Building Parent Involvement, Step by Step

Building Parent Involvement
Cathy Yeulet/123rf

How to help parents transition from volunteers to leaders.

by Emily Graham


For most people, getting involved in the school parent group is a gradual process. Years might pass from the time they first attend a PTO or PTA event until they’re comfortable taking on a leadership role in the group.

That’s why it’s important to recognize each parent’s level of involvement and to encourage them to take the next step. For some moms and dads, that might be coming back for a future event. For others, it might be joining a committee.

We’ve outlined the levels of parent involvement along with how you can encourage parents to move from one step to the next. Relatively few people will complete the journey from Typical Parent to Leader. And that’s OK.

The goal isn’t to have everyone become a leader; the real goal is to help parents increase their involvement a little at a time until they find the place where they’re most comfortable in your group. At the same time, you’ll be cultivating your PTO’s future leaders.

Make parent involvement a priority—get our top 10 tips for success

Levels of Parent Involvement
Click for full-size graphic


The Typical Parent

Has competing demands on time

  • Doesn’t come to events

  • Isn’t aware of what the parent group does

  • Might prioritize involvement with other community groups

Your Goal: Build Awareness

  • Communicate through multiple channels (email, flyers, social media, etc.)

  • Be welcoming and approachable

  • Publicize the PTO’s accomplishments

Methods for PTO Communication


The Attendee

Is most likely to become a volunteer

  • Comes to a few meetings or activities

  • Is drawn to events where their family can have fun, socialize, or learn

  • Might not know many people at school

Your Goal: Keep Them Coming Back

  • Greet them warmly and introduce them to others

  • Thank them for coming

  • Ask repeat attendees whether they can help with a future event

25 Ways To Catch and Keep Volunteers


The Occasional Volunteer

Looks for convenient ways to pitch in

  • Wants to help but has limited time to offer

  • Likes “one and done” tasks

  • Might not know PTO or school procedures

Your Goal: Offer More Opportunities

  • Break jobs into smaller tasks

  • Offer tasks that can be done from home or outside school hours

  • Don’t pressure them into a job that’s not a good fit

Easy Jobs for School Volunteers


The Regular Volunteer

Is committed to giving time to your group

  • Routinely attends meetings and pitches in on projects

  • Might prefer repeat weekly or monthly tasks

  • Likes feeling connected to your group

Your Goal: Make Their Experiences Good

  • Have clear expectations

  • Check in to see how their volunteer time is going

  • Thank them regularly

How To Cultivate Long-Term Volunteers


The Leader

Is an officer or committee chair

  • Is comfortable taking on big projects

  • Knows a lot of people at school and in the PTO

  • Sometimes has PTO work extend into their family time

Your Goal: Support Their Efforts

  • Make sure they have needed information

  • Ask what you can do to support them

  • Emphasize the importance of developing future leaders

Procedures Book: Your PTO Instruction Manual

Originally posted in 2018 and updated regularly.

Add comment

Security code

^ Top