An article recently appeared in PTO Today magazine titled, "10 Mistakes Parent Groups Make." As I read the article, I reflected on how our newly formed Norwalk Catholic School Parent Teacher Organization (NCS PTO) compared with the stumbling blocks identified. The article cited inadequate communication, overemphasis on fundraisers, lack of long-term planning, and doing things because they've "always been done that way" as some of the shortcomings parent groups encounter. Good news! I was relieved to see those mistakes weren't being made in our organization. This is due to the efforts of both past and present PTO leadership and school administration that recognize and value the contribution of our parent volunteers. As such, we work together collaboratively to identify needs, encourage creativity, plan and complete activities and evaluate their outcomes.
The article further addressed the importance of helping volunteers feel welcome and appreciated. According to a recent study, 44 percent of adults spent some time in the past year volunteering for an organization. Of the adults who volunteered, 71 percent did so because someone asked them to get involved. While appeals for help are often extended as a generic invitation, it's clear that parents participate more, once they connect with a group. Getting parents engaged, excited and attending activities is the first step. Understanding their time constraints is important, too. Often, the primary objection to volunteering is "I don't have time." Planning activities that require only an hour or two of time really helps. The success of our Clip and Sip Coffee Hour, in which we prepare thousands and thousands of Box Tops for Education while sharing conversation and coffee, attests to the importance of doing something worthwhile, at a convenient time, that builds community among parents. Similarly, the response to our recent request for donations for faculty Christmas cookie trays was very encouraging. Many parents contributed beautifully decorated treats that, when collectively arranged on trays, made a Christmas gift the faculty truly appreciated and enjoyed. Why was this so successful? Because it gave parents an opportunity to be involved, yet they had the flexibility of volunteering their time to make cookies when it best fit their schedule.