The start of the school year is always a busy time, and even more so if you are a PTA leader. In addition to all the usual back-to-school activities, you’re also juggling all your new PTA duties and learning to work with your PTA team. Here are 8 steps to get your PTA year off to a great start.
- Get trained. Running a PTA is not just a volunteer job—it’s running a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Illinois PTA offers free training courses applicable to every PTA leader, with more detailed courses for PTA presidents and treasurers. Check out the Illinois PTA website at illinoispta.org for upcoming online courses or contact your district or region director.
- Plan your year. Work with your PTA leadership team to plan out what activities and events your PTA wants to hold this year, then figure out the budget to do those things, and finally determine how your PTA will raise the funds to meet that budget. Once you have your calendar in place, share it with your members so they know what to look for during the year.
- Plan your membership drive. Membership drives your PTA. Even if all they do the first few years is just join your PTA, they still may end up being PTA volunteers or leaders. Don’t press every member to volunteer, but do let your members know that their help is appreciated if they can share it. Use the membership materials from National PTA and Illinois PTA (in the Leadership Resources—ask your PTA president for the password if you need it) to help you successfully recruit new members.
- Work with your school administrators and teachers. A good working relationship with your school principal and teachers makes running your PTA a lot easier. Communicate regularly with your principal and map out how PTA events, activities, meetings, and fundraising fit in with the school calendar. Find out what your principal’s goals for the year are and see what your PTA can do to help meet them with PTA programs. See if you can speak for a couple of minutes at a teachers’ meeting early in the year to introduce yourself and share what the PTA is doing this year.
- Don’t make your PTA meetings just meetings. Those first few PTA meetings of the year usually get a great turnout, but then quickly taper off. If your PTA meetings focus on just PTA business, particularly with little input from your members, people are less likely to show up. Use your PTA meetings to build community—provide opportunities for everyone to get to know each other, have your principal or a teacher share what’s going on at the school in the coming month, or have students sharing a project they’ve done in class (perhaps featuring a grade level at each meeting). Give your members a reason to be excited about coming back for the next PTA meeting.
- Advocate. Many parents are passionate about certain issues and want to make a difference through advocacy. Encourage your members to sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network (use the “Sign Up for Alerts” on the side of the page). Bring in community members to speak on specific issues affecting your school or district.
- Communicate. Nothing drives a PTA volunteer or member away faster than feeling like they aren’t being heard or aren’t being included. Make sure that all of your PTA leadership team communicates regularly with each other, with their volunteers, and with your members. Be sure to ask for input from everyone—that quiet PTA member who asks, “Have you thought of this?” can easily become a dedicated volunteer.
- Have fun. From seeing excited kids at a PTA event or laughing with your PTA leadership team over a shared experience, being a PTA leader can be a lot of fun. If you and your fellow PTA leaders are having fun, chances are your members are as well, and those who haven’t joined the PTA will want to join the fun, too.