When schools closed in the spring of 2020 to fight the spread of COVID-19, many PTAs ran into difficulties. Closed schools meant shifting to virtual PTA meetings, and PTAs with spring officer elections often struggled with running virtual elections. When school started back up in the fall of 2020, many schools were still online-only or a hybrid of online and in-person, and PTAs had to deal with membership drives without their usual membership table or PTA events to help recruit members. Two years later, many PTAs are still trying to recover from pandemic-related issues of membership and leadership. Here are six steps to rebuilding your PTA’s leadership.
- Understand it will take time. Most people don’t join the PTA and immediately volunteer for a leadership position. While you might have a new family move to your school that had been a PTA leader at their previous school, they aren’t common, so commit yourself and your PTA to the time it will take to cultivate new leaders.
- Don’t be afraid to scale back. While it’s tempting to keep doing all the events that your PTA has done in the past, in the long run it can further damage your PTA’s leadership. If your PTA leaders look like they’re having to perform superhuman feats to keep everything running, your members won’t want to step into a leadership position because they view themselves as mere mortals rather than superheroes. You’ll also burn out your existing leaders. Instead, keep events that people are willing to run. If that means canceling an event your PTA has hosted for years, perhaps the fact that no one will step up to run it indicates it’s not as beloved as you thought.
- Grow your membership. Your leaders come from your members, so without the latter, it’s hard to find the former. National PTA has created ready-to-use materials to help your PTA plan a membership campaign, create a value message on why people should join your PTA, and get ideas and support from fellow PTA leaders across the country. Your MemberHub storefront can help make joining your PTA easy.
- Show your PTA’s value. People naturally want to be a part of a successful organization. Make sure your school community knows everything your PTA does. Don’t limit yourself to a PTA newsletter—share on social media, send out news through MemberHub, work with your principal to put up posters for Open House or other events highlighting your PTA’s work, and put your membership QR code on everything.
- Ask the right people. You don’t have to attend many PTA meetings before you hear, “We need somebody to run this event. Are there any volunteers?” And like probably everyone else at the meeting, you then spend the next minute avoiding eye contact with the PTA president so they don’t think you’re a potential volunteer. If you need someone to run your PTA’s Reflections program, don’t do the broadcast request, target who you want to ask. Are there professional artists (painters, photographers, musicians, etc.) in your membership? Are there students with artistic talent (ask the art or music teacher) whose parent might be interested in a chance for their child to shine on a state or national stage? Align the opportunity with the volunteer.
- Support your volunteers. No one wants to be assigned a job and then just left to flounder on their own. Provide a procedure book. Your PTA may have had them in the past, so check with some recent past PTA presidents to see if they can be tracked down—the pandemic chaos might have interfered with passing materials on. If not, create new ones or ask other PTAs in your area if they have any you could adapt to your PTA. Your PTA president should check in with volunteers to see if there is anything they need or are struggling with. And when an event is over, thank your volunteers publicly and profusely. Seeing people recognized and appreciated for their efforts makes others more willing to volunteer as well.
Graphic courtesy of clipartmax.com.