I wrote a column called ''Just Say No to Dues'' a couple of years back, and I thought I'd summarize it here.

My problem with it comes from two perspectives. First, I think dues are anti-involvement and send the wrong message to your parent community. Why do I have to pay to belong to the parent group at my kids' school? I feel like I paid those dues with blood, sweat, and tears (not to mention the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars I've already spent raising junior). Most parent groups cite increasing parent involvement as their number one goal, and then the first thing they do is put a barrier ("$5, please") between parents and their group. I think a much better message is "All parents and guardians of XYZ School are members of our PTO, and we look forward to a great year of working together to make our school a great place for our kids."

The second is that membership drives actually aren't even very effective as fundraisers. You spend lots of time and energy on a membership drive...frequent reminders, sign-up tables at open house, emails, more. And for what? $500? If you have a membership drive for the money, you have much better options to consider.

My observation is that most groups have membership drives because that's the way it's always been done. My tip this week: It's OK to change the way things have always been done.

Agree? Disagree? Tried it already? I'd love to hear your take on this issue. Chime in on the ''dues or no dues'' thread on our message boards.