Question: Anyone have a solution for old members talking over the heads of new members?

For instance, a fundraiser we hold every year. Those who have been there, done that just move to do the same old same old as they have always done. But new incoming members feel totally lost--no one new even knows what the fundraiser is or what steps/jobs go into making it happen. And the old members whine they aren't getting help. How do I as a sort of new member slow down the old ones? We newer folks might also have some fresh ideas instead of the same old same old, but we're not in positions of clique power to get anything except icy looks. Our PTO minutes don't explain anything at all about previous meetings or what exactly the PTO is doing--if it did, we could look there and read all about it, minutes are just a brief summary (does everyone do it this way?), so if you are new or miss a meeting you are lost and it really doesn't seem as if the Roberts Rules 'old business' slot is intended to fill in new members as to what's happening. What's the best approach you've seen in action to educate new members--on an on-going basis--without bogging down meetings?

Asked by Anonymous



Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
It isn't unusual to hear that groups have a clique of long-time members that seems impenetrable. There's a chance these folks really aren't pleasant, but, there also is a chance that they are just set in their ways and don't realize they are excluding others. So, a few ideas that could work: Could you have a one-on-one conversation with the president or a friendly board member? Then, perhaps you could suggest that the group do some sort of a social event. A get to know each-other evening out or maybe a morning coffee at a local coffee shop? There's a chance that some connections could be made between old and new in a less-structured situation. See if there is a veteran among the group who seems more approachable than others. She may be willing to take someone under her wing. Also, check to see if the board has any written materials that outlines the different fundraisers and what is involved. That might another way to get information. As a final suggestion, don't give up! Keep asking questions at meetings to learn about what the group does. This PTO Today article on new PTO members might have some good ideas as well. Good luck!

Community Advice

C S writes:
I also agree with Rose C on this one. Unfortunately, board meetings are not the time for pto 101 classes. This may sound harsh, but your meetings should be the time for reporting, and discussing the many projects and events, finances and other items your group is working on. We have only 2 veteran officers on our board of 12 this year, and the rest are completely first time, first to attend board meetings. This makes for very long evenings when we have to back up and educate which in turn causes members not to want to attend each month. Rather than take it personally, how about reaching out to the veterans privately and asking. Trust me, they should be happy to provide any needed information as it's in their best interest to share. With regard to meeting minutes, they should be succinct and concise, not verbatim dialog. You should not find the instructions about events in the minutes. Also, word of the wise, don't assume "veteran" officers aren't interested in new ideas. Likely, through the years have encountered the very idea you are proposing and either the board tried it and it didn't work, or they researched it and it didn't make logical sense, or it's not a good fit for the pto. Don't take things so personally. Also, if I could make one solid suggestion....attend board meetings prior to taking on the role, so you can understand exactly what the pto does. There is more than meets the eye on involving yourself in a pto.

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