How Do You Get New PTA Members and Get Them to Stay?
I have been an active member of my children’s PTA for many years. As I end my time as an elementary school mom, I see the same cycle of things happening as I did when my older daughter was in elementary school.
It is always the same people who run everything. By the end of your children’s time in primary school, you feel burnt out from having done so much of the same thing over the years. But the same group is still there working for the children because without them, things simply would not get accomplished.
While schools can boast of a high PTA membership, how many can brag about the amount of active volunteers they have? Not many. How can PTA’s and PTO’s get more parents to be actively involved in school activities?
The Most Important Step to Get and Keep New Members is to Welcome Them
As a teacher, I have always had a special affection for the PTA. I know how hard these women (and some men) work for the good of the entire school community. Before I had children, I could not wait to be the “P” in the acronym!
With my older daughter, my PTA involvement was minimal because I had two small babies and no help at home. Unlike the school where I taught, my school did not permit younger siblings at school due to insurance liability. I did what I could when I was able. When my twins entered elementary school, I knew I was able to do more.
Because of the age difference between my children, I only recognized a handful of people at my very first meeting. I walked into the room, saw the Board members behind the long table, and everyone chatting and laughing and catching up after the summer break.
As the new person in the room, no one noticed or cared that I was there. To be honest, I was very uncomfortable and felt very unwelcome. Because of my first impression, I would not attend another meeting for many months, until I got to know some of the other kindergarten moms and I knew some people that I could talk to.
Has your PTA made this error?
You could be turning away some very valuable people due to your lack of outreach.
What can you do to turn this around?
First, a new family pizza dinner is in order. In the school district where I taught, it was a common practice for each building to have an informal pizza dinner, free of charge, to the new families. It was a chance to meet the PTA in a less formal setting and also meet the school personnel.
Second, at each and every PTA meeting, the Board needs to step out from behind the table and meet and greet whomever is there. This is especially important when new faces are in attendance. Name tags and Sharpies should also be available so new people are not struggling to remember everyone’s name.
If the word gets around that people actually care that you are in there, it may help those who are shy or uncomfortable about not knowing anyone come to the next meeting. Try teaming up new members with a person from the Board or a committee chair. Personally invite them via a phone call to the next PTA meeting.
Make Meetings Fun So People Will Want to Be There!
Be honest…your PTA meeting is boring. After a long day of work and kids, who wants to sit on a hard chair and be talked to about budget numbers?
Of course, you need to take care of school business, but does it have to be dull? Find some creative ways to get the people there. How about using a theme for each meeting-a day in Paris complete with croissants and bonbons or a Hawaiian theme with where you hand out leis and serve Hawaiian inspired fruit salad and dessert.
The bottom line is that people like to party, and if the meeting can be seen as something fun to attend, you might be able to increase your attendance. It's an excuse to leave the house and kids behind!
Harper Valley PTA
This song is a bit dated, but the undertone still holds true today. If you are being cliquish and judgmental, no one will want to join your organization.
Switch the Meeting Times Around
Many times, parents don't come simply because the time of the monthly meeting is not at a time that works for them.. But if your Thursday night meeting never has more than ten people, then there may be a problem with that night.
Depending on the schedules of your Board members, who need to be in attendance, how about having one or two meetings in the morning after the kids are dropped off at school, another one or two after school, and the others in the evening? Personally, I rarely attend winter meetings…it is cold and dark and once I am home, that is where I want to stay. However, if a meeting is scheduled after school and there is a place for the kids to safely do homework and have a snack under the watch of some older students, why not?
After school meetings may also have better teacher attendance, as they do not have to come back at night to be there.
How about coffee and bagels for a breakfast meeting? Everyone is more bright eyed once the kids are gone!
And remember to keep the meeting time to under one hour. People have other things they need to do!
People like to eat; it is a very
social thing to do. I will never forget the first Room Parent tea I attended at my children’s school. I was expecting food, as this was called a tea. Besides, in the school where I taught, refreshments were always served at PTA meetings.
Much to my surprise, there was no tea at all (or any food for that matter!) I could not wait to get home and eat a snack!
Give Door Prizes for Attendance!
Prizes can be a $5.00 gift card to anywhere-Starbucks, the local ice cream shop, even the bookstore. See if you can get businesses to donate them for free. You can also buy cute little items on the clearance rack at TJ Maxx or Home Goods to hand out.
Did You Remember Your Manners?
Finally, one of the best ways to keep your volunteers is to say “thank you” to them. Recognize them at the big event, in the program, and of course, in person.
The PTA needs the help and support of all of its parents, but they need to know that they are welcome and wanted. Are you letting them in or shutting them out by your actions?