How to Improve Parent Participation in the PTA or PTO

How to Improve Parent Participation in the PTA or PTO

Like teenagers, parents are busy with work, taking care of their homes, raising children, and personal interests – it can be hard to find time to squeeze anything else into the routine, especially when they know they have teachers, administrators, and existing PTA|PTO members they can rely on. This is frustrating to the people involved, but it also gives you a reason to try and think outside the box in order to improve parent participation.

1. Host a Meet and Greet

It’s possible that some parents aren’t necessarily apathetic about the PTA or PTO, but don’t even know that you want or need them to participate. A casual meet and greet is a great way to meet parents outside of a professional atmosphere. Keep in mind that many parents are intimidated by professional environments, so the more casual the environment it is, the better the results will be. There shouldn’t be any charge for this event (and probably not a great time to pitch your fundraiser) and it should include information, opportunities for input, food and drinks, and activities for the children.

2. Provide Frequent Opportunities for Interaction

Busy parents can’t always make it to in-person meetings and events. That doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say or that they don’t care about the needs of the school or their children – it could mean that you need to offer multiple types of opportunities for interaction.

◦ Send home a simple flyer with students- not a stack of papers and not strategically mixed in with a bunch of other school papers because there’s a good chance it won’t be looked at. Fliers should inform parents of events, but should also ask direct questions for parents to respond to. Offer students positive reinforcement to encourage them to make sure their parents fill the forms out.

◦ Make Use of Technology. Does your organization have an easy-to-navigate website? If not, now may be the time to get one. Websites allow you to provide current contact information, announcements of PTA or PTO fundraising events, polls for suggestions and feedback, messaging, and reminders concerning upcoming events.

◦ Electronic Newsletters. An easy and inexpensive way to keep parents updated is through email newsletters. Encourage parents to sign-up for the newsletter, even if they don’t want to join the PTA or PTO. This gives you a chance to notify them of upcoming events that they may be available to help with or participate in. Be clear about what is needed and request assistance so parents know when you need help. This results in fewer people thinking they don’t have to participate because someone else is handling it.

3. Address Parent and Student Concerns

As a member of your school’s PTA or PTO, you know what most of the concerns are in your community. If you are trying to address those concerns, parents are going to be more interested in helping out. They aren’t going to be interested in doing something like raising money for new athletic equipment when their child is getting bullied by the football team. These are real concerns parents have and they often feel as if those concerns aren’t being addressed. Be the one who shows them something different.

Most of all, if you really want more parent participation, you can’t judge the parents. Instead, try to be understanding and let them know their participation, in any form, matters to the PTA/PTO, community, school, and their children. It doesn’t matter if you have been doing this for the past ten years; let parents know that their first day or first year is just as valuable as all of the time you have already invested. After all, you don’t really know what a parent might have to give up in order to become more involved, in yet another after-school activity.

Like teenagers, parents are busy with work, taking care of their homes, raising children, and personal interests – it can be hard to find time to squeeze anything else into the routine, especially when they know they have teachers, administrators, and existing PTA|PTO members they can rely on. This is frustrating to the people involved, but it also gives you a reason to try and think outside the box in order to improve parent participation.

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