Archive for the 'Leadership' Category

Is the “T” Missing from Your PTO or PTA?

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may know that I used to be the principal and administrator of a private elementary school. Therefore, I have worked with teachers closely and have learned about their struggles, challenges, and obstacles.

I have a great deal of respect for the hard and important work that teachers do. I am still currently involved in working with students, and there are many days I wonder how the teachers cope with so many young people on a daily basis.

I also know that the hours between 8:00 and 3:00 are only a part of the day teachers put in. With staff meetings, extra-curriculars, mentoring, and grading papers, their work day is long.

However, there are many schools that are getting absolutely zero cooperation from their teachers when it comes to fundraising or spirit building activities put on by the parent-teacher group in the school.

This lack of participation, especially when the parents have repeatedly asked for their involvement, can be very discouraging to the parents who are giving their time to the same cause the teachers are working for.

Nobody is accusing the teachers of not working hard. And nobody is asking the parents who are volunteering to give more of their time. But, what is the solution? What is fair to expect from the teachers?

Basically, I think the answer to this problem starts in the principal’s office.

I firmly believe that the principal sets the mood for fundraising at the school. If the principal thinks fundraising is “beneath” the faculty, then the teachers won’t be very helpful. But, if the principal sets an example, by being involved him- or herself, if he or she gets excited by the fundraiser at hand and makes an effort to pump up the students, if he or she verbally affirms the teachers who do get involved, then there will be a much more active participation from the teachers.

Teachers are employees, just like everybody else in the workforce. For the most part, employees tend to value what their boss values. They often reflect the taste of their supervisor. For example, if a principal arrives early to work on a regular basis, then the staff will recognize that punctuality is important at that school. If the principal chooses to be very formal in his or her wardrobe, it’s likely the teachers will follow suit (pun intended!).

So, if you are having a problem in your school with lack of teacher participation in fundraising activities, I suggest you start working on getting your principal to be much more active and enthused about raising the money needed to provide students with the education materials and experiences they need.

Photo by: by dumbledad

What Kind of Fundraiser is your School’s Principal? Part I

One of the first things you, as a fundraising volunteer, need to figure out before you launch an ambition fundraising plan is what kind of views your school’s principal has regarding the practice of fundraising.

You would think that all principals would be super enthusiastic about raising as much money as possible to fund all of the things they want for their school.

However, this is not the case at all. I have learned this from experience.

First, there are principals who feel guilty asking parents that he knows are struggling financially to give money to the school. As a result, they keep fundraising to an absolute minimum, never try anything new, only go with what they know works, downplays the importance of the event or the sale, and never thinks big. While I don’t’ agree with this mindset, I can at least understand their feelings of compassion for those who might not be able to donate.

And, then there are the principals who are so academic, so up in their ivory tower, that they view fundraising as “beneath” them, so they keep anything to do with raising money at a great distance from themselves. It’s something to be handled by volunteers, because he, the principal, has much more important things to think about. Since I was a principal of a school myself, I do know that there are many important things to think about, but fundraising has to be included on that list. And, it is my view that the principal should be the schools number one cheerleader for fundraising, simply because he or she sets the tone that everyone else follows.

A third kind of principal is the one who figured it all out years ago, created a system that seems to work for him or her and refuses to change it or put in any more thought to it. This kind of principal is not hostile toward fundraising, it’s just that he or she believes fundraising is a necessary evil, not that difficult to figure out, and they simply came up with a solution. End of story. I’ve seen this at a middle school that’s run the same candy bar sale for 25 years in the fall and the same fruit sale in the spring. Nothing has changed in a quarter century. They always hit their goal, but they never push any higher. This just shows me a stunning lack of creativity on the part of the principal. And I have to believe that it extends into everything else he or she does at the school.

So, if you are volunteering with a parent-teacher type organization, and it is your job to run a fundraiser, you should very quickly find out what kind of principal you are dealing with. Hopefully, he or she will be very helpful, understanding, and supportive of your efforts.

In the next post, I will offer some suggestions as to how you can possibly help your principal see things a little differently.

Photo by: falcon1961

Make Regular Communication with Teachers and the Principal a Top Priority

When I was the administrator of a private elementary school, I realized very quickly that the teachers on our staff were also my front-line sales force. Not all of the teachers relished this role, but it was a fact, nonetheless.

As you are planning your school carnival, you must start to think of them in this capacity, as well.

The simple truth is, if the teachers want something to happen, it happens. If they don’t see the importance of an issue, it “mysteriously” fades away.

This is why you do not want to alienate the staff in any way. You are counting on these people to make sure fliers get passed out on time, important announcements are stressed to the students, auction projects are well-thought out, well-crafted, and done on time, and that they actually show up to help on the day of the carnival with big smiles on their faces.

With the many responsibilities a teacher has, you’ve really got to make a strong effort to gain their full attention. Here are some suggestions:

1. Butter them up- a cup of gourmet coffee, a small plant, a modest gift card, or just a simple note of appreciation goes a long way toward winning a person over. You should have volunteers whose sole job it is to sprinkle the teachers with affection.

2. Be clear with your expectations- put everything that you want the teachers to do in writing. It’s way too easy for them to make a verbal promise and then get busy and forget. Teachers need clarity and specificity from us. If you want them to remind students to make sure their money is in for the pre-sale wristbands next Friday, put it in a memo and hand it to each teacher individually. Don’t ever assume that a teacher knows what we actually want to happen and when. continue reading

6 Ways to Conquer Fundraising Fatigue

Even though I write about fundraising almost everyday and even though I worked in the non-profit industry for over 20 years, I have to be honest and tell you that I am sick of fundraising. I’ve got four active kids and they are always coming home with something I have to sign or write a check for. I feel like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan in one of those old martial arts movies where they have deadly assassins coming at them from every side. Only instead of fighting for my life, I am fighting for my wallet.

However, that said, I still UNDERSTAND why fundraising is important, and I don’t want my kids missing out on the important opportunities that fundraising can bring, so I do my best to play along. But, I wanted you all to know that I, like everyone else, have fallen victim to the dreaded affliction- Fundraising Fatigue.

So, if I, a veteran of several fundraising campaigns, am tired of being hit up for dollars, I can imagine the frustration of someone not used to the fire of a non-profit in need.

This article, therefore is addressed to school fundraising committees. Here are some ways you can show mercy on your students’ parents. Please do.

1. Create a fundraising plan at the beginning of the year and stick to it. If you’re always changing things around or just coming up with a surprise fundraiser, people will start to hate you. continue reading

Who Sets the Fundraising Tone in Your School?

Every ship needs a skipper. Every team needs a captain. Every orchestra needs a conductor. And, yes, every school needs a fundraising leader.

Here is a list of just some of the responsibilities a school fundraising leader must accomplish:

1. Assess school needs that are not covered by budgetary spending.

2. Communicate with the teaching staff and the school administration to find out what the fundraising priorities should be.

3. Come up with a well-balanced plan of fundraising attack that lasts the entire year long.

4. Have an excellent grasp of when other schools or non-profits are holding their fundraisers, so there’s no conflict.

5. Communicate the school’s need to the parents of the students in several different manners, making sure they understand the goals of the school’s fundraising campaign.

6. Research any fundraising companies the school might be working with and find the right combination of popular product, good price, solid customer service, and high profit sharing percentage.

7. Put together a competent and enthusiastic fundraising team of assistants, from which future leaders will emerge.

8. Organize and delegate responsibilities for all fundraising events through out the year.

9. Keep the students motivated during all fundraising activities.

10. Keep the parents updated on fundraising progress.

11. Make sure the teachers are promoting fundraising events in the classroom.

12. Keep track of all bookkeeping records.

13. Make sure all financial systems are safe from embezzlement or general mis-management.

14. Develop healthy relationships with local merchants for donations, discounts, and support with things like ad sales in yearbooks.

15. Keep excellent records of all fundraising activities so that future fundraising leaders will know where to begin.

Now, some of these responsibilities would seem to fall squarely into the purview of the parent-teacher organization. Teachers and principals should spend most of their time concerned about the student’s educational experience.

However, the question I posed in the headline of this article was “Who Sets the Fundraising Tone in your School?” continue reading