Perfect planning 3: volunteers
In the spring 2016 issue of PTA+
Magazine, Australian fundraising expert Mandy Weidmann talks
people skills and how to successfuly recruit and nurture
Volunteers are the lifeblood of fundraising for schools, so it's
essential to create an environment in which all feel welcome,
accepted and valued. With ever-increasing demands on time-poor
parents, it is no surprise that volunteers are often difficult to
come by. Volunteering therefore needs to feel like a rewarding
investment of time.
Hone your leadership skills
Effective leadership is central to the success of a great
volunteering culture. A good PTA Chair will help steer the
committee through the process of developing a strategy, but a truly
effective leader will do much more. Leadership skills can be
learned, and people of all personality types and backgrounds can
become effective leaders.
Establish your need
Educate your community about the value of what you do and share your strategy document with everybody -
volunteers will derive comfort from the fact that you are
organised, and are likely to be motivated by clearly-identified
goals. Demonstrate the value of your volunteers and give examples
of volunteering opportunities for a variety of time
Include a PTA information booklet with the pack distributed by
the school to new starters, and provide regular newsletter updates.
If you don't have a specific event or reminder to include, use the
space to educate everyone about the good work you do: past
successes, investments made with PTA funds, or a simple 'thanks'
for parents' continued support.
Set behaviour standards
Set out a code of conduct that will govern how you treat your
volunteers and how they are expected to behave within your
committee. It makes sense to establish a 'code of conduct' with
your annual strategy meeting and to adopt it formally at the next
AGM. Use these prompts:
- How do you want people to treat each other? Let this be an open
discussion, and draw on the core values that pupils are encouraged
to adhere to.
- How can outsiders feel included? Overcompensate for the
perception that committee members are 'cliquey' - at school
sessions, make the effort to mingle with newcomers - it's much
easier to engage potential volunteers if you lavish them with
- How can conflict be dealt with? Decisions need to be made
democratically, but negotiate your way through a variety of
opinions by following some simple rules. If things get heated,
suggest following up another time and move on to the next
- How do we foster creativity? Encourage left-field thinkers,
welcome all ideas and filter out the weaker suggestions later.
Break it down and recruit
Your fundraising strategy will expose your volunteer needs.
Identify and communicate the many different tasks that need to be
fulfilled in order to implement your plan. If you know what your
volunteer requirements are in advance, you can put energy into
filling those roles rather than doing them yourself later.
Find key people to 'own' each fundraising initiative, based on
their strengths and interests, and do this early - the further away
the job is, the less scary it seems! Encourage your event
organisers to recruit their own teams of helpers. To help attract
- SEND OUT A FORM seeking member/carer details -
read our guide to data protection. Find out how
they prefer to be contacted and when. Do they have a particular
interest, skill, or connection?
- SIGN UP HERE! Create an appealing volunteer
sign-up board listing the events and projects that require help.
Provide details of how people can help, including timelines where
possible. This will allow potential helpers to factor their time
into their personal commitments.
- TARGET NEWBIES! Use 'meet the teacher' events
to introduce your PTA and include details of your group in any
packs sent out by the school.
- GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL! Approach people
face-to-face with a specific request. Be prepared to explain the
sort of help you need and how much time you think might need to be
committed to the task.
Value your volunteers
Without amazing volunteers, our PTA fundraising would fail, yet
it's easy to forget to show your volunteers just how much you
appreciate their efforts. When someone does answer your request for
help, have everything ready to go. The classic example is setting
up for a fair - prepare a list of stalls, where they're positioned,
what equipment each one needs and where it can be found.
Think about little touches that form a volunteer appreciation
programme. This might include a voucher for a free coffee at the
summer fair, or a special prize draw reserved just for volunteers.
When possible, use the personal touch when saying thank you. A
phone call or handwritten note is so much more personal than an
email... but an email is better than nothing! Few jobs are as
important as recognising and thanking your volunteer workforce.
Avoid fundraising fatigue
Fundraising fatigue is akin to the corporate world's burn-out,
and it's something your group definitely wants to avoid. It's
sometimes easy to forget that volunteers can be involved in other
community groups as well as having family lives and work. If your
volunteer base is spread too thin, rethink your fundraising
Consider scaling back your activities to focus on those that
make the most money with the least time commitment. Plan and
recruit volunteers early to spread the load - think about setting up a class rep system if you don't
already have one. And remember to maintain an inclusive culture to
keep your team motivated. In this way, your PTA volunteers will
feel satisfied and valued, and, most importantly, be happy to help
It is not fair to ask, or expect, a new member of a committee to
take on a big role straight away. Wherever you can, ease volunteers
in and train them up gently. Aim to pair new volunteers with
experienced committee members, so that they can learn the ropes for
a year before taking over (fingers crossed!).
About our expert
Mandy Weidmann is the fundraising coordinator at her children's
school, so understands fully the everyday challenges and triumphs
of working with other volunteers to raise funds for a good cause.
As a small business owner she knows how important it is to have a
great plan in place! Mandy is author of The Practical Fundraising
Handbook and publisher of the Australian Fundraising Directory, as
well as being a qualified lawyer and mother of five children - she
knows all about managing chaos!
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