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Volunteer Recruitment Ideas To Kick Off the School Year

Tips from school parent group leaders (and resources from PTO Today) to start your recruitment efforts right.

by Rose Hamilton

07/29/2022

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, plus tons of PTO Today resources.

Build a sense of community first. To lay the groundwork for your volunteer recruitment efforts, particularly in a diverse school community, focus 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 a School Family Night. Once families start to connect, you’ll find it easier to reach out for help.

Gather helpful info. Share a PDF volunteer interest survey or a Google Form volunteer interest 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.

Challenge accepted! Concrete steps for a great start to the school year

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’re 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 coordinating room parents.

Tell parents why volunteering matters. Send out information early in the year to let parents know what your group is all about and why it’s important to get involved. You don’t have to be too serious—that can be off-putting, so keep the tone light.

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 commit to just two hours a year. Use our 2 Hour Power volunteer pledge program to ask parents to sign up for just that small chunk of time; you might find that they’re much more responsive (because they won’t feel like you’re going to suck them into doing endless tasks)! Facebook group member Tracy B. said that 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.

Contact your local high school. If you’re still in a pinch for help, many teens need to fulfill community service hours for high school graduation and 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

And visit our File Exchange to get volunteer recruitment templates, such as flyers, surveys, notes, and more.

Originally posted in 2015 and updated regularly.

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