Getting people to attend PTA meetings can feel a lot like herding cats.
As parents, we’re constantly chasing our own tails, getting to and from work, juggling school runs, extra-curricular clubs, jobs, housework, homework, shopping, cooking, keeping our kids alive, etc.
Squeezing a PTA meeting into the chaos can sometimes feel like one step beyond what’s possible.
So how can you get bums on seats at your PTA meeting? And once you’ve got them in the door, how do you keep them coming back for more?
Here are our top tips for getting and retaining good attendance at your PTA meetings:
Give people a reason to show up
Tell them what to expect, what’s in it for them and – ultimately – their kids.
Most people don’t know what goes on these meetings, so they will just imagine the worst and stay away.
So when you invite people, explain what goes on in your meeting and set the scene.
Make it abundantly clear that all are welcome, and that it’s a friendly crowd… who get sh*t done!
Get them fired up about what you are raising funds for, and outline the sort of help you need.
Whether it’s specific expertise, or just enthusiasm and willingness to learn – help them see what part they might play, however small.
Find the right meeting times
Some PTAs choose to change up their meeting days and times to give everyone an opportunity to come along.
Others choose to hold the same meeting twice, at two different times, in order to accommodate most parents.
If you publish your agenda online in advance, anyone and everyone has a chance to add their voice.
You can get a conversation thread going on PTAsocial. Or if you are that way inclined, you could even organise a live chat, or live-stream the meeting so people can join remotely!
You won’t be able to please everyone, but at least you are trying to include them.
Put on your smiley face
Walking into a room full of new people can be daunting for the best of us.
Shake that clichéd cliquey-PTA image by getting a reputation for being the friendliest peeps in town. (But don’t scare them off by showing your shock that they actually turned up!)
Name tags or stickers are a great idea, and can help avoid the potential embarrassment of forgetting names.
You could even start meetings with ice breaker games , or host a social event either before or after the meeting to give people a chance for a cuppa/bevvy and a chat.
It is helpful to do a quick recap of things the PTA is working on, so newbies don’t feel out of the loop.
The best thing you can do is at least acknowledge new faces with a friendly smile, intro and remember not to shoot down their ideas right away (even if they are way off-base initially!)
Definitely no ritual humiliation allowed…
Choose a suitable location
PTA meetings don’t have to happen within the school premises. In fact, this can severely limit the flexibility of your meeting days and times.
No single meeting location works for everyone, but there are plenty of options such as a local leisure centre hall or church hall, cafe or restaurant, member’s house or local pub.
Think about the expected number of attendees to make sure there is enough space for everyone. Choose somewhere with play equipment if parents need to bring young children with them.
A hot cup of coffee and croissant will help people to relax into your morning meetings.
Evening events can be much more appealing when there’s a chance to mix and mingle either before or after the main event.
Taking the time to network and build your relationships within your volunteer pool does wonders for teamwork and joint endeavors.
Keep it concise
It’s so easy for PTA meetings to overrun because topics run off at tangents.
Keep your meetings under an hour so people don’t start sloping off early. (If you need more than an hour, perhaps you are leaving too long between meetings?)
A great PTA chair is keeps a tight rein on meetings, keeps discussions relevant, and steers conversations back on track to keep things productive and inclusive.
Have multiple channels of contact
Some outspoken parents are more than happy to turn up at meetings and share their opinion, but there’ll inevitably be a few quieter members who’ll shy away from in-person interaction and may struggle to be heard.
Accept suggestions via email, text, suggestion box or of course PTAsocial, to make sure that people have various ways to voice their opinions.
Polls are also make it easy for parents express their views.
As well as fast-paced action-packed meetings, it’s good to follow up by updating the wider school community soon afterwards.
Do your best to have somebody write up the minutes during the meeting on a tablet or laptop, so you can publish them asap.
This helps build momentum and keeps everyone in the loop so they can get involved in upcoming events.
Why not chop up your event volunteering tasks right away and publish them on PTAsocial?
That way, as soon as the minutes are published, you can immediately prompt people to get involved in some small but tangible way.
What’s your secret?
So – basically be open and friendly, fun, informative and concise.
We would love to hear some of the ways in which you entice new members to your PTA groups – share them in the comments box at the bottom of the page, tweet us, email us or contact us on our Facebook page.
PTAsocial makes organising events super-easy and inclusive by allowing volunteers to pick out a specific, manageable task. It’s completely free, so just start an account for your school right now in 2 minutes.