8 Keys to Getting Business Donations

Business donations can help a PTA offer programs and events and takes some of the financial burden off of your members by avoiding the need for fundraisers. But reaching out to businesses doesn’t come naturally to most people, and it can feel a little awkward when you first start. Here are eight tips to get you going.

  1. Remember Who You Represent.When you approach a business for a donation, you are representing your PTA and the work you do for children. PTA is a nationally-recognized brand. So when you approach a business, you have a lot to offer and are asking on behalf of a good cause. Don’t sell your PTA short by making too small a request—businesses will be interested in being associated with your brand.
  2. Coordinate Your Requests.PTAs run several events and programs over the course of the year, so make sure you’re not asking the same businesses for donations for each one. Have your leaders for the various programs work together at the beginning of the year to divide up the businesses you’ll be approaching for each event. Try and match potential donors with relevant programs, like asking an art supply store to help sponsor your Reflections program.
  3. Find Out Who Your PTA Already Knows.Check past years’ records to see which businesses have donated before. Look at your membership and school population—are any of the families at your school business owners. Don’t just look at parents, but also grandparents, aunts, and uncles as well. They all have a stake in the success of the students at your school.
  4. Know What You Want.Decide in advance what you would like from a potential business donor. Is it a simple financial donation, door prizes to hand out, or materials to help you put on your event. Be specific in what you are asking for.
  5. Offer Them Something in Return.Be sure to offer your business donors a publicly visible recognition of their support. That can be a window cling or certificate citing them as a “Proud Supporter of Lincoln PTA,” signage at your event thanking the sponsors, mentions in your newsletter thanking them for their support, or a small banner spot on your PTA website or newsletter for a certain period of time. Note that when doing the latter, PTA is not endorsing the business, the business is supporting the PTA. Think PBS-style sponsor (This PTA event was brought to you in part by ABC Business, provider of fine art supplies.), not traditional advertisement.
  6. Don’t Burn Your Bridges.A business may say no for a variety of reasons—they may have already filled their planned quota of non-profit donations for the quarter or the year, they may feel that the event doesn’t fit their business, or they may not currently have the resources to spare at that time. Thank them for their time, and ask if they’d be willing to sponsor a different PTA event sometime in the future.
  7. Follow Up After Your Event.Be sure to send a thank you note to every donor with a handwritten signature. Include a receipt if the donation was strictly financial, and note the amount of the donation either directly or as the value of the in-kind donation so they have a record for their tax filing. Consider sharing photos of your event or thank you notes from the kids who participated.
  8. Keep Records of Who Donated.By keeping track of the businesses who have donated in the past, your PTA will know who to approach first in the future. You can also then thank a donor for their past support when asking them to donate again.

 

News from National Convention—Membership

Membership is at the heart of PTA, so it’s not surprising that membership was the focus of several workshops and one big announcement at the 2018 National PTA Convention in New Orleans. The announcement? Every PTA leader who registers or logs in to the Local PTA Leader Kit(formerly the Back-to-School Kit) will receive a new DIY Kit for Membership Growth by mail while supplies last.

The kit contains everything local PTA leaders need to develop a Do-It-Yourself membership plan. Included in the kit are promotional posters, customizable membership resources, and a Design Your PTA/PTSA Membership P.L.A.N. booklet. PLAN stands for:

  • Pictureways to reach and attract possible PTA/PTSA members.
  • Listento what matters most to them and align your PTA’s efforts.
  • Askpossible members to join PTA by sharing PTA’s focus on what matters most to them.
  • Nurturerelationships year-round by communicating the impact your PTA/PTSA is making for your students, school, and community.

The guidebook walks you through each of the steps with examples, questions to consider, and brainstorming prompts for you and your fellow PTA leaders to develop a membership plan tailored to your PTA, your school, and your community. The guidebook is printed in both English and Spanish. Get yours today!

Workshops

The new DIY Kit for Membership Growth was a big focus of most of the membership workshops at the 2018 National PTA Convention. The other workshop focused on attracting more parents, students, and educators to PTA in middle and high schools. The latter featured Illinois PTA’s South Suburban Cook Region Director Darvel Stinson as one of the panelists.

Among the ideas floated at the workshop were events that would attract students such as a car care night (learn how to check and change your oil, change a tire, etc.) or a sexual violence awareness event. Consider partnering with business classes at your high school to handle running and marketing PTA Reflections at the school. If your PTA offers grants to teachers, require teachers applying for a grant to be PTA members, and offer extra consideration points for teachers who have attended PTA meetings or based on the number of PTA parent and student members in their homerooms. For teachers without a homeroom class, offer extra consideration points for their doing a project with the PTA that engages families.

The workshop also provided a handout with links to the following resources:

New Resources from National PTA

One of the advantages of being a PTA is having both a state and a national organization to help provide resources and tools to make your job as a PTA leader easier. National PTA has recently released two new resources to help you recruit new membersand to show your appreciation to teachers.

New Membership Resources

Membership is at the heart of PTA. Members allow us to do great things for children in our schools and make our voice more powerful when we speak to legislators. To help PTAs recruit and retain members, National PTA has created three new flyers(scroll down and expand links at the bottom of the page). The flyers are targeted at three different audiences:

  • General Audience (for policymakers, advocates, and outside organizations)
  • Families and Educators (for families, caregivers, and community members who share the mission of helping every child succeed)
  • Parent and School Leaders (for local parent and school leaders such as teachers and administrators)

The flyers are available as fillable PDFs in both color and black and white and in both Spanish and English. All of the flyers have a fillable graphic box for your PTA logoand text box for contact information on the front. The families and educators flyer also has a customizable membership form on the back.

Teacher Appreciation Week Resources

Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up May 7-11, and National PTA has new resources to recognize those VITs (Very Important Teachers)at your school. Teachers do so much for our children every day, and the effect they have on children’s lives lasts for decades. Almost every adult can immediately name a teacher who made a difference in their life.

National PTA has created several resources to help PTAs show their appreciation for all that teachers do with a collection of editable resources, including:

Use the #ThankATeacher hashtag to promote what your PTA is doing for Teacher Appreciation Week, and keep an eye on National PTA’s One Voice blogand PTAOurChildren.orgfor other ways to celebrate your school’s teachers.

News from National Convention: Attracting Today’s Parents

PTAs used to be able to simply set up a table with a “Join PTA” sign and have parents line up. But those days are long gone, and today’s PTA needs to provide parents with reasons for joining that resonate with them. At the 2017 National PTA Convention, two events focused on how PTAs can do just that.

Science of PTA Membership Growth—Know Your Audience

National PTA Deputy Executive Director Karin Kirchoff and Florida PTA Vice President for Regions and Councils Carolyn Nelson-Goedert shared demographic information, national surveys of parents, the results of PTA surveys and focus groups, and how that information can be used to grow your PTA’s membership.

The demographic information and surveys drew from the Pew Research Center’s Parenting in America study that looked at parenting as a whole and the Leadership Conference Education Fund’s Second Annual New Education Majority Poll that looked the opinions of Black and Latino parents regarding education and their children’s future. The presenters also suggested using Great Schools’ information on individual schools to learn more about your school’s families. Here in Illinois, the Illinois Report Card for schools can also provide additional information.

Looking at the Data

It probably comes as no surprise that the demographic information and polls show that today’s families look quite different from those of the past, with more mothers working, more varied family structures, and more families struggling financially. Likewise, polling shows that all parents of every ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class are concerned about their child’s education and want to be more involved, and that parent involvement declines as children get older.

With this data as background, National PTA started digging in to why parents who want to be more involved in their child’s education don’t do so and why they don’t join PTA. When looking a PTA’s current membership, there is a broad diversity as a whole, but potential room for growth in areas where families need PTA’s mission the most—rural towns and urban communities.

National PTA’s Focus Groups and Surveys

National PTA conducted six focus groups and a national survey to explore parents’ attitudes towards education, schools, and PTA in depth. The focus groups looked at K-5 parents, while the survey targeted K-8 parents. Both activities included both PTA members, former members, and non-members. One of the six focus groups consisted of only African-American parents and another of Spanish-dominant parents. Half of the focus groups were of lower-income parents and half on middle-upper income parents with mixed racial and ethnic populations in all except as noted earlier. The results from the focus groups were used to create the national survey.

Key Findings

From this work, National PTA discovered that parents define membership in many ways, not all of which include paying dues to actually join the PTA. Approximately 18% of those saying they were PTA members only gave their time to the PTA.

The results also showed that members and non-members are very distinct groups. Members are more likely to be more satisfied with their school, have kids who face fewer challenges at school, are generally older (e.g., Gen X), have a higher education level, and generally have a higher household income, often with two parents both working. Non-members tend to be on the other end of the spectrum from members, being less satisfied with their school, having kids facing more challenges, being younger (e.g., Millennials), having less education, and having lower incomes, often with a single income. Not surprisingly, PTA members were quite positive about PTA, with 60% being promoters. Non-members, however, were almost as likely (51%) to be PTA detractors.

PTA Perceptions

When parents are asked about PTA, their perceptions tended to fall into three buckets:

  • What PTA Does: Raises money for school, puts on fun events, family-friendly, easy to get involved
  • What PTA Affects: Building relationships with teachers and administrators, speaking up on critical issues, linking the school and home, bringing the community together
  • What PTA Could Inspire: Hope for the future, empowering families to make a positive change, helping children realize their potential

Using these three buckets that were generated from the focus groups, National PTA conducted a survey to dig into these perceptions. The results showed that PTA is almost exclusively seen as raising money for the school and being family-friendly, with members also citing fun events as a key component of PTA. However, what PTA affects was much less known even among members, and what PTA could inspire was almost completely off the radar.

Breaking the Time Barrier

Parents throughout this process discussed the struggles to find time. Busy jobs, lack of transportation, and work shifts that aren’t the traditional 9 to 5 all prevent participation at meetings and after-school events. However, many parents said that if they are passionate about a cause, they make sure to make the time in their busy schedule.

Acceptance is an Issue

While 73% of those who identified themselves as PTA leaders described their PTA as “welcoming” and 71% said PTA was “for people like me,” non-members had a much different view. Only 36% described the PTA as “welcoming” and only 22% said it was “for people like me.” In the focus groups, some parents tied this to not feeling welcome at the school as well.

The Fundraising Catch-22

One of PTA’s key strengths that was identified in this work was the ability to raise money for school needs. But that fundraising success is also a weakness for PTA because the fundraising message dominates all others and it is often not tied to PTA’s ability to address education issues. In some schools, there are questions about why the money is being raised and how it is being spent. Low-income families also found the fundraising message leaving them feeling like they are not able to participate.

Attracting New Members

The good news from this work by National PTA is that for those who have felt excluded from PTA, put off by the focus on fundraising, or otherwise unwelcome, PTA’s mission resonates strongly with them as a reason to join the PTA. By focusing their message on PTA’s mission:

To make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.

and following through on fulfilling that mission, PTAs can reach those who haven’t joined PTA in the past. Today’s parents need to feel passionate about a cause to devote their time to it, and it is hard to develop a passion for fundraising. By focusing on helping parents help their child be successful, building bridges between the school and families, and being welcoming and inclusive, PTAs can attract those new parents who can be the next generation of PTA leaders.

Facebook Live Symposium

The above information was reinforced in a symposium at the 2017 National PTA Convention that was shared on Facebook Live (event starts at about 13:45 or -1:40:10 into the video). Called Today’s Parents, Tomorrow’s Leaders: Growing a New Generation of PTA Champions, the symposium featured a presentation by Amanda Slavin, CEO and founder of CatalystCreativ, and a panel discussion with Ms. Slavin, PTA leaders from California, Kansas, and Oregon, and Heather Pressley, Senior Vice President for Girls on the Run International.

Both Ms. Slavin’s presentation and the panel discussion that followed emphasized the importance of engaging the passion of today’s parents for the PTA mission as the key to getting them to join PTA and participate. Ms. Slavin noted that even non-millennial parents are often “millennial minded,” seeking a network, socially connected, passionate about quality education, and emphasizing advocacy for all children.

As a result, to engage these parents to become members and PTA leaders, PTAs need to focus recruitment, activities, and goals to serve parents’ needs, not on what the PTA has always done in the past. Communication and opportunities to participate need to focus on the user, so that a PTA math event becomes a time to share and learn with your child, not to just tell you about the new math curriculum. This also means that PTAs need to facilitate and curate experiences for parents rather than dictating them, providing an inclusive, accepting, and non-judgmental space for parents and families to share their experiences and knowledge.