Your mission, should you choose to accept: Involve parents in the planning and execution of your events.
Do you know any parents without booked calendars? Between bringing kids to piano lessons soccer practice play rehearsal and dentist appointments, it doesn’t take an international spy to see there is little time to squeeze in for extra events. Get out your spy clothes, because I’m about to tell you how I’ve accomplished this mission in the past.
Working in a school, I know how quickly germs spread. Do you know what else spreads like a virus? Excitement! I find that when I can convey my excitement for an event, other people feel it and they want to get in on the fun.
It sounds like it goes without saying, but you’re asking for free help from very busy people and it never hurts to be reminded. Be mindful of their time. If you can find a way to save parents time and keep them involved, do it! I had a great opportunity to save parents some time during the school show by creating an informational video instead of bringing them in for another meeting. Check out the video here. Keep your volunteers in the loop. Of course some information is confidential, but share what information you can in a quick and easily accessible manner. As children grow and graduate, new parents will work on your event. It can be frustrating to have “high turnover” but it’s important to keep your patience.
You can never tell your team how important and appreciated they are. It’s like being told someone loves you. It’s never said too much and it can definitely be said not enough. When you create spectacular events, everyone knows the key players. Make sure you highlight the roles parents have. They will be grateful for the recognition and they will feel and extra sense of pride. Other parents will see the number of people involved and want to be a part of the group next time. Not only does that sense of pride encourage parents to participate in the next event, it encourages them to invite and involve their friends to see their work.
Make the Work Fun
So stuffing envelopes for your auction may not be the most exciting task for your parent volunteers, but it needs to be done. Maybe I’m crazy, but I know they are saving me time so I like to use a little of my free time to make boring meetings fun. A director at a financial company I worked for once said in a townhall meeting that your work can be finished in 75% of your day. How you spend the other 25% makes the difference between a promotion and being stuck in a rut. I don’t know about those percentages, but I think it’s true to a degree. If I have time to make a personal call or make an extra cup of coffee, I know I can spend that time making a difference in someone else’s day. Maybe it’s bringing donuts and coffee if I don’t have much time. Maybe it’s making it a “themed” night. Encourage everyone to wear holiday sweaters and bring a speaker to play some great Christmas tunes. If you have extra time, make it a “tea party” by throwing some easy tea sandwiches together and bringing tea. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but it shows the parents that you’re in it with them and you appreciate all they do.
Make It a Pleasant Environment
Encourage parents to build friendships. Make sure your new parents feel like they are part of the group. Be mindful of stressful situations that can lead to gossip or bad feelings. As much as we wish these weren’t problems that we sometimes deal with, as a manager we need to make sure that we are aware that they could be problems that arise. Nobody will want to participate in your events no matter how fun and energetic if they think it can be a negative environment.
Partner with Admissions
The same way we need to inform parents about the importance of the fundraising expectations of the school, we need to inform parents that we expect them to be active members of the school community. We don’t want to scare perspective families off, but it can be mentioned in a casual way. Maybe establish a parent ambassador group to reach out to newly enrolled families who can also mention projects they are involved with. Involvement should be a theme that runs through the school from the first day.