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.

Engaging and Retaining Members

PTA runs on its volunteer membership. Whether it is serving as an officer, helping out at a PTA event, or even just supporting the PTA by paying membership dues, members are critical to a PTA’s success. And the easiest people to get to join the PTA are those who have joined in the past.

Even those who have joined in the past may still need some convincing to join again this year. A blog post at Wild Apricot discusses 12 practical ways to engage and retain members. While the article focuses on the broad range of membership-driven organizations, there is a lot of useful advice for PTAs in the list. Among the suggestions are:

  • Discover why they joined and do more of it.
  • Refresh your members’ memories of the benefits you offer
  • Conduct exit interviews with lapsed members
  • Pick up the phone and start creating personal connections
  • Ask lapsers to rejoin with an appreciation letter
  • Diversify your events
  • Trash your paper renewal forms and automate renewals online (Illinois PTA’s MemberHub partnership makes this easy for PTAs)
  • Send automated reminders

For details on each of these suggestions and others, check out the full article. Then use the membership ideas from Illinois PTA to get more people involved in your PTA.

 

Top 10 Tips for Middle School PTA Success

Middle school is different from elementary school for kids—they’re changing classrooms, managing a locker, and meeting new people from other elementary schools. It’s different for parents as well. New activities like band or sports may pull parents who have been involved in PTA at the elementary level away at the middle school level. Here are ten tips on running a successful middle school PTA.

  1. Grab them fast. Parents are at an elementary school for six years; add a second or third kid, and those years can stretch to more than a decade. That’s a lot of time to build a relationship between PTA and a parent, and for that parent to grow into a leadership role. Middle school zips by in three years, and parents may have a year or two off from middle school between kids. That means your PTA has to get parents involved quickly and early in leadership positions. Visit your feeder elementary schools to educate elementary PTA leaders on what the middle school PTA does and how it is different from what they’ve already experienced.
  2. Include them all. Sometimes one elementary PTA will be stronger than the other PTAs feeding into a middle school. Don’t lean on parents from just the dominant PTA for leadership—you’ll alienate those from the other PTAs.
  3. Focus on parent events. Middle school students are beginning to break away from their parents, so student-oriented events like those in elementary school may draw fewer attendees. But that pulling away also means that parents are likely looking to learn more about what is happening at school, since their child is not telling them as much as they used to and the “backpack express” filled with flyers and newsletters is more of a backpack black hole. Shift your meetings to educating parents about what is happening and what is coming up. Be more about communication and less about PTA business.
  4. Embrace the diaspora. As parents become dispersed among various booster groups and other activities in middle school, make sure that they know that the PTA is the one group that addresses the whole school. Have an extracurricular activities fair for incoming students in the spring with the message that middle school provides great opportunities for students to try new things, but that PTA is the way for parents to keep in touch with what’s going on in the school.
  5. Embrace social media. A newsletter or flyer sent home with a middle school student typically ends up on the floor at school, in a trash can, or buried at the bottom of the backpack until the end of the year. You have to reach out to families directly, and Facebook, Twitter, and other social media can help with that.
  6. Cut back on fundraising. Your middle school PTA probably isn’t doing as many events as an elementary PTA and can get by with a smaller budget. Consider having just one big fundraiser, or incorporating your fundraising into your annual dues. How many parents at your school would embrace a PTA membership level of $25 or $50 that means the PTA won’t bother them about money for the rest of the year? Less fundraising means fewer overlaps with booster clubs who are also raising money as well.
  7. Find ways to integrate the PTA into the life of the middle school. Look for opportunities for the PTA to support events that bring families into the school. See if the PTA president can speak to all the parents at open house, consider providing snacks for the band, orchestra, and choir concerts (with a provided by PTA sign), and provide tour guides for new student orientation.
  8. Look for ways to work with other PTAs. Find opportunities to collaborate with your feeder school PTAs as well as the high school PTAs that your students will be going to. Working together helps incoming parents feel welcome and strengthens all of the PTAs.
  9. Cut back on meetings. Parents have often spent much of the day in meetings, so attending another PTA business meeting in the evening isn’t terribly appealing. Your PTA really only needs three general membership business meetings each year. One at the start of the school year to approve your audit and budget, one in the winter to elect your nominating committee, and one at the end of the year to elect your new officers. Add in adopting your updated bylaws at one of those meetings, and the only other thing your membership will need to meet about is amending your budget, which can be done with a quick five-minute meeting before an event or program. Let your board handing the day-to-day running of the PTA, and have your PTA “meetings” focus on parent education.
  10. Build your relationship with the principal and teachers. Just like the PTA, principals and teachers struggle to get information to families about what is happening at school. By building a good relationship with them, your PTA can develop programs and events that help the school keep parents informed and educated.