A good relationship with your PTA is a win-win for school fundraising, so how can you help recruit and retain volunteers, asks school development manager and PTA chair Sharon Noble
As with any working relationship, the one between a school and its PTA functions best when it is cooperative, productive and beneficial for all. Yet post-pandemic, many schools have been reticent or unable to rebuild the relationship. There are four reasons why it’s important to get back on track:
1. Unrestricted income
Through events and activities, your PTA delivers a much-needed funding stream that can help your school redirect limited budgets. The average PTA brings in £7,000 per year to a school, and when schools actively collaborate with their PTA the potential for income generation is even greater. Any funds generated can potentially provide match funding for grant applications made by the school or the PTA. Moreover, since PTAs normally have charitable status, they offer greater opportunity for fundraising through trusts and foundations.
Activities planned by the PTA can enrich school life. The PTA can fund opportunities that support teachers, as well as resources and experiences for children during school hours.
The reach of parents in the local community can extend to businesses, charities and youth organisations which could potentially support the school. PTA members themselves often have useful skills, and might run or work in local businesses.
The PTA can help with queries and contacts about the school, as well as being a vital resource for disseminating information across the school community.
How to rebuild your PTA
After two (sometimes three) years of less activity and publicity during the pandemic, many parents simply do not know about the PTA or have forgotten about its previous work. Together, the school and PTA can build up momentum again, celebrating the PTA and organising some small fundraisers to get parents’ attention.
Many PTAs lost experienced members when children finished school during the pandemic, without the normal handovers taking place around events or contacts with key school staff. It can feel very daunting for new PTA members to approach school staff, so reach out to them and re-establish relations.
The impact of lockdown on the mental health of children, families and staff means that schools are providing additional support and services, creating demands of everyone. Enrichment activities run by the PTA can help to improve children’s mental health, so encourage any ideas and opportunities.
A flexible team
Strangely, it appears that working at home may have reduced parents’ capacity to volunteer. Many now squeeze work around school hours and are much less able to find a few hours here and there to support PTA activities. Having more hybrid ways of working with the PTA and helping to recruit a bigger team will help with this.
How we revived our PTA
During the pandemic, Oak Lodge Primary FSA lost five key PTA members (including a co-chair and summer fete lead) as their children moved on to secondary school, or other commitments took over. While the remaining team of four did an amazing job of running some virtual and distanced events during lockdown, something had to be done.
Working closely with the school, the PTA re-engaged the community in the following ways:
- Assemblies, talks at coffee mornings and social media posts celebrating our achievements
- Profile-raising of the PTA through communications about our summer fete, including open planning meetings at different times and days to encourage attendance
- Messaging about the need to get more organisers and committee members on board
- Running a smile offensive, where we greeted everyone on the way to and from school. (My first experience of the PTA had been a daunting meeting, followed by the chair blanking me in the playground, so I wanted to ensure we gave out a welcoming message.)
All this work meant we managed to organise and staff the summer fete with volunteers. We raised £10,500 profit and created a huge buzz around the school because of a great day. The funds were spent on iPads and enrichment opportunities.
However, we couldn’t run any more events of this scale with a team of four so the next step was to run a targeted recruitment campaign. A Google Form was sent home via the office asking for feedback on the fete and collecting information about those who would like to get more involved in volunteering, organising or being on the committee. Out of a school of 600 children, we received 12 replies – but that was better than nothing.
Individual emails were then sent to all those who replied, thanking them for their interest, sending further information and explaining we would arrange some meetings.
We then held two meetings – one evening in a bar and one morning in a coffee shop. At least three committee members went to each meeting and explained the history of the PTA, its current position and our hopes for the future. We went through the roles and answered questions about the committee. Parents who could not make either meeting were offered an individual chat or coffee.
This investment in time paid off: we recruited a new secretary and co-chair, as well as four other committee members who were all voted in at our AGM. Alongside this, we had the buy-in of four more key volunteers who have all taken on non-committee roles to help with coordination and communication.
This means our PTA committee now has children in every year group. We are ‘training’ new members on the events that we run and welcoming new ideas. More people are talking about us as we have a greater representation in the school and, perhaps most importantly, the work is spread out – and we are able to enjoy doing what we do!
- Sharon Noble is FSA chair at Oak Lodge Primary School
How to support your PTA
- Designate a staff member to be a point of contact to reply to queries and questions
- Make sure the headteacher has contact with the PTA – even if this is termly
- Tell the PTA what you need funding for – give them a purpose
- Provide some admin support where possible, such as letters home, putting up posters, collecting forms
- Provide free space and support for PTA activities, even if this means moving regular hirers once in a while
- Appreciate PTA members as individuals and provide thanks and celebrations of PTA achievements.
How to set up a PTA
Engage with targets and offer support
Find someone you know can take the lead on the PTA. Is there a parent or staff member you could work with? Make time for coffee and chats and ensure that school support is in place. Could you offer the time of an employee for a few hours a month to provide support? See our sister site PTA.co.uk for more information on the steps involved, plus tips on how to manage a PTA and run meetings.
Agree the processes
Once the PTA has been set up, you can register it as a charity and get a bank account. However, you need to ensure you have some processes covered from the start so that momentum can grow. Could you offer logistical support, such as storing or banking funds in the short term and sending out communication to parents?
Run a cake sale or coffee morning to introduce parents to the idea of a PTA. Use the momentum from this to call a meeting for interested parents and carers, and start to think about volunteers, roles and the structure of the organisation and committee. Make sure senior staff attend to show how important this is to the school.
Start to stand back
Allow the PTA volunteers to develop an organisational structure, decide on the constitution and roles. Keep in contact to ensure the PTA complements what the school wants and needs, and to make volunteers feel valued and important.
- Sharon Noble is development manager at Chestnut Grove Academy, in South London