction Shine
File Exchange: Auction Tools
December 2nd, 2013 by Rose C
This week’s news brings us a plan to boost book fair sales, a “knock-out’’ idea for fundraising, and a fun way to celebrate student achievement.
Voting jars at the Lowrie book fair.
Would you boogie for books? At a recent book fair, the PTA at Lowrie Primary School in Wilsonville, Ore., encouraged sales by giving each book buyer a ticket. The ticket was then used to vote for one of three faculty members willing to dance or sing in front of the entire student body if the school met its goal of selling 1,000 books. We just heard the goal was met! Hope they take photos of their star dancers!
How fierce can you be? The PTO at Tamaques Elementary in Westfield, N.J., hosted a “punchathon” at a local kickboxing studio. Parents and teachers raised money by participating in a one-hour kickboxing class at a local studio. One teacher took part in the studio’s “punch-out challenge,’’ throwing 116 punches in 30 seconds. The PTO raised $800.
Celebrating academic achievements: When Gate City Elementary in Pocatello, Idaho, won a national award for academic excellence, the administration decided to let the kids cut classes for a day to celebrate. The PTA wanted to make the day special, so it reached out to local businesses for support and put together an outing to the movies to help the kids celebrate.
November 27th, 2013 by Tim Sullivan
It’s hard to believe that the Thanksgiving holiday is here. For many of us, that means spending time with family, relaxing, and perhaps even scoring a few holiday bargains.
For schools and parent groups, it’s also become a popular time to encourage students to give back to their communities. A community service project doesn’t have to be daunting or huge in scope; every little bit really does count, and there are lots of efforts that are easy to organize. Such ideas include organizing a food drive, starting a shoe or clothing collection, cleaning up outside, and supporting an animal shelter.
Our new Community Service topic page provides lots of ideas for organizing meaningful community service projects — any time of year. We also have a Student Community Service Projects slideshow with great ideas that show kids embracing the spirit of volunteerism in some truly heartwarming ways.
Our best wishes for a peaceful and fulfilling Thanksgiving holiday.
November 25th, 2013 by Rose C
Here are three ideas from this week’s news that you might like to add to your bag of tricks: Building a can sculpture, running a book swap, and bringing grandparents (and other relatives from far away) to family events via Skype.
Photo credit: Corona del Mar Today/Amy Senk
- Blending school spirit and community service: Students at Harbor View Elementary in Corona del Mar, Calif., turned a recent food drive into art when they created a Viking ship sculpture from 1,232 collected cans of food. The sculpture honored the school’s Viking mascot and was helped along by parents who created a large dragon head and oars for the ship. The sculpture was on display for students to enjoy before the cans were donated to a local food bank.
- Who doesn’t love a good book? Try a book swap at one of your holiday events or family reading nights. It’s a great way for families to get rid of books they no longer need and get some new ones in return. You just need a few tables to set up at an event and a volunteer (or two) to monitor activity. Or borrow an idea from the PTA at Armstrong Elementary in Hoffman Estates, Ill.—set up a swap for kids during library hours at your school.
- Person-to-person. Knapp Elementary in Lansdale, Penn., recently hosted a Grandparents Day and added Skype services for kids whose grandparents live far away so they could be part of the celebration. Very sweet, and a nice way to help all kids feel included in a special day.
November 22nd, 2013 by Rose C
We’ve heard from several community members recently that their groups are not allowed to host a holiday party. It’s not uncommon for school districts to have these policies.
We’ve found that many PTOs and PTAs have had great events with a general winter theme. A holiday-neutral event can use any number of winter themes, from snowmen to blizzards to penguins. Plus you don’t have the pressure of putting it together before the traditional holidays. In fact, holding a winter celebration after Christmas, Hanukkah, and other religious holidays can be a big hit. It gives families something to look forward to once the long days of winter set in.
And the bottom line—you will be bringing kids and families together to have fun.
A good place to start is our cover story from the October issue of PTO Today. In 5 Winner Winter Events, you’ll find details on hosting a cozy family reading night, an arts and crafts event, a tailgate party, indoor sports games, and dances.
Our 6 Ways To Celebrate Winter Holidays includes ideas for a walkathon (which can be invigorating in the cold!), cookie-making, and a potluck dinner.
Here are some additional ideas to make winter events fun:
- You can borrow an idea for a snowball relay from Winter Party Games for an Elementary School Class Party. Use buckets, spoons, and cotton balls. Teams compete with children carrying “snowballs’’ with spoons and dropping them into buckets.
- Try an indoor ice-skating relay. Set up an area to race; kids slide on paper plates along the track. Or set it up as an obstacle course to make it more challenging.
- Pin the nose on the snowman: Have kids make snowmen with construction paper. Make a carrot nose from orange construction paper and follow the traditional rules from the classic game, pin the tail on the donkey.
- Freeze dance: Play music, and all children must stop and freeze when the music stops.
- Snowflake hunt: Make paper snowflakes and hide them at your event. Add a value for a small prize on each snowflake. When a child finds a snowflake, he can trade it in for the prize.
- Have extra toiler paper rolls? You are ready for project snowman: Break into teams. Team members must dress each other as snowmen using toilet paper. Snowmen need to get to a designated spot with as little melting (ripped toilet paper) as possible. The most intact snowman wins a prize. Can also give away prizes for best-designed snowmen.
November 20th, 2013 by Tim Sullivan
I bet you’ve had at least one parent offer to run a home sales party with all the proceeds going to your group. The offer almost always comes from a generous place and usually sounds good at first. But my tip this week is to proceed with caution.
We had a very similar question and discussion on our message boards last week.
There are a couple of risks with these home parties as fundraisers. First, once you’ve approved one, lots of other parents who dabble in these parties are going to want to do the same — and these days there are tons of them. There’s also a legitimate question about whether these are actually good fundraisers. Not all are. There is such a thing as “not worth it,” even if you don’t have to spend a dime. See my column called “The Fundraising Myth” for more on what makes a worthwhile fundraiser.
Finally, there’s a pretty big question about fairness, especially if an officer or involved parent is also making money off of the sale. At the very least there can be an impression of insider dealing, which is almost as damaging as the fact of it.
The simple message is: Assess these as carefully as you assess all fundraisers. One could be a good fit for your group, but be sure to think about it fully before signing on the line.
P.S. Our 2014 Happy Healthy School Kids program is now open! Sign up now to get free health and wellness gift packs for parents at your school.
November 18th, 2013 by Rose C
Looking for a simple way to change things up? How about teaching kids a basic skill, doing a really simple holiday craft project, or even helping families get rid of their broken holiday lights in an eco-friendly way (and your group can make a few bucks from it)?
- Lace ’em up! When teachers at Ocean City Primary School in Ocean City, N.J., mentioned several years ago that many children didn’t know how to tie their shoes, the PTA responded by opening a shoe-tying clinic, an event it now holds each year. PTA volunteers report that they love this program because they can sit with children and not only teach them a basic skill but also spend quality time with them. The idea is especially great because it costs nothing, kids learn something, and parents get involved at school.
- Try a simple holiday event: The Runkle School PTO in Brookline, Mass., is hosting a gingerbread house-making program in early December. The afternoon event is open to all students; children in 2nd grade or younger must have a caregiver with them. Children will work with donated milk cartons and other materials to make their creations, all of which will be Pinterest-worthy, we are sure!
- Finally, a plan for those darn lights. You know how stressful tree trimming can get when you find a strand (or two) of broken lights? Well, one clever PTO figured out a way to make something good from this conundrum. Eastridge Elementary in Lincoln, Neb., is running a recycling program in which parents can drop off broken light strands at the school. The parent group contracted with a scrap company that will collect the lights and pay $.25 per pound. The parent group plans to put funds raised toward a playground renovation program.
November 15th, 2013 by Tim Sullivan
We’ve all had to deal with the difficult volunteer. You know her — she’s the one you secretly hope will miss your next meeting or not sign up for your next event. She takes extra energy and can even turn other parents away from your group.
But you do have to deal with this person. And for real success, you need to deal with her effectively and get her working positively. It’s one of the key skills of an effective PTO or PTA leader. That’s why I love this new video discussion from PTO Today editors Rose Cafasso and Craig Bystrynski: 6 Tips for Talking to Difficult People. I think you’ll enjoy it.
We also have a popular article on a similar topic: How To Deal With Difficult People.
November 7th, 2013 by Tim Sullivan
We’re a few months into the school year, and I bet you’ve experienced at least one real downer of a PTO or PTA day. Those are tough.
The key is to remember the great stuff, like the teacher you served on just the right day in just the right way. Or the thank-you note you received with a powerful message. Or maybe the look on the face of the little one who received a fresh backpack of supplies thanks to your group’s work.
We started this thread on our Facebook page: My Amazing Things. Check it out!
And take a second to write down a memory or two that keeps you going on the tough days. What you’re doing means so much to so many. Keep it up!
P.S. Quick shout for our 2014 PTO Expos. We’re coming live to 11 cities this spring. If you’re relatively local, then you’ll definitely want to bring your whole crew. Our new video shows why.
October 30th, 2013 by Tim Sullivan
Yes, I love good school family events because they can be fun and they create connections that serve kids and families and teachers really well.
But did you know they are also the secret sauce to the year-round success of your entire group? For example, fundraising: Groups that start the year by running family events rather than fundraisers wind up with a ton more support when it comes time for financial help. Another example — do you need more volunteers? Those parents who have enjoyed your terrific family events are far more likely to pitch in than those who have not.
Build connections first with fun events and the rest of your efforts will all be improved.
And you don’t have to invent this wheel yourself. We have free kits to help you put on great family events.
These articles have great ideas, too:
P.S. Did you know that PTO Today also comes in a great, glossy print magazine? We recently lowered our subscription price so you can get your own copy delivered right to your door seven times per year. Click here for details.