Do you know what is the backbone of a thriving school-parent organisation? It's the volunteers! Parents and carers who are motivated and united to make school a better place for their children - all tied together with a friendly atmosphere and a willingness to get things done. On the flip side, where there isn't a united vision, where the goals don't match the parent/child needs, where there's infighting or indecision ... nothing gets achieved, everyone's frustrated or bored, and people stop turning up.
And next year is coming fast! So let's explore how your school-parent organisation can ensure next year will be really effective, high impact, and fun. How? It needs to have VOLUNTEERS, CLEAR GOALS, and A PLAN.
Even if your school-parent organisation currently has a high number of members, you still need to review what's going on. Let's start with the current parents - will they still be at school next year? If they are staying, are they burnt out so less likely to take up necessary roles? Are they mainly Year 5 parents (many Year 6 parents tend to leave as their children are 'on the way out' of school, and not likely to benefit from a parent's energy intensive fundraising efforts; or the primary carer is heading back to the workforce and doesn't have time to attend any more)? Whether it's to replace outgoing members, lighten the volunteering load, inject new enthusiasm or spread ideas, your school-parent organisation always needs to recruit NEW members - and, let's face it, you can never have enough.
A couple of years ago I looked at over 2000 P&C and P&F websites across Australia, and I was shocked to find that on most websites there was a clear lack of information on how to even get to a meeting. So, before the end of this term, you need to:
Make sure your P&C / P&F / PTO meeting time, dates and location are stated really VISIBLY on your independent P&C (etc) website or page/paragraph of the school website (with a map image that marks the room, if it's in a place that's hard to find - especially for new parents).
Your P&C / P&F / PTO should have its own email address that parents can use to directly contact your association - not all parents wish their emails to travel via the Front Office, especially if it's a concern regarding the school. Include a direct phone number too if possible.
Vote for next year's officials before the end of this year. The new officials will be energised to get things off to a flying start - they might even do a bit of organising over the holidays!
If they feel comfortable, add next year's officials' names and roles to the P&C / P&F / PTO website (why not add a photo too!) - so everyone at school can get to know who they should talk to. This generates a feeling of openness and makes it easier for a school parent to make a spur of the moment contact.
Organise a FREE childminding service for parents for the duration of P&C / P&F / PTO meetings (i.e., subsidised by the P&C (etc) or school). This will HUGELY increase your membership, as without childminding it is impossible for many potential members to attend as they have no one to mind the kids - e.g., if they are single parents, their partner works night-shift, or they don't have willing grandparents/family (or want to save grandparent babysitting for a higher priority). It might be an extension of your existing before/after school care, a teacher who'd like to work paid overtime, or an external childcare provider. You might think paying for childcare will be a significant cost for your organisation/school, but here's my story: free childminding during the meetings enabled my friend, whose husband worked night-shift, to be VP and President for 4 years, and me as a single parent to be VP and Secretary for 4 years - and in addition to our team raising around $30,000 a year, I personally also won 3 grants for the school worth $67,500. You never know who you will miss by not removing barriers!
Have a brainstorming session before the end of THIS year and decide the parents' and school's goals for next year. Work out the amount of time and money it will take to achieve these goals. Vote on your preferred goal/s. NOW you have something concrete and motivating to work towards!
Attend your Kindergarten parents' orientation and clearly state your P&C's goals for next year - and how they can easily book into the free childminding service that's available during meetings. At least one of your P&C goals should be really exciting to the Kindergarten parents. This means the goal should be DIRECTLY relevant to their children - and let them know about it by posing the problem (which they probably aren't aware of) ... and then the solution. Have a sign up sheet at the Kindergarten parent orientation that captures their contact details so you can send them a text or email reminder shortly before the first P&C meeting.
Ask your school for next year's availability dates NOW, in order to plan your fundraising and social events with certainty, and give everyone plenty of time to organise their availability, as well as the event.
That's it! A successful year is all about having a sense of purpose and being well organised. Of course, being friendly and willing to listen too is really important. A little bit of prep now will get things off to a flying start next year, and you'll see that your organisation, school and kids will reap the benefits all year long.
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