First of all congratulations and thank you! May you have a school year filled with fun, productivity, friendship-making, empowerment, pride, praise, appreciation and more. Even if you've done everything possible to prepare for your first PTA board position, you may be surprised about how much you'll learn and how much you'll need to learn in this new gig of yours. We've been where you are now, and the following are six of the many things we wish we knew back then.
1. The PTA Board is not "the PTA"
Membership rules vary around the country, but whether or not someone is officially a PTA board member, make sure you communicate with all parents and teachers in a way that demonstrates you're all in this together. PTA board members are there to manage, communicate, motivate and move things along. They are not "the PTA" in its entirety. Regularly remind parents they are a necessary and valued part of the organization and when by sharing ideas and pooling efforts, everyone benefits.
On that note, be very thoughtful about asking or expecting teachers to help out with your endeavors. They put in a full day at school, they may have long commutes and families and if there isn’t an option to financially compensate them, you’re essentially asking them to work at their job for free. Gasp!
2. It’s not all about making money
You will find there are many other PTA board activities that take up your time beyond fundraising These activities are of equal importance. PTA responsibilities also include advocating for children, community building, supporting partnerships with parents and teachers and much more. Some PTAs earn enough annually to pay the salary for one or more staff members while others are thrilled with a $70 election day bake sale profit. Neither PTA is more successful than the other. There are countless factors that influence how much money your PTA will raise including your school community, budget needs, number of helpful volunteers, etc.
Listen and communicate with your PTA, learn and build upon what's been done in the past and leave behind a successful PTA for the years to come. That's success!
3. Always aim for inclusion
It’s not possible for every family to attend a PTA meeting or a fall fundraiser. However, no matter what project you’re working on, consciously consider the various circumstances of all in your school community. If you’re charging for an event, consider calling it a “suggested donation” so all who would like to attend are able to. Hold PTA meetings on various days of the week and times to accommodate schedules. Create opportunities for families to showcase their differences by having a potluck where people can bring traditional foods from their culture or favorite family recipes. When you're selling things at school (e.g., logoed items), be sure to have items at a variety of price points so everyone has the opportunity to show their spirit.
4. You can and sometimes you should say no
It’s often the same people are doing the majority of the work, which isn’t good for anyone. If you running a bake sale and no one is volunteering to help, you can cancel the bake sale. This is not a failure on your part. What this does is save your sanity as well as let others know they need to step up or things simply aren't going to happen.
Saying no is not always an easy thing to do, so take time to consider why no one stepped up. Just as parents were taking it for granted that someone else would volunteer, be sure you don't take for granted that you're doing everything you can to get volunteers, simply because you asked. Parents are more likely to take on a task when they know exactly what is expected of them and how important their help is to the success of the project. Be sure this is being communicated - early, often and clearly.
5. Use a proofreader
Never send something out to your school community without having another person carefully proof it. While some mistakes seem minor, and in a sense they may be, sending out links that don't work, incorrect dates or inaccurate information can be embarrassing for you and confusing to the school community. Have an “editor” check all dates, times, links, images, etc., to be sure there are no errors, you’re not being unintentionally rude, politically incorrect, etc. When in doubt, leave it out.
The writer, as well as the editor, should review the communication from the perspective of the audience receiving it, who is likely not nearly as involved as you. Consider questions they may have, facts they'll benefit from knowing but are not privy to and again, be sure you're being inclusive and considerate all members in the school community.
6. It is not possible to please everyone
No matter how hard you work, how conscientious you are or how good of a job you are doing, someone will find something wrong. Parents will email the principal with concerns, they will complain to your face, they will speak up at PTA meetings. Listen attentively and give thought to suggestions and feedback. If one person is thinking it, often others are as well. Respond respectfully to what they are saying and do your best not to sound defensive (this is not easy!).
It can be maddening when people who haven't volunteered, donated or participated in any events criticize and critique. They will say they weren't given the information that you provided them with multiple times. They will say things like, "I think we should . . . " or "I wish we had . . . " and they might be right. If they are, thank them for their thoughtfulness and ask them if they would like to take responsibility for putting their ideas into action. If they say no, remember, you can too.
Being on the PTA board can be a fun and enriching experience. You're already a star for agreeing to take this on. Remember that and remember this . . .
Come and join us on our Facebook Q&A Group for school volunteers, where you can get help with the everyday challenges of running your parents association, organizing fundraising events, strengthening your school community, coming up with ideas and inspiration, and celebrating your successes together.
PlanSocial's easy-to-use digital tools empower PTAs and PTOs to connect their school community safely in a private Community Hub, where they can efficiently plan events and radically increase volunteers and fundraising. Start a free Community Hub here in 2 minutes!