Let’s Start a PTO Fight

Some lively discussion might be just the thing to reinvigorate your group’s momentum.

by Tim Sullivan


Want to kick up some dust at your next PTO meeting or start a lively debate among your officers? Just throw out these ideas and stand back.

Funny thing: While they’re all somewhat controversial, they’re also examples of exactly the kind of thinking that brings life to the best groups, where a willingness to think differently leads to success. As you review this annual Parent Group of the Year issue, notice how many times these groups tackled a problem in a whole new way or broke a long-standing pattern to see success.

Stop charging dues. We want to increase involvement and connection and yet we charge parents to be members of the parent group at their own school. PTAs may need to charge to pay state and national dues, but PTOs can send a message by making everyone a member.

Stop charging entrance fees for events—and give away the popcorn. We’re all about involvement; involvement makes our school better. Invest in involvement.

Drop some of your fundraisers even if they seem like “easy money.” Parents just hear you wanting their money all the time.

Run your top couple of fundraisers 50 percent better. Add a creative incentive. Put more time into the marketing plan. Focus on your cause.

Cancel a few annual events if they’ve become tired or boring (even if one or two volunteers love those events and will have their feelings hurt).

Go huge. Identify a challenge at your school, and tackle that single challenge in some new, awesome fashion. You’ll be amazed at the enthusiasm you can generate by making a big move.

Stop badgering teachers. Support them in your mutual mission to create a great school. You don’t need to grade papers. They don’t need to attend your meetings.

Eliminate all attendance requirements. Someone wants to help but can never make a meeting? Find a way to make it work.

Spend money on your group. Insurance. A great DJ for the dance (instead of some dad’s iPod on shuffle). Software to connect with volunteers. The best groups realize that spending and investing in your group and events does pay off for the kids.

Bust the clique. Stop the habits that make you seem clique-like. Use name tags. Kill the head table at your meetings.

Ask for forgiveness sometimes instead of permission always. Be more bold. Establish your group as a serious, leading part of the school community.

I bet you can add even more. If so—go for it!

We’ve tackled these topics in earlier articles on ptotoday.com. They’re all worth thinking about. Do you need to make every change today? Not at all. In fact, being that aggressive may be counterproductive.

But having the discussion and starting the process for three or four or five of them can really get your group back in motion. Motion (and even commotion) can lead to momentum. Volunteers are attracted to momentum and to organizations where they know they can have an impact. Very few of the best volunteers are attracted to roles where they can only do the same old thing in exactly the fashion it’s always been done. Change is good.

Disagree with me on these? No problem. Glad to continue the conversation (you can even practice for the fight) over on our PTO Today online community. Check out our Facebook page, our Twitter account (@ptotoday), or our message boards on ptotoday.com to keep this discussion going. See you there.

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