Is Your PTA a Clique?

Today’s guest post comes from Washington State PTA with some advice on how to avoid having your PTA seen as a clique.

Sometimes, the reason more people don’t join your PTA is because they feel unwelcome. Whether warranted or not, your PTA may have a reputation as a clique. Overcoming this common issue can be challenging because it requires the focus and commitment of your group as a whole.

The first obstacle to overcome – and the spot where most groups get stuck – is agreeing there’s a problem. When a PTA is labeled a clique, most leaders instinctively go on defense, arguing all the reasons the label isn’t accurate. And, in many cases, a group may have a compelling argument as to why that perception is wrong. However, it doesn’t matter. The simple truth is this: if your PTA is perceived as a clique, it IS a clique. And the more you argue that point, the stickier the label becomes and the harder to remove.

Think about it: how often does a group of friends decide to call themselves a “clique?” Pretty much never, right? But you can probably think of several examples of cliques you’ve encountered in your life. Groups get labelled “cliques” by those who consider themselves outside of one. In other words, it’s a matter of how others perceive your group. Perception is reality; that is, others’ perception of your group is the reality of your group’s reputation.

Once you’ve come to terms with your PTA’s public perception, the only way to change that reputation is with consistent action over a sustained period of time. Your board (or other group of leaders) must dedicate the time and consistency required for the change to happen. Each person must be willing to change how things are done, which can be a hard pill to swallow for an established PTA. Even if a board member disagrees with a change, they must be able to rise above their personal feelings for the benefit of the group. Naysayers are always on the hunt for a sign that things haven’t really changed, and if anyone in your group isn’t walking the talk, that person will become the “sign” those naysayers seek.

Once your board owns up to its reputation as a clique and agrees to do what’s necessary to change, the real work begins. The quickest way to combat a negative public perception is to analyze those actions that are creating that perception and then change them (and don’t assume you already know – that’s what got your PTA in this dilemma in the first place). Sometimes it’s possible to gather this information through a constructive discussion among honest, well-intentioned stakeholders. However, that’s often not an option, in which case your board should take time to walk through all of your PTA’s touchpoints with “the public” and consider where there may be opportunities to improve your perception as a welcoming group. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. At every PTA function, proactively seek out any new faces and introduce yourself. You might not recognize them, but they probably recognize you. Undoubtedly, you are that person “from the PTA,” and the way you behave toward them is the biggest factor in determining their opinion of your group.
  2. Regardless of your good intent, do not huddle together with fellow board members in private conversation during PTA events. If you catch yourself doing this, agree to separate out and canvas the area.
  3. Get folks on a level playing field by asking everyone to wear name tags at meetings and events, from the president to the first-time attendee.
  4. Communicate to families in the languages they speak. Find a parent or community member who can help translate materials and even serve as an interpreter at meetings. Make sure to advertise the availability of interpreters and materials to encourage participation among diverse groups. Don’t forget to personally tell them how happy you are that they’re in attendance.
  5. Eliminate the practice of having the board sit together (or at a head table) at membership meetings. Minimize side conversations, inside jokes, and chit-chat, which can make newcomers feel like outsiders.
  6. Explain each piece of business, and steer clear of obscure terms and insider jargon. Don’t assume “everyone knows that.”
  7. Instead of having board members volunteer together at an event, assign a mix of new and old volunteers to each station or shift.

While there will always be critics, it’s up to you to decide which words may have some truth behind them. And, since the clique label is a matter of others’ perception, it’s usually a good idea to pay attention to others labeling your PTA a clique. You may uncover a multitude of opportunities to improve your reputation, increase your membership, and broaden your volunteer base.

PTA Membership Tips for November

Several months into the school year, your PTA is probably not attracting as many new members as it was during the start of the school year. Now is a great time to assess how your membership recruitment has gone so far and plan to build your PTA membership. Here are some tips to help.

  • You know who your PTA members are so far. Look at your membership and note who in your school community isn’t a PTA member? Is it teachers or staff? Are there any characteristics that the families not joining your PTA share? If so, what can you do to reach out to those families and make them feel welcome? What barriers might your PTA be putting up that discourages them from joining? Use PTA’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit to reach out to those families.
  • Use an Illinois PTA ready-to-use membership program to get more people interested in joining your PTA. Build a Super Fan campaign around upcoming sports seasons or a Give the Gift of Membership campaign for the holiday season.
  • Sign up for National PTA’s Local Leader Kit so you can receive the DIY Kit for Membership Growth for free. The DIY kit will walk you through how to target potential PTA members and build a membership pitch to share the value of PTA with them.
  • Take advantage of the power of MemberHub. PTA members aren’t the only people who you can sign up on MemberHub. If you have non-members joining MemberHub and using it as a communication tool with everyone, those non-members will see more of all the great things your PTA is doing. And if you are offering PTA memberships through MemberHub, you have an easy way to get them to join.

Photo courtesy Nick Youngson and Alpha Stock Imagesunder Creative Commons License.

5 Tips to Boost Your PTA Membership

Membership is critical to your PTA’s success. Members become your PTA’s volunteers and leaders, but most importantly members, even those who never volunteer, are sending the message that what your PTA is doing is important for their child, for their family, and for their school. Here are five tips to help your PTA engage with families and boost your membership.

  1. Build Your Brand:If people don’t know that your PTA exists or what your PTA does, they certainly won’t join. Make sure that your PTA is visible at school events, communicates regularly with all families in a variety of ways, and shares the good things your PTA does for their child. Be consistent with identifying PTA events and communications.
  2. Target Your Recruitment:Not every member of your school community will join PTA for the same reason. The days when everyone would join the PTA simply because it was what you did are long gone. The message to recruit teachers will be different than the one to recruit families, and both will be different than the message to recruit community members or businesses. Use PTA’s customizable 10 ReasonsPDF flyersto reach out to each community.
  3. Reach Out to Underrepresented Groups:PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality, and that mission is more easily served when everyone is at the table sharing ideas. But making the connection with some families in your school can be difficult if your PTA hasn’t been building those relationships already. Use PTA’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkitand tips on how to engage with underrepresented groupsto help you start building those relationships now.
  4. Use All Your Tools:Having the right tool for a job can make it go a lot easier, but if you never take that tool out of your toolbox, it might as well be a rock. PTA provides you with a wealth of resources to help you with membership, including National PTA’s Local Leader Kit(register here), Illinois PTA’s Leadership Resources(formerly the Local Unit Packet, register your officers through MemberHub to get access), and membership articles here at One Voice Illinois.
  5. Have a Plan:When you register for National PTA’s Local Leader Kit, you’ll be sent a DIY Kit for Membership Growththat will walk you through the process of creating a membership plan specific to your PTA. You can also use Illinois PTA’s membership campaignsthroughout the year to recruit members.

PTA Celebrates Back-to-School Week September 17-21

Next week, PTAs across the country will celebrate National PTA Back-to-School Week. Each day of Back-to-School Week will highlight and provide tips and resources for the people who support our children’s learning and success.

  • Monday, September 17: PTA Leaders
  • Tuesday, September 18: Parents
  • Wednesday, September 19: Students
  • Thursday, September 20: Teachers
  • Friday, September 21: Office Depot Day (National PTA sponsor of Back-to-School Week)

These highlights and resources include:

And there are many more resources at the Back-to-School Week website. Take advantage of these resources, new grant opportunities, and more to make the 2018-2019 school year a huge success for your PTA, your children, your families, and your school. Follow the hashtag #PTABackToSchoolto see what PTAs across the country are doing to celebrate Back-to-School Week.