We asked our Facebook community to share one thing they’ve done to boost volunteer recruitment. We think you’re going to find lots of good nuggets in this list. Also, we’ve added some of our resources that fit with these great tips for attracting parent volunteers. Just click on the images below to get them.
1. Use a low-key approach.
I take notes when [potential volunteers] share something with me and make sure to ask about it next time I see them...It doesn't take long to make a connection and once it's made, people jump on the opportunity to volunteer. —Misty L.
Talk to them personally. Ask friends to ask friends. Then ask teachers to ask parents. —Crystal L.
I ask random parents to meet for coffee. I do not talk about school unless they ask. So when I do send out volunteer sign-ups, I get a pretty good response because I didn't attack them during our coffee, I really wanted to get to know them. —Melissa R.
2. Talk to the complainers.
I single out and work on the complainers. People complain about what they don't understand. We had a guy move in our community and complained about our ball fields. We educated him that we as parents built the best ball fields the best we could on our own as parents. He slowly came around and soon became the best caretaker we ever had. He passed the torch on to volunteers after him. We all made a great friend too. —Sheldon G.
3. Keep track of newly enrolled students and reach out.
When I was PTO VP, I made sure there was a welcome letter for all transfer students after the beginning of the year. It had info about our school pride days, how to get a school T-shirt (an order form included), class parties and homeroom parents, Friday popcorn, dates of upcoming PTO meetings, and other info that new families rarely get. —Lucy Anne T.
4. Work to get parents and teachers together.
If the teachers are happy with the events that the PTO is doing, then parents are more likely to take notice. I really like doing things with teachers. We started an art night last year with the art teacher and its success was largely due to her and other teachers who jumped in at the event. We hope to expand upon that. Several parents expressed interest in helping after that event. —Cheryl R.
Every month, I make some sort of breakfast for a parent-teacher meeting after drop-off. —Tammie H.
5. Take advantage of Facebook (and other social media channels and apps).
We try and post pictures of all of the fun stuff our PTO does on the school Facebook page to give people an idea of what is going on in their child's school. It’s a little less scary to walk into a new situation if you have a general idea of what that event looks like. —Kelly T.
We use SignUp Genius and post to our Facebook page, send it out to local clubs and youth groups for service hours, send it out via Remind, ask that the school post to their website, and email directly to those who said they were interested in volunteer opportunities. —Kerry C.
5 Easy Ways Your Group Can Use Facebook
6. Let friends know about the parent volunteer work you do.
I befriended a mom in my daughter’s class. We texted a lot and she would often ask what I was doing that day. So after a short time she asked if there’s anything she could do to help me because I was doing so much [at school]. She didn't realize how much needed to be done and the small amount of PTO volunteers we had. Now, she helps when she can. —Shelly B.
7. Give a special parent volunteer a reserved parking space each month.
We honor our Volunteer of the Month with a reserved parking spot—the spot closest to the main entrance of the school—for the whole month. It has been a great way to publicly recognize our loyal volunteers and to spark interest among others. —Bridget W.
8. Ask for feedback after every event.
We follow up our events with an anonymous online survey for volunteers asking what we did well and where we could improve. People really seem to respond well when they know that we care about their experience and we appreciate and value their time. —Kristen P.
9. Find out which parent volunteers may need babysitters.
I've found a friend willing to babysit for a parent volunteer with a toddler so she could occasionally volunteer during the school day. —Rebecca A.
10. Ask parents what they want to do.
We just figured out who was good at what. —Milo L.
We ask our families how they can help—do they have skills to lend or is there a product they can donate to our silent auction. —Jennifer L.
This is my approach: "Parent, I have heard you are amazing at putting together bulletin boards! If I provide you with the materials for our monthly board, would you mind talking 30 minutes after school tomorrow to put up?" or "Parent, your decoration at the fall carnival last year was so beautiful, would you be interested in helping again this year?" —Lindsay B.
11. Give shy or low-key parents behind-the-scenes jobs.
Some parents are shy and might not be comfortable working an event, but still want to help. I have a couple [who] do inventory after events, which takes the task off my shoulders. Every job counts! —Jenn T.
12. Ask parents to volunteer for very short chunks of time.
We ask for volunteers for shorter time periods rather than a whole day or whole Saturday morning, as the case may be sometimes. One- to three-hour shifts are much easier to fill than eight hours. —Becky N.
13. Connect with neighborhood parents.
The summer before my first year as president, I struck up a conversation with another mom at our neighborhood park. Turns out her daughter was starting kindergarten in the fall. She was excited and nervous at the same time. To this day, she still tells everyone I recruited her before her daughter even started school. —Kim B.
14. Offer incentives to event helpers.
Feed them, give them drinks or free admission to the event, etc. —Lori B.
We offer free concession tickets or admission to PTO-sponsored events when parents lend a hand or donate goods. —Jennifer B.
15. Woo incoming kindergarten parents.
We hit kindergarten parents hard—before school even starts! At the open houses in April and August, we start collecting their email addresses. We hold a coffee just for them on the first day of school. The entire board attends and chats them up. We have separate clipboards and signup sheets for every single event and committee. And maybe, just maybe, those happy kindergarten parents will rub off on everyone else. —Lisa P.
16. Do something unexpected at meetings.
We started doing cook-offs at our meetings. People [who] have that negative and boring view of PTOs see us as a fun group now! —Heather C.
17. Show sincere appreciation.
Put pictures of volunteers on bulletin boards...Thank them in the parent newsletter that everyone will read. —Yvette D.
We have a different fun theme for every PTO meeting where we provide activities for kids. After the event, I personally send a thank-you note and an invite to the next meeting. I also include my personal number. —April G.
I find that if you show sincere appreciation for the volunteers you do have, they are willing to help again. Suggesting that those volunteers ask some friends often helps, as well. —Chris K.
32 Ideas for Volunteer Appreciation
18. Offer to give parents a ride so they can volunteer.
I volunteered to pick up [a parent] on the way to the event. I passed her street on my way and she didn't have transportation. —Jill C.
Originally posted in 2016 and updated regularly.
1. Gamify Volunteering as an Incentive: At some private schools, they enforce volunteering quotas and may even charge families under quota (negative reinforcement). Instead, we put in place a process where we allocated tokens to volunteers and those who tallied the most were recognized and could even "cash in" their tokens for buying stuff at the school store.
2. Volunteering is NOT just time: There are many families with both parents working long hours that struggle to offer their time. However, they may have access to other things valuable to the school. Perhaps they have access to equipment that could be donated, or have marketing knowledge that could be leveraged. We put in place a program that also looked for how the school can better tap into the intellectual capital of the parent community....not just accessing their time and checkbooks. It's really worked out well!