Question: Low-key welcome event for new group?

Our board just formed late last May. It’s too hectic for us to plan a full-scale back-to-school party right now. What do you recommend we do for, say, an October event? And what type of welcome event can we plan that is low-maintenance and that can be pulled off with few volunteers?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

First of all, congratulations and good luck in your new roles! Sounds like you’re off to a great start already. Elly can certainly understand that you and your coleaders might be feeling a little too crazed to pull off an event so soon into your positions. She also thinks you’re smart to recognize the importance of strategizing and executing your PTO’s debut. By waiting a few weeks after the school’s doors open, you’ll be able to catch your breath and still catch the excitement and momentum of the new school year, too.

Your group could plan a simple “meet us at the playground” or “picnic at the park” event, to be held at the school or a nearby park. Elly’s tip: Give out color-coded nametags according to each grade or classroom so parents can identify and get to know the moms and dads of their child’s classmates. Be sure you and your fellow PTO leaders introduce yourselves. Provide families with PTO contact emails and phone numbers, and have information about volunteering at school readily available. Supplying beverages or Popsicles is a nice touch that doesn’t take too much planning time or money.

If your event needs to be indoors (because of weather or a playground under construction, for instance), a potluck dinner in the cafeteria can make for a pretty effortless get-together, too. To make logistics simpler for your group and for the families attending, assign each grade a certain menu item or paper product. For example, 1st graders bring desserts, 2nd graders bring plates and napkins, etc., so that you have supplies and a good variety of food. (Elly loves Swedish meatballs, but 20 pots full of them? That’s another thing entirely!)

If your October date coincides with Halloween, one neat idea is a “trunk or treat” event in your school’s parking lot. Families simply decorate their car trunks in any theme they want; students (dressed in costume) walk through the parking lot and collect candy from each car. (Just remind families to pick up around their vehicles afterward.) Elly knows of one parent group that hands out candy bars personalized with the PTO’s logo and a thank-you to families for coming out. Sweet!

Check out “16 Ideas for Quick and Easy Events” for more great tips and ideas to help you ring in the new school year and make a great first impression with families at school. Whatever type of simple welcome event your PTO ends up doing, Elly recommends that you make it free for families. If you want to sell concessions, fine, but skip the admission charge. Keep it fun, manageable, and relaxed; by doing so, parents will infer that volunteering with your group will be that way, too.

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