Members are the life blood of any organization. They help fulfill your mission, provide invaluable volunteers, and supply much of your operating budget from their membership dues. For this reason, increasing membership is a top goal for parent organizations.
Membership Toolkit works with all sorts of parent/teacher organizations and has assisted with numerous membership drives over the years.
We’ve collected our best practices, tips, and ideas for a successful membership drive for your PTA or PTO.
Keep in mind, there is no right or wrong way to hold a membership drive. If you feel overwhelmed, choose a few areas to tackle and build on it from year to year.
PTA Membership Drive Ideas + Incentives
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to membership drive ideas and incentives. Having a theme can make planning easier and generates enthusiasm and interest.
12 Membership Drive Ideas to Boost Engagement
1. Membership Contest
A little healthy competition is a great motivator! Classrooms or grades can compete to see who can get the most memberships. Award prizes in as many categories as you want. Recognize top class and top grade, but also set goal levels for the whole school.
2. Local Business Partnerships
Ask local businesses to join your PTA and offer them free promotional opportunities in return. Parent organizations need a lot of support each year to meet their goals. Many businesses—local, national, and international—are eager to gain a good reputation in the communities they serve.
LEARN HOW TO START A CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM, STEP BY-STEP
3. Student Testimonials
Collect testimonials from students who were able to participate in something (field trip, extracurricular activity) thanks to the PTA and share those stories with potential members. Go a step further and publish testimonials and drawn pictures on your website to attract new members.
4. Spinning Wheel
If your membership drive occurs around back-to-school night or open house, have a spinning wheel where new members can spin for prizes. You can buy inexpensive wheels with dry erase sections for multiple uses. There are also plenty of spinning wheel apps that provide ease and portability.
5. Open House Night
Encourage parents, families, and community members to take part in an open house. Make a short presentation about what your organization does for the students. (This may be a good time to use those student testimonials you have collected.) Have computers and tablets opened to your registration page to make it really easy for members to sign up.
6. Social Media Sharing
Create social media accounts for the PTA and encourage members to interact with and share the posts to increase your reach. Give shout outs to new members after they register. Create a picture frame they can use on their profile picture showing their new membership.
7. Give-It-Up Challenge
Position PTA membership dues as giving up a fancy coffee or two, encouraging members to go without their favorite extra treat to support the school. Some examples are:
• $5 Lattes
• Unused Subscriptions (magazines, online services)
• Eating Out
• Bottled Water
• Cable, Netflix, Hulu, Disney +, Peacock, Paramount…
8. Class or Student Sponsorships
Ask community members who don’t have children of their own in your school to “sponsor” another child or even a whole class. Develop an information sheet or graphic to distribute showing prospective members how sponsoring a students can benefit them and the community.
9. Peer Referrals
Encourage current members to invite their friends to join the PTA through word-of-mouth referrals. Offer incentives like gift cards or other donated items or have a contest to see who can make the most referrals.
10. Personal Staff Invitations
Put the “Teacher” back in Parent Teacher Organization! Write personalized invitations to all staff members (not just teachers) inviting them to join your group. Use small incentives for joining or a contest among grade levels or departments.
11. Bake Sale
A bake sale probably won’t be your organization’s top fundraiser of the year but it’s fairly simple to pull off and is a great opportunity to host a membership drive. Sell memberships alongside baked goods as add-ons or bonuses. There is also the added benefit of being in the community and finding new members that may not know what you do.
12. Lapsed Member Outreach
See who has been a member in years past who hasn’t signed up this year and reach out personally to encourage them to rejoin. Be prepared to answer any questions and brag on your group for their accomplishments the previous year. Explain any incentives you have and plans you are making to benefit the school and the students.
9 Incentives to Increase Membership
1. School T-Shirt
Give out a free t-shirt with every membership. This is a great opportunity to showcase your yearly theme and sponsors for the year. It’s also great to have matching t-shirts for any spirit days you plan on having.
2. Class Pizza Party
This is a classic incentive and for good reason—everyone loves a pizza party! Have grade level winners and maybe an overall school winner with a special treat.
3. Raffle Giveaway
Each new or renewed membership gets a raffle ticket. Prizes can be themed or related to the event you’re hosting. If you’re having an open house, raffle prizes can include gift cards. At a back-to-school event, prizes could be spirit wear or other branded swag.
4. Community Event
Host a barbecue, ice cream social, or spaghetti dinner. Try to get the food donated and sell memberships. Or, charge an event fee and include the membership in the cost. Those who are already members can receive a discount on the event fee.
5. Coupon Books
Provide free coupon books or discount cards to PTA members. These can be specific to future events that you have:
• FREE popcorn at the outdoor movie night
• FREE book at the used book sale
• One FREE entry into the Spring Fling raffle
6. School Supplies
Provide a bundle of school supplies (pencils, paper, notebooks, folders, markers, etc.) with each membership purchased. This is especially fun at a back-school-event.
7. Recognition Wall
Add all members’ names to a recognition wall in a prominent location on campus. You can also have a virtual recognition wall on your website to showcase new and renewed members.
8. Flower Garden
You can center your entire membership drive around a gardening theme. Plant a flower in a garden on campus for every membership sold. You can also send each new member home with a flower or packet of seeds.
9. Goal Thermometer
Place a large goal thermometer in a prominent location on campus so families can see the progress you are making toward your goal. Update the thermometer when new members join.
Tips for Hosting a Successful PTA Membership Drive
1. Answer the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, & WHY
WHO should join?
Your potential membership may involve different groups in your community. Define each group and develop a marketing plan specific to each group.
• Who are members of your organization and who should join?
• Don’t forget to include extended families, teachers, faculty, and the community.
WHAT does your organization do?
Don’t assume that your potential members know who your organization is and what it does.
• Always state your organization’s mission.
• List names of board members and a way to contact someone.
• Brag! Give specifics on what your organization has accomplished in the past.
• Dispel myths–families often don’t want to join because they think they’ll be on the hook to volunteer and fundraise.
WHERE can new members sign up?
• Where do you go to join? Make it easy! Parents will appreciate the convenience of being able to sign up online and pay with a credit card.
• If online sign-up is unavailable, let potential members know where to find forms. Keep some in the front office or at each event.
• Use Back-to-School events or first practices as opportunities to sign-up.
Inform potential members about where meetings or events will be held for the year.
WHEN is your membership drive?
What are the dates for your membership drive? Year-long membership drives can be counter-productive. Instead of creating urgency, it becomes background noise. New members should always be welcome but setting a membership period will help you reach your goals. Potential members are more-likely to respond to deadlines and incentives.
WHY should people get involved?
Most people will need to know why they should join and what’s in it for them?
• How does it help students? the community?
• What does your organization do that people care about?
• What are the goals for the year and how will you tackle them?
(new technology? new playground equipment? teacher funds for classrooms?)
2. Set a Lofty, Yet Realistic Goal
Don’t pull a number out of thin air. Set a realistic goal based on last year’s numbers and tailored to your families and members. You may choose to have a catchy goal that you can use as a slogan to market to members like “Lucky 777” or “2,021 in 2021”.
In addition to setting a numbers goal for membership, make sure your board has set goals for the year and use these goals to encourage membership. If you are working toward a specific goal, members are more likely to join and get excited about what they might help accomplish.
While setting lofty goals can be a real motivator to get people involved, setting unrealistically high goals can lead to disappointment. Take some time on the board to discuss this goal to make sure it’s realistic.
3. Form a Diverse Membership Committee
With your board most likely focused on getting the organization ready for a new season, a committee formed specifically to help with membership can take a lot of pressure off and allow the board to focus on other tasks. Have a diverse group with varying levels of membership tenure, ages, and career stages that can help you reach each potential new member.
For example, having a first grade parent on the committee can offer help in recruiting those brand new Kindergarten parents. They know from experience the questions new parents might be having and can harness the excitement of having a child enter Kindergarten.
Consider asking a member of the community or someone from your corporate sponsors to be on the committee. It’s nice to have a different perspective from that of a parent and to help you recruit some untapped resources.
4. Streamline the Registration Process
It doesn’t matter how hard you work to recruit new members, if it isn’t easy to sign up, they won’t do it. No one likes paperwork! Get rid of it by allowing members to fill out forms and pay online. Less typing for you means greater convenience for all involved. You can even increase membership when you offer online sign-up. Participants love the convenience and no more data entry for your board members.
There are tons of benefits when you allow new members to sign up online:
• digital membership cards—Provide digital membership cards on the mobile app and reduce the time and hassle of printing paper ones!
• collect dues online—When members pay dues online, it also provides an opportunity to purchase other items online at the same time.
• membership reports—Download your records to an Excel spreadsheet for easy submission. Run on-screen reports and choose from an assortment of downloadable reports.
• communicate based on membership status—Easily reach out to contacts in your database that haven’t purchased or renewed their membership yet.
5. Leverage Your Technology
Members are busier than ever and things slip through the cracks often. A phone call can be a great reminder for members to sign up and you are also able to identify any problems with signing up or address any questions potential members may have. You can direct potential members to sign up online or help them sign up over the phone.
Make sure to include previous members in your calls. You can gather valuable information about why they haven’t joined again or provide a reminder.
Social Media is also a great tool for increasing membership. Post daily reminders about your membership drive and use catchy hashtags like #MembershipMonday or include new members in a feature.
We have some fun, FREE graphics you can download below. Use them in your social media to attract new members!
6. Encourage Word-of-Mouth Referrals
According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family over any other type of advertising. As a matter of fact, many large companies identify word-of-mouth as the most valuable form of marketing. If it works for large businesses, it is definitely worth the effort for your parent organization.
Offer current members an incentive to encourage new members to join. You could offer a ticket to an annual fundraiser or a small gift card. Or, offer a larger incentive for the member who recruits the most new members.
Give a shout out to those who are actively bringing in new members in the newsletter or on social media. This recognition could encourage other members to do the same.
Members are truly the heart of any parent organization. They are the ones putting in the time, energy, and funding to make your PTA go round. This is why it’s so important to put time, thought, and effort into gaining new members and retaining the ones you have. Remember, membership marketing is more of a process than a quick solution. You may find certain things that work and others that don’t. You can keep the good and build on it from year to year to see a really impressive increase in memberships. By choosing a few themes and ideas we’ve presented and committing to a membership marketing strategy, you will be working toward achieving long-term goals for your organization and furthering your mission.