Struggling for PTA volunteers and wondering why other parents duck and dive to avoid helping out? By taking a moment to understand exactly what it is that puts them off volunteering, you can set your PTA recruitment drive up for success.
Lazy and selfish?
It’s not the first time we’ve heard this response when we’ve asked dedicated PTA volunteers why they think more parents don’t step up, but we think this is a bit harsh.
At PlanSocial, we've spoken to a lot of parents over the years, about why they hold back from volunteering, and here are some of the things they've told us:
- they are not sure what the PTA is raising funds for exactly, so not very motivated to help out
- they already feel overwhelmed and are worried about committing to helping out the PTA too
- they are a little anxious about meeting new people so shy away from attending meetings
- they worry about the old cliché that the PTA committee members will be intimidating and corner them
- they are worried they will get stuck doing a task they do not enjoy or will find it too difficult
- they are worried they will get stuck doing a task with somebody they do not like
- they worry that they will get something wrong and be blamed if everything does not run smoothly
- they lack confidence and are not sure they have the right skills
- they don't have a clear view of who is on the PTA or how to find them, and don't want to email an open offer of help
- they assume the PTA already has a network of helpers, or that they would be the only newbie feeling awkward amongst a tight knit group of friends
You’re a “Doer”
Of course, if you are a PTA volunteer already, I know that you are one of the "doers". You have raised your head above the parapet and you're getting stuck in, despite any of your own fears. If you are struggling to find sympathy for parents who make excuses for not volunteering, remember that frankly, you’re pretty awesome, and the exception to the rule.
By extending a little extra compassion, not only will you find the volunteer recruitment process less exasperating, but this kindness will also draw more people to you naturally.
During the pandemic, we have all become more aware that most people have had a lot more on their plate. Both physical health and mental health have been a huge concern. So putting yourself in the shoes of a would-be volunteer can guide your approach to finding more help.
A good little crew of volunteers
Hopefully you do already have a handful of like-minded people to help you plan your PTA events. However, I’m sure you don't all want to get stuck behind a stall all day at every single event, do you?
For big events like the summer fair, wouldn't it be wonderful if a hoard of helpful volunteers stepped up to help for half an hour each. You can finally catch a break with your own families then, right? :)
The benefits of having even more volunteers!
Not only does having more volunteers mean you get a little time off, but here are a few more compelling reasons why growing your volunteer base beyond a small circle is a good idea:
- you create an inclusive and welcoming environment, so new people don’t feel like they would be stepping on anyone’s toes or invading a cliquey group
- you are broadening the range of skill sets available in your group of volunteers
- you are diversifying the makeup of the volunteers, getting a broader perspective to better reflect your community of parents
- you are creating a more sustainable PTA that won’t suddenly fall off a cliff when your kids leave the school
- you can create more or even bigger events that will raise more funds and make more memories for the school’s families
How to recruit more volunteers for your PTA events
So... now we know what’s stopping them, here's what we've seen work well for PTAs to counter the above fears and bring more parents out of the woodwork to pitch in:
- be visible as a PTA, so ideally parents know your names and faces
- remind everyone what the raised funds will be used for, so they can picture something tangible and feel motivated to help make it happen
- explain that the events can only be run if enough volunteers step up, and assign classes to stalls (Divide and conquer!)
- make it easy for parents to find out exactly what help is needed, without having to attend a meeting
- let them know that new faces are always welcome and that the more people that pitch in, the less everyone has to do
- repeatedly let them know they can just do one small thing, and that would be wonderfully helpful
- make it really easy for people choose exactly what they will be doing, at what time, and ideally with whom
- go out of your way to make it a positive experience for every (especially brand new) volunteer
- ask them to rope in their friends and family to help too if they can
- reassure the menfolk that it's not just the mums who volunteer (many barely know the other Dads so it's a great opportunity to make new friends!)
Hmmm... perhaps this sounds like a lot of hard work, and you'd rather just do it all yourself...? Weeeeellll, up to you, but we think it's worth getting started on building your volunteer base, so it can grow over time, rather than making a rod for your own back.
Good news for PTA committees who want more volunteers
Lucky for you, this is exactly what PlanSocial's Community Hub does for PTAs - it guides your PTA along a path to rapidly build your volunteer numbers so they grow year on year. It’s totally free for up to 20 volunteers, and designed for non-techie people. So set up a free hub for your PTA here in under 2 minutes.
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