Yes, it’s OK to breathe during the first few weeks and months of the school year. In fact, I highly recommend it.

If your group is like many, the beginning of the school year requires so much energy and effort that you may run out of steam for the rest of the school year. That’s a problem that’s avoidable—and worth avoiding.

I know there are some inevitable challenges connected to back-to-school time. You’ll have dozens or hundreds of new parents to welcome. You’ll hopefully get back volunteer interest forms from hundreds of parents, and those do need to be processed to be worth anything to your group. And you likely have an open house night to get ready for.

To make matters worse, you probably don’t have all your new volunteers lined up yet (and you lost some of your best ones to graduation last spring!), so nearly all of this organizing falls on your core group of just a few volunteers being asked to work, frankly, too hard during the back-to-school swing.

The result reminds me of the title of a popular ’90s album by Counting Crows: August and Everything After. We can get so burned out by back-to-school that we have a great August, and then Everything After is just recovering and maybe getting ready for the next August. Given that we have a 10-month school year and that parent involvement (year-round!) is so essential, this pattern does real harm to our groups and our schools.

We have to find ways to pace ourselves and keep the parent connection alive all year. The good news? It’s possible. While we can’t make back-to-school stress-free, we can lower the volume and manage the whole fall a good deal better with some thought.

As an example, do you launch your huge fall fundraiser in the first week of school or soon thereafter? There’s no rule that says the fall fundraiser has to be on the calendar before the NFL season starts. This significantly increases PTO stress when the stress is already highest. In addition, I submit it’s also a negative message (“our biggest priority—your bucks!”) to send to your parents that first week of school, when they’re most ready to connect with your group and feel warmly toward your school.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “But we need the money to run our events.” And I get that, which is why I always recommend that groups carry over funds from the previous year to alleviate the money crunch at back-to-school time. If you can push back that big fall fundraiser by a month or even a few weeks, you’ll see all kinds of benefits, such as making back-to-school time more sane, getting the chance to recruit new volunteers into that first big fundraising effort, and even establishing a warmer connection with parents. You’ll send the message that your group is focused on building on community and serving the school instead of on dollars—and that’s a solid foundation on which you can launch your fundraiser.

The same is true of your signature family events. How many of those are pushed toward the beginning of the school year? Is that really necessary? Spreading your best events across the whole calendar can pay big dividends. If your major family event takes place in September, then the planning committee for that one is likely working all summer, and—therefore—your new potential volunteers have little or no chance to get involved with it. That’s a big missed opportunity.

Taking advantage of all that enthusiasm from new parents is probably the best tactic for combating burnout and keeping your group thriving throughout the year. But even that approach requires some management. If your old-timers do everything each fall and then hope the enthusiastic newbies will run with it all in the spring, you’ll inevitably be way overweighted toward fall events.

A better model involves pushing back a few efforts by a few weeks at the beginning of the year. Then systematically make sure that you have some of your best volunteers on events throughout the year mixed in with your high-potential newcomers. That mixture of experience with enthusiasm and energy is the key to keeping up momentum well into spring.

If your group runs virtually the same calendar year after year and you always wind up fizzling out before March—you can make a change. Some careful calendar management can make a big difference in your long-term success.