The best days for any PTO are those moments when we can celebrate completing a major project or surpassing a major milestone.

For many groups, that day may very well be the ribbon-cutting on a new playground. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend more than my share of these events, and they’re always ex-citing and so positive. To watch and listen to 50 or 100 kids take that first slide down shiny new equipment is to witness pure joy.

Similarly, I never see parent group leaders show so much pride and enthusiasm as when they are celebrating years of hard work that pays off in such a tangible fashion.

At the same time, I’ve noticed something much more subtle about the groups celebrating these achievements—they were all groups transformed. They all had a vibrancy that allowed them to do much more than the playground project well; they were having newfound success in many other more standard PTO and PTA arenas, like teacher appreciation and membership recruitment and family events.

I’ve learned that isn’t a coincidence. I call it the Big Project Effect. That big goal, and all the hard work and communication and enthusiasm and optimism that went into achieving it, made the whole group a much more effective organization. Most often, the group celebrating the accomplishment tells me that they were very typical before embarking on the big project. They usually start out unsure whether they’ll be able to achieve success, since—like most of us—they have trouble recruiting volunteers and things seem to be limping along with their group.

But the Big Project fundamentally changed the group.

In my experience, a couple of things happen during the Big Project. Most important, the very best volunteers are much more attracted to a large, exciting project than they are to day-to-day functions. Those volunteers have lots of options when it comes to where they can dedicate their time, and your Big Project is an attractive alternative for them. When even a few of those great volunteers get deeply connected with your group, you win.

There’s also a growing optimism and respect for your group that comes with adding a Big Project to your many important smaller ones. No longer are you the (perhaps easily overlooked) bake sale group or teacher appreciation committee. Rather, you’re the group that a) raised the tens of thousands of dollars to finally get the school a new playground, or b) single-handedly got a thriving after-school enrichment project off the ground, or c) saved a music program for hundreds of kids. The Big Project is usually the Big Famous Project.

And nicely, that also helps your bake sale and teacher appreciation projects. The same holds true when it’s time for your group to have an important discussion with your principal or to take on a difficult issue in the school that needs addressing. Your Big Project success and the new volunteers you’ve attracted and new respect you’ve created change your voice within the school and help you get the seat at the table that you should always have.

While you might not need a playground right now, I highly recommend that you keep your eyes out for a signature effort you can rally behind. The idea may seem daunting today, as you struggle to achieve even small victories, but finding the big goal, stating it loudly, and rallying your whole school around the cause may be just the transformational kick-in-the-pants your group needs.