Getting parents to volunteer at school can be frustratingly difficult.
Sure, there are always a few parents who will volunteer for everything. But you don’t want to rely on them. Student activities are richer when there are new parents around to participate.
Many parents, though, are often reluctant to get involved. Teacher Judy Yaron, Ph.D., explains the most common reasons why parents hesitate to volunteer:
- Not all parents are comfortable with volunteering.
- Some are intimidated by parent volunteer groups.
- Parents often don’t understand how important volunteers are.
Also, many parents feel lost in the volunteer space because they don’t know what they can do to contribute or where to find the time to volunteer.
The challenge, then, is how to reach those parents — the ones who have never volunteered but might be interested — and convince them to sign up for an activity.
That resistance can be hard to overcome, but technology can help teachers ease parents’ fears and streamline volunteer processes to drive engagement. Here’s how.
Create online forms to solicit volunteer feedback
For volunteer efforts to be productive, communication between teachers and parents must be a two-way street. It’s unreasonable to expect that parents will participate blindly without voicing their thoughts or opinions.
Actively solicit feedback from parents to develop a working relationship that facilitates productive volunteering. One of the best ways to do this is to create online forms that can be distributed, completed, and submitted electronically.
Angela Watson, teacher and founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, suggests creating a volunteer interest survey that allows parents to indicate how they would like to contribute. From there, you can match them with volunteer opportunities that suit their interests. This is one of the best ways to get parents engaged because it allows you to appeal to their strengths.
Rose Hamilton, the senior editor at School Family Media and a former teacher, suggests asking for feedback after every volunteer event. This is a positive way for parents to get more involved and engaged in the volunteer process. It also will allow you to get constructive feedback for improvements.
Once you have your new ideas and feedback, it is important to consider actually implementing those ideas, according to Shari Sneary, a former PTO organizer at Bridgewater Elementary School in Minnesota. Connect their ideas to the school’s mission, and watch as your volunteers become more consistent and engaged, Sneary says.
Soliciting feedback from volunteers shows that you value their time, appreciate their efforts, and care about their experiences. It also shows that you aren’t just filling a need but are building a relationship with them for the sake of their children’s education.
Be sure to thank them for offering their feedback so that they know you are listening.
Use digital channels to communicate regularly
These days, the best way to reach parents is through digital communication channels. These create a direct line to parents.
Email, text, and social media are all great digital tools for facilitating two-way communication. At the beginning of the school year, ask parents to provide email addresses and phone numbers so you can create a database and share volunteer opportunities easily.
Jay Staniforth, marketing director at technology company Accrosoft, encourages the use of school communication platforms to engage parents in school participation. He explains that these tools facilitate two-way engagement through built-in, targeted communication. Examples of these tools include Remind, Bloomz, and Weduc.
When parents can communicate with you freely and easily, more of them will be willing to volunteer their time.
Harness digital platforms to ease the volunteer process
Matt Harrell, president of communication platform MemberHub, recommends educators make it as easy as possible for parents to understand what kind of volunteer opportunities are available and to sign up for them.
Consider using online registration and scheduling tools to simplify the volunteer process. With these tools, parents can view volunteer opportunities on a calendar and choose those that work best for them.
And remember those volunteer interest surveys? You can use that information, along with an online calendar, to better match parents with volunteer opportunities, according to WeAreTeachers and SchoolLeadersNow editor Jenn Horton. She also notes that using a calendar is a great way to keep yourself organized.
These tools are especially important in getting working parents involved. These parents often believe there are no good volunteer opportunities available for them because of their conflicting work schedules. You can help these parents resolve this issue by getting creative about the volunteer opportunities that are available to them, SignUp.com CEO Karen Bantuveris says.
In your calendar, include activities that can be done before or after work. Parents will appreciate your willingness to accommodate them and may be more willing to volunteer.
Popular volunteer scheduling and organizing tools include
If you use a tool that makes it easy for you to organize volunteer activities and simple for parents to sign up, the number of parents willing to share their time and energy should increase.
Engaging parent volunteers may seem daunting — sometimes even impossible. But by utilizing the many tools that are available, you will be able to build better relationships with parents and ease the volunteer process. This is a win-win situation for everyone: You get the help you need, and parents are able to get more involved in their children’s education.