Thanking Your Volunteers

The holidays are a time for reflection and gratitude. It’s also the midpoint of the school year, which makes it a good time as a PTA leader to take a bit of time to think about what you’ve accomplished so far and what lies ahead.

A good part of your PTA’s success depends on your volunteers, which makes the holiday season a good time to show them some gratitude. One meaningful way to show your appreciation to your volunteers is a simple thank you note. If you’re not sure what to say, this love to know blog post provides some sample thank you notes and tips on writing them.

If writing is not your style or strength, check out the Appreciate Volunteers website. The site was created by two longtime volunteers who know the passion and dedication volunteering takes and who wanted to help those managing volunteers recognize them and their efforts. The site has a variety of categories, including:

  • New Volunteers
  • Simple Volunteer Recognition
  • Volunteer Anniversaries
  • Volunteer Appreciation Gifts
  • Volunteer Appreciation Ideas
  • Volunteer Parties
  • Volunteer Recognition Events
  • Volunteer Recognition on a Budget

Showing your volunteers your appreciation and gratitude for the time and effort they put forth for your PTA helps to keep them involved going forward and can help bring in new volunteers. There’s a benefit for you as well: studies show that expressing gratitude can make you happier.

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.

 

What is Illinois PTA University?

The Illinois PTA University is an incentive program to encourage leadership development. The program is divided into three levels—Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, and Doctorate Degree. Each level recognizes the accomplishment of PTA members who have completed its requirements. Those requirements include attendance at a variety of workshops, training courses, and PTA events.  Any PTA member may participate in the program, and there is no time limit for completing the requirements to earn a degree.

Transcripts (applications) are available at all courses and events, and any state board member, district director, or course trainer may sign. Completed transcripts should be sent to your District or Region Director or to the Illinois PTA Leadership Development Director. Doctoral recipients are recognized at the Illinois PTA Convention.

To earn the Bachelor’s Degree, participants must complete five requirements:

  • Take PTA 101: Your Road to Success (required for all officers)
  • Take Money Matters 101 (required for all treasurers)
  • Attend a Council, District, or Region meeting or workshop (this can be a training event where you take the above courses)
  • Attend an Illinois PTA state conference or workshop (not at the Illinois PTA Convention), such as an Illinois PTA Value of PTA event.
  • Attend the Illinois PTA Convention

To earn the Master’s Degree, participants must earn their Bachelor’s Degree and complete four out of five electives:

To earn the Doctorate Degree, participants must earn their Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees, complete the Illinois PTA Train the Trainers course, and complete a thesis project. The Train the Trainers course requires the recommendation of your District or Region Director or other Illinois PTA state board member to attend. The thesis project requires prior approval of the Illinois PTA Leadership Development Director, and is an opportunity for the candidate to apply what they have learned from the rest of their Illinois PTA University work. Examples of thesis projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating an approved PTA training course
  • Creating an approved PTA program
  • Hosting a candidate’s forum
  • Organizing a Value of PTA event

Contact your Region Director, District Director, or the Illinois PTA Leadership Development Director to schedule a course or visit the Illinois PTA website events page to see what courses are coming up.

October is Fire Safety Month

Fire Prevention Week is scheduled for October 8-14, with Home Fire Drill Day on October 14.

While no school is immune from the risk of a fire, the chances of it happening can be reduced or, if it does occur, losses can be kept to a minimum by following a few tips:

  • Conduct fire drills regularly
  • Ensure all exits are properly marked and nothing blocking the exit
  • On the day of a drill, sound the alarm so students and staff get familiar with the sound
  • Each classroom should have a map displayed showing the closest exits. Staff should review on a monthly basis with students.
  • Predetermine an exterior location where everyone meets until an all clear signal has been given to reenter.

How can PTAs be involved with promoting fire safety?

  • Ask local administrators to speak at a future meeting to discuss fire safety plans for the building.
  • Partner with local fire departments to bring in speakers, host smoke detector inspections, or give away smoke detectors.
  • Ask Administration to include PTA members on safety committees.
  • Share fire safety tips with families and school personnel via newsletters, bulletin boards, emails, and social media.
  • Encourage families to practice fire drills at home.