We’ve talked about valuing your volunteers as a PTA leader, but how do you get people to volunteer in the first place? There are all sorts of tips out there on volunteering like breaking jobs down into bite-sized pieces or attaching how much time commitment is required for each volunteer opportunity, but those ideas still don’t actually get people to volunteer. To do that, you have to overcome the reasons why people are saying no to volunteering. Let’s do a little myth-busting regarding volunteering with the PTA.
- The PTA is intimidating. For some people, even thinking about joining the PTA causes them to break out in a sweat. They are usually afraid that joining means they’ll be asked to volunteer for every committee, event, and activity. While PTAs certainly need their volunteers to do those jobs, and they do ask everyone about volunteering, it is important that you share with everyone that volunteering is not required or expected, just appreciated. Whether it’s an online sign-up tool like VolunteerSpot, a Google document listing needs for the teacher breakfast, or a sign-up sheet passed around at the PTA meeting, let everyone know that if the volunteer opportunity fits with their schedule and abilities, you appreciate their signing up. If they can’t sign up, perhaps another opportunity will fit for them in the future, but they are always welcome to pass the sheet on.
- I don’t know anyone in the PTA. This is an easy argument to overcome—get one of your friends to sign up with you. Alternatively, sign up and meet a new friend. Whenever possible, provide opportunities for people to work together. It makes the busy times more manageable and the slow times more tolerable.
- I work full time and can’t come to the school. There are always jobs that need to be done that don’t require coming to the school. Whether it is trimming and counting box tops, tracking orders from a fundraiser, or sorting and cutting things out for a classroom project or a station at a PTA event, there are things to do that don’t require a physical presence at a specific time. Make sure your members know which jobs can be done at home on their own time.
- I volunteered a couple of years ago, and it was not a good experience. It happens, and it stinks when it does. But one constant in PTA is that things change—parents move on with their children, classrooms have different kids every year, the PTA elects new leaders, and even teachers and principals turn over every so often. Whatever caused the bad experience in the past, it likely can’t be duplicated now.
- None of the opportunities really grab my attention. Find out what interests, hobbies, talents, and passions this person has. Perhaps it is woodworking or a job that children might find interesting, things that could be incorporated into a Family Arts Night showing off woodworking projects or part of a career fair. Everyone has something that they enjoy doing and sharing—find out what that is and consider how those passions can be incorporated into a new or existing PTA activity.
- Volunteering is a mom thing. No, it’s also a dad thing. And it’s a grandma or grandpa thing, an aunt or uncle thing, or even an older sibling thing. Anyone willing to offer their time can be utilized in some way. Just make sure you don’t hand a hammer, paint brush, or shovel to every man who steps up to volunteer. Dads are great at reading stories, handing out snacks, and all those other jobs that the moms usually handle, so be sure to give them the opportunity to do them if they want to.
- The PTA already has all the help they need. Yes, the PTA is probably getting everything done, and it may look like everything is under control, but like the proverbial duck, the calm above the water has some frantic paddling going on below. Many hands make lighter work, and more people volunteering means that the PTA president or that super-volunteer doesn’t have to spend the entire event filling in where no one volunteered and can spend some time doing things with their child.
Volunteering can be a rewarding experience and an opportunity to meet new people, but it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. No parent or family member should feel guilty for not wanting to involve themselves in that aspect of their child’s life. Being a parent is a tough enough job without having to meet societal expectations as well. Appreciate your volunteers sincerely, publicly, and often, but be sure to appreciate those who only bring their child to an event as well—without them, all that hard work by your volunteers would be wasted.