Our fifth #PTAhour covered a subject that virtually all PTAs will have struggled with at one time or another – volunteers! Our recent poll showed that a lack of helpers is the number one issue for committees, so we invited you to tell us your concerns, ask questions and share top tips about getting more volunteers, keeping them motivated and encouraging them to help make a difference!
Lots of PTAs and volunteers got involved on Twitter and also our Facebook PTA Q&A group, and we’ve compiled some of the questions and answers, top tips and ideas from our online discussion.
Don’t miss the chance to join in our next #PTAhour, all the details are at the end of this blog!
What you said about volunteers:
We asked how many volunteers regularly help out at events and how many committee members make up your PTA.
We have 6 people on our committee. This is the main bulk of our members who do the organising. We do have lots of people who are happy to do tasks from home such as stapling letters etcSarah W
We have the core committee members and then 3/4 parents who attend our meetings and help. Then a few dads/parents/grandparents who help at events, so regular helpers perhaps 8-12Griffydam PTA
I have 5 core and 16 general members in a school of 2Sarah R
Technically 3 but we have about 8-9 regular helpers....I would just love more volunteers from years 4-6 - it seems to be Infants that are more willing to help. We were very conscious about having the same people/faces all the time. I even heard a comment of people not wanting to come because it looks like it is all just one class as myself (chair) treasurer and secretary are all in one classKaren L
We’ve got a great Pta, but always looking for new membersAragon Primary
Some people told us they’d sadly had to cancel events because of a lack of helpers.
We’ve cancelled large events such as Summer Fair and Christmas Fair and publicised the fact that the reason it’s cancelled is due to lack of support from volunteers. We hoped that would make people think and want to help but perhaps not?Sarah W
Not as yet thankfully we did have one chaotic afternoon tea with Santa due to being let down by too many volunteers on one day. Luckily a few teaching staff and parents jumped in to help out, phew!Pamela D
Yes, we cancelled our 2nd Movie night. Only recently held the 1st one, very successful, but realised volunteers really needed. Not enough people signed up. No Movie night.Gorringe PTA
We have threatened it in years gone by - not never had to see it through! Sometimes encouragement is needed!St Andrew's PTA
What you said about help from school staff:
It’s encouraging to see that many of you have support from teaching staff.
For the big events, Summer, Christmas, Movie night and cake sales, we couldn't do without the teachers and staff giving up their time.Gorringe PTA
We have 2 teaching assistants on our psa and they help get the other staff to help out at eventsSarah R
We have a couple of TA's who are always helping on certain events. Then a few willing teaching staff we ask for help once a year at our disco, the kids love their teachers being there and as it is near the beginning of the year it sets a nice start to their year.Pamela D
Head Teacher insists its P.T.A for a reason and staff should be present with parents at events. Very supportive school. It does make it tricky when you just want to do a last minute/small event though - but swings and roundabouts!St Andrews PTA
We have a summer and Xmas fair. We have PTFA officers and the normal set of parents to volunteer. We have to rely upon teachers to help and give up their Saturday to help out. We pop a list up of stalls in the staff room so they can choose which to do and then we know who is doing what and fill in the gaps.Emily D
We have to rely on staff to run our stalls at events so ensure we time events appropriately. As we do events straight after school we sometimes have people queuing to come in but we can’t start until teachers are on stalls and they can’t come until children have been collected from their class……Sarah W
We tend to start our events 15 mins after school to ensure staff can get over and have a few floating helpers to jump on stall if necessary for 10 minsSarah R
How can we get more volunteers?
We hear this question all the time! Whilst there’s no magic “extra help” wand, there are some simple ways to make volunteering more appealing to busy parents.
Sarah W told us that she asks volunteers to do simple jobs at home:
Prepping items such as cutting out poems for reindeer dust, folding tickets for tombola, washing teddies and naming them for teddy Tombola, or cutting raffle tickets up ready to sell. It does take time to sort initially but I always think it’s a way of getting others involved and they’re more likely to then attend an event due to having that small involvement.Sarah W
More great tips to help get more volunteers:
Be VERY specific about exactly what you need help with, how long it will take and if the kids can tag along. It will help you be more organised and is much more appealing than a vague helpers list!Diana R
Never turn down an offer of help at an event - they probably won’t bother asking again! Find a job, however small, and be thankful for their contribution - every little helps! We break down our helper slots into 30 minute chunks so that parents can do their bit, and still spend time enjoying the event with their families.Penny C
We love this idea from Karen L, a great way to get PTA newcomers really involved:
We have a Beetle Drive coming up.....it was a newbies idea so she is coordinating that with me which will be her first event. Trying to show her how easy it is - but supporting/hand-holding so it isn't too stressful…..!Karen L
Sarah R’s committee offers free drinks to helpers at big events like summer fairs, while Gorringe PTA make sure they send thank you cards and gifts to regular volunteers at the end of the school year.
Euxton CE PTA also agree that a post-event “thank you for helping” is very worthwhile:
We Tweet and Facebook thank you messages, and use school newsletters for particular thank yous. We send letters to any business that has donated raffle prizes or help. We get good reactions/responses to our thank yous on social media. Good to feel appreciated!Euxton CE PTA
Lauren M had this fab idea! :
Have a specific fundraising goal in mind to motivate parents to help out, and a totalizer in a prominent location to chart progress.Lauren M
Final top tips:
Focus on great communication! Newsletters; open, friendly and sociable meetings at flexible times; a PTA location during pick up and drop off so you’re visible (or a PTA postbox if you’re unavailable.) And go out there and bust that myth of a “cliquey” PTA by being inclusive, friendly and willing to listen to new suggestions (even though you’ve probably heard them 100 times before!) – people like to feel valued and useful!
Of course, our free app is specifically designed to share the load and build an active volunteering community – so if your PTA hasn’t got one yet, nab a free PTAsocial account here.
Thank you lovely people!
Big thanks to all of our #PTAhour followers and contributors – it’s great to be able to share your knowledge!
Do you struggle with lack of volunteers? Has this blog inspired you to try a different approach? We’d love to hear your stories! Tweet us @PTAsocial, email us or share your ideas with over 450 other PTA-ers in our fast-growing Facebook PTA Q&A group!
We’re taking a break so you can all focus on your Easter events, but #PTAhour will be back on Weds 25th April, 8-9pm GMT when we’ll be discussing Summer Fairs (yes, it’s that time of the year already!) Full details of how to get involved with the discussion here.
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.