Why Don’t Volunteers Stick Around?

It is generally agreed that no one of us can motivate another. The most we can do is to stimulate others to action, but individuals must provide the motivation for themselves. Volunteers are obviously motivated by something other than a paycheck, such as self-esteem, recognition, approval, acceptance, and pride in a job well done.

A good leader knows how to inspire others to move them toward positive behavior that can move those volunteers and the association toward productive actions. Group consensus stimulates members to be motivated because the members feel their input has been valued; they’ve had a voice in how things will be. Members of a group will be motivated if the leader is aware of their values, needs, and interests.

Volunteers often lose interest when:

  • There is no praise or reward for their action
  • They receive no support from their co-worker
  • There is no chance for personal growth
  • Their personal needs are not being met
  • They do not feel they are truly making a difference

By making an effort to reach out and to nurture volunteers, PTA leaders can keep those volunteers involved.

  • Be friendly. Make all parents feel that PTA welcomes and accepts them.
  • Be sensitive to cultural differences among families.
  • Avoid stereotyping people.
  • Invite parents from all cultures to serve on the PTA board. Start by asking them to be involved on committees. Include them in leadership training opportunities.
  • Show appreciation for whatever amount of time a parent gives to PTA.

Graphic © 2013 by Pump Aid Pictures under Creative Commons license.

Reflecting on Your PTA Role in the New Year

With the school year at the halfway point and many of us making New Year’s resolutions, it’s also a good opportunity to take time to reflect on how you are doing in your PTA role. Use the self-assessment questions below as well as those to ask of others on how you are doing to reflect on the past few months and get ready for the remainder of the school year.

Questions for Me in My PTA Role

  • Do I keep in touch with other volunteers?
  • Do I attend meetings regularly?
  • Do I do my homework before attending meetings or taking part in other PTA work/activities?
  • Do I participate in meetings?
  • Am I honest in meetings and other settings when expressing what I think?
  • Do I understand our PTA’s (or committee’s) goals?
  • Do I take responsibility for trying to reach our goals?
  • Do I understand my role? What important results are expected of me?
  • Do I follow through on my assignments?
  • Do I complete my assignments on time? If I can’t, do I let the appropriate people know?
  • On what things do I spend a lot of time and effort?
  • What important things would not get done if my role were not being filled?
  • What contributions have I made?
  • What has made me less effective this past year than I could have been?
  • What can I do that would help make me a more effective leader?
  • What can the PTA do that would help me be a more effective leader?
  • What are my goals as a PTA leader for the coming year?

Questions to Ask Your PTA Members

  • As a PTA leader/volunteer, what did you like best about working for the PTA this last year? What did you like least?
  • Do you have suggestions for improving this PTA in the coming year?
  • How can our PTA help you reach your goals as a PTA volunteer and community member?


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.