Tips from leaders on how to start your recruitment efforts right.

There’s no question that many groups struggle with recruiting volunteers. The good news is there are so many strong ideas out there in our community, and when you combine those with all the PTO Today resources, there really is a wealth of information to tackle the recruitment challenge. And we intend to keep sharing both! 

Some of you wondered how to even start a volunteer recruitment effort, especially in a diverse school community. Our suggestion is to focus first on welcoming all families. Then work at building a sense of community by hosting low-cost family events, like a family picnic, potluck supper, or one of our School Family Nights.  Once families start to connect, you will find it easier to reach out and ask for help. 

Here’s a roundup of some great tips we've heard from leaders: 

Gather helpful info. Do a parent survey to get a good idea of what parents’ interests are and how they can pitch in.  Follow up with every parent who’s interested in helping. 

Reach out to kids in older grades. When struggling to recruit parents of older elementary students, try some of our middle school tips. For example, get the kids more involved in generating ideas for events. Chances are, parents may get more interested if the kids are invested, too. If you are still coming up short, try this idea from community member Jill B.: Borrow parents from the younger grades (sometimes you can have a surplus!) to pitch in with the older grades. 

Promote at-home volunteer jobs. Let parents know there are many jobs that can be done at home, from overseeing the group’s Facebook page to heading up Box Tops for Education collections. 

Tell parents why volunteering is important. Send information out early in the year that lets parents know what your group is all about and why it’s important to volunteer. You don’t have to be too serious—that can be off-putting, so keep the tone light. For example, community member Becki B. says she added our PTO Mythbusters printout to her group’s welcome folder this year. 

Work with what you have. Try not to be too discouraged if you have only a handful of volunteers. We’ve seen small PTOs do pretty amazing things! One community member shares that she had only five fellow officers, so they decided to focus on a few important events and do what they could without burning themselves out. 

Ask volunteers to give just two hours. We have a 2 Hour Power Volunteer Pledge Program that we frequently promote to leaders.  When you can ask parents to sign up for just that small chunk of time, you’ll find they are much more responsive. (They won’t feel you are going to suck them in to do endless tasks!) Tracy B., a community member, says her group always ask for just a small amount of time. So, for a two-hour event, the most they would ask of a parent is a half-hour commitment. Plus, her group allows parents to bring their kids along. Nice bonus! 

Fine-tune the message. Instead of asking parents to help out at an event, be specific about what jobs are available and the time slots in which you’ll need help. Another idea comes from community member Elizabeth P., who says she sent out information about her group’s programs and categorized requests for help by “most urgent” to “ongoing” so parents would have more of a sense of what was needed. 

Still in a pinch for help? Contact your local high school. Many students need to fulfill community service hours and they can assist at your events. 

For more information on volunteer recruitment, check out these articles: 

7 Things Volunteers Love 

7 Things Volunteers Hate 

How To Cultivate Long-Term Volunteers

A Culture of Volunteer Appreciation 

25 Ways To Catch and Keep Volunteers

Also, visit our File Exchange to get printable volunteer recruitment documents, such as flyers, surveys, notes and more.