Your PTA needs volunteers to be successful, and as we begin to have more in-person events, your PTA’s need for volunteers is likely growing over what you’ve gotten by with during the pandemic. If your PTA is struggling to find volunteers, here are ten secrets to getting and keeping them.

  1. Toot your PTA’s horn. Make sure your families know that your PTA exists and what it does for your school, your community, and their child. When you show people that your PTA does great things, they want to be involved.
  2. Reach out to new families. With much, if not all, of the last school year being online, your PTA likely has a couple of grades of parents who may not know much of what your PTA does, what volunteer opportunities there are, or how they can help out.
  3. Diversify your PTA. Look at who your PTA leaders and members are. Do they represent the diversity of your school, not just by race, but also by age, gender, language, socioeconomic status, or other measures? If not, you have a pool of potential PTA members and volunteers that you are currently not reaching. Use National PTA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources to reach out to those communities and broaden your PTA.
  4. Find hidden talents. The Cub Scouts are another volunteer-led organization, and they often use a Family Talent Survey to find out what interests and skills families might be able to share as part of the program. Think about what skills, talents, and interests your PTA might need and create your own family talent survey. Use it to find the artist who might be interested in helping with PTA Reflections or the designer who might be willing to help with flyers and posters.
  5. Use procedure books to make volunteering less intimidating. A procedure book preserves your PTA’s knowledge about how to run an event or fulfill the duties of a board or officer position. It is also a great volunteer recruiting tool. A well-designed procedure book that includes detailed information on what has been done to plan an event in the past is like a guidebook to a foreign land, providing information on things you shouldn’t miss and where the potential stumbling blocks are.
  6. Support your volunteers. Don’t just hand a volunteer a job description or a procedure book and send them on their way. Be sure to check in to see if they have any questions or issues. Show them that you value the time they are giving the PTA by giving them some of your time and attention.
  7. Look inward. If people aren’t volunteering, think about why that might be. Is your PTA a clique? Are you supporting your volunteers? If people have had a bad experience volunteering for your PTA, have you addressed the reasons for that bad experience? Are there some mistaken ideas about volunteering for your PTA?
  8. Share the ball. If you’ve ever watched a soccer game with very young players, you’ve probably seen how the game ends up—a few talented kids run around kicking the ball and scoring goals while the rest chase the ball in a big clump and the coach yells for everyone to spread out and pass the ball. While the coach might be able to win the game with their few talented players, they also know that success in the future requires the kids in the clump to know how to handle the ball and that their current “stars” won’t be able to be successful in the future if they’re still trying to take on the opposing team on their own. While every PTA has its superstar volunteers, it is important that you don’t rely on them too much. Make sure that all your volunteers get a chance to handle the ball and remember that your role as a PTA leader is like that of the coach—supporting your players but not kicking the ball yourself.
  9. Value your volunteers. Independent Sector, a leadership network for non-profits, estimates that the value of volunteer time as of April 2021 is $28.54/hour. Keep this figure in your mind as you work with your volunteers and treat them like you were paying for their efforts. Make sure your school and district know the value of PTA hours donated to the school over the course of the year as well.
  10. Thank your volunteers. Most people aren’t volunteering for your PTA for personal recognition, but publicly thanking and recognizing your volunteers makes them feel valued, makes them more likely to volunteer again, and makes volunteering more appealing to those who haven’t done so yet. Make sure that everyone knows who volunteered. Share their names in your newsletter, at your PTA meeting, and on your social media sites. Send thank-you notes. Consider having a volunteer recognition event at the end of the year for everyone who helped out even in the slightest way. It doesn’t have to be fancy—cookies, punch, and certificates of appreciation at the end of your last PTA meeting works fine. Make sure your volunteers feel truly, thoroughly, and thoughtfully appreciated for their hard work.

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