You signed up to lend a hand at your kiddo’s school during a worldwide pandemic-now what? How can you possibly engage the parents in your organization?
Now, more than ever, our families need to feel engaged and our schools, teachers, students, need to feel supported. With health guidelines that change like a moving target, it’s been a challenge to say the least. The silver lining? This happened in a time where we can connect easily with others virtually.
Here are some tips on how to keep engaged with your community of families and hopefully welcome some new ones along the way.
Hold your Parent Organization's Meetings Virtually
- Believe or not, virtual meetings were going to happen anyway. If you think about it, a lot of schools were starting to live stream PTA/O meetings before quarantining began. So many of us are running around to sports, scouts, church, oh…and work! Adding another meeting to the family calendar for the week is a lot. Hosting online meetings is a great way for parents to easily hop on and listen in (even while prepping dinner).
- Invite your principal to do a report (at the end of the meeting, so people stay logged in). The power of the principal is mighty and a draw for a lot of people. While you have them there-you can share what your group is working on and has planned.
- Invite a guest speaker. Pairing your meeting with a guest speaker is a great way for you to gain some attendees. Think of what your parents would want. Try a mental health seminar or internet safety seminar. A lot of community centers and organizations will offer these for free, especially now that they can be done virtually.
- Record your meeting. We are always looking at how we can “spread the word” about all that we do for our school and communities. Think about recording your virtual meeting so you can post to your website or in your newsletter, so everyone that couldn’t attend can click and watch at their leisure.
- Make your meeting count. The last thing anyone wants is to get a good number of parents attending and lose them because of lack of organization. Stay organized and on task. Never put too much on your agenda and make sure you are carving out time for everyone to contribute. Embracing new ideas and full transparency on what you have planned goes a long way.
Take Your Parent Organization's Events Virtual
Missing the days of Fall Festivals, Bingo Night, and contests? With today’s technology, all of these events can be done virtually.
- Contests/Games – Host a virtual BINGO or trivia night for your families. Include easy prizes that you can mail, drop off, or have a drive-through pick-up. Pumpkin carving, house decorating, a great holiday light contest…endless virtual possibilities are out there. Offering blue ribbons, a fun trophy that you can porch drop, and a shout out in the school’s newsletter and social media are always big draws.
- Talent Shows – Kids and families love to show off their talents. Set up a private YouTube channel and have your families submit their entries, then post them in groups of grades. Each day, you can release the link and enjoy the show.
- Go Hunting – Hide your mascot in and around town and send out clues via social media or email. When someone finds the mascot, they can then hide it and send a clue. Have one person manage it and be your communicator. You can do this throughout the year with different holiday themes as well (think pumpkins, snowmen, and bunnies). No contact, but connecting for sure!
- Spirit Days – Spirit days are always such a hit on campus, but they can be just as fun off campus as well! Try PJ days, crazy hair, or crazy socks. Have your families post pictures on social media and tag your school and/or send to you to post in your newsletter.
- Daily Challenges – Have a teacher or your principal set up and record daily fitness challenges. Again, this can be posted to a private YouTube channel and the link can be sent out. Grab some teachers and mix it up. Have Wellness Wednesday and include a fun nutritional fact or a healthy recipe for children to prepare. Think about hosting an “art week” and have daily craft challenges.
Don't Forget to Recognize and Thank Your Families, Parents, & Organizers
Building a community and making connections is always a challenge, during a worldwide pandemic or not. Making the effort to give your community shout outs and recognition goes a long way. We all know behind the scenes, it’s never just one person who makes a successful parent group. It’s a team of people who all have one mission-to make their child’s, and everyone else’s, school the absolute best it can be.
- Thank Your Parents – Include those who help behind the scenes and those that come to your events. Both are supporting. Not everyone can volunteer. Not everyone can donate money. Both are equally important, and both should be recognized. Try newsletter shout outs, social media, even emails. Hand-written notes go a long way too! When others see the endless list of parents that make the machine run, others will join.
- Thank Your Students – If they are participating in your art contests and other events, thank them! They are your direct link to your parents. Make sure they are getting the kudos they deserve.
- Thank Your Local Businesses – Most surrounding businesses want to offer support. Not only is it great advertising for them, it’s a tax write-off if they donate anything. Make sure and tag their businesses in social media posts and in newsletters. Doing this will make them want to continue supporting you and your school. Offer to put their logo on your website and think about hosting a separate page on your site just for businesses within your community that support and sponsor your events.
- Thank Your Principal – Remember to present a united front with your Principal during every meeting, every newsletter, and every social media shout out. The power of the principal’s voice is huge. Use their voice to drum up membership and advertise your dine-outs and other fundraisers. Tag them in your social media posts so their pages get the kudos to their followers. It’s definitely a team effort !
Looking at what our world is going through and where we still have left to go, can be daunting. What’s important to remember is, a PTA/PTO is only as strong as it’s community. Connecting and getting your parents engaged will always be a challenge. But you can do this!’