Archive for the 'PTA/PTO' Category

Awesome Example of a PTO Gettin’ After It

I think it’s easier to find examples of parent-teacher organizations that are missing opportunities, rather than taking advantage of them.

However, when I actually find an instance of a PTO or a PTA doing something original and effective, I get really excited. And I want to write about it.

So, today, in the Hudson Hub Times Online, I found a short news blurb about an event the Hudson PTO held on November 9 and will hold again on November 16. Here is the blurb:

Have coffee with PTO

The Hudson PTO will offer all-new PTO Coffee Days at the Hudson Panera on Nov. 9 and 16 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. PTO members will answer questions, welcome feedback, and sign up existing Giant Eagle and Heinen’s Rewards cards in the PTO Rewards Program. In addition to rewards cards, visitors can learn how to support the Hudson schools by shopping online at favorite stores. They will learn how to get involved and details on upcoming PTO events and volunteer opportunities. For more information, call PTO President Becky Hinkle or visit

Wow. I love it! Here are a few things that really stand out to me.

1. The PTO is going to the people, rather than expecting people to come to them.

2. They are doing the work to sign people up for the grocery rewards cards, which is always an obstacle for people joining these programs. continue reading

Is a Blurb in a School Newsletter Enough to Get People to a Meeting?

Do your PTO meetings suffer from a lack of attendance? Do you need more volunteers for everything your group tries to accomplish? Do the same few people show up for everything and do virtually all the work?

Well, if this is the case at your school (and I know that it is, because it’s the same all over), then I suggest you look at how you are inviting people to the meetings.

Now, I know that this isn’t the magic bullet solution to the overall problem of volunteer recruitment, but the way you ask people to join your cause is important.

And, I have to say that, as an example, my own children’s elementary school isn’t doing a very active job of recruiting us parents to get involved.

At our school, the PTO meets once per month. I know this because they advertise their meetings in the school newsletter, which I receive and actually read.

In fact, here is the blurb they included in the most recent newsletter home:

Our PTO meets next on Thursday, November 17, at 5:30. All are welcome to join us in our school library.

This wording is pretty typical for the announcement. As they said in that old television show, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

When I see this in the newsletter, there’s nothing that grabs my attention about the meeting or really encourages me to change my schedule to attend this meeting. I just keep skimming the newsletter looking for anything that really pertains to my own kids.

I have said over and over in this blog, that working for the school’s PTO is basically a sales job. It’s marketing. It’s convincing people to give up their time and money for a reason. If you want them to do it, you have to “SELL” it.

So, the newsletter blurb is a fine place to advertise the meeting, but you need to say much more than just the time and the place. Include what you’ll be talking about. Add some drama, and there’s always drama you can include. (Like, “We’ll be discussing the budget for field trips this coming year. If we don’t raise enough money, there will be no field trips all year!) Also, make sure you advertise that there will be food (preferably pie). Food is always a big draw, especially pie.

But then the PTO members have to personally invite people to attend. Each PTO member should make it a goal to invite four friends to each meeting. Get on the phone with them or stop them in the school hallway, and twist their arms.  Use your friendship to guilt them into coming.  Then those four should put the squeeze on a few more. And so on. Personal invitations are the best way to get people involved.

If a two-line, uninspired blurb in your school newsletter is all you do to invite parents to join your meetings, you don’t have any right to complain that not that many people show up week after week. You need pizzazz, excitement, drama, a call to action, and pie.

Photo by: Tracy Hunter

Do You Approach Fundraising Like an Entrepreneur Would?

Recently, Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki teamed up to write a book on the subject of entrepreneurship called “The Midas Touch”.

In this book, they list five attributes that separate successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones. These characteristics are:

  1. Character
  2. Focus
  3. Brand
  4. Relationships
  5. The Little Things

No matter what you think of Donald Trump, he has had a long and storied career as an entrepreneur, so it’s worth at least considering what he has to say on this matter.

I’ve stated many times before that I believe that school fundraising is a total sales job. You are trying to convince people to spend their money to buy a better product, namely a better school experience for their children. It doesn’t matter if you’re running an auction for your school, or a carnival, or a walk-a-thon. It could also be a product sale or a direct mail appeal. Whatever form your fundraiser takes, you are engaged in the art of sales.

Therefore, I think it’s appropriate to consider yourself an entrepreneur of a sort. You have to be creative, bold, and fearless when it comes to figuring out the best ways to earn the most money for your school.

So, if you are an entrepreneur, then, let’s look at the five markers of success that Trump and Kiyosaki highlight in their book.

1. Character. School fundraising is notoriously filled with “no’s”. You hear them all the time. It would be very easy to get discouraged and walk away from the effort of raising money in a school environment. I think it is especially frustrating because the cause itself is so important- their children’s education. It is going to take the strength of your convictions and your character to stick with this noble but frustrating calling.

2. Focus. This is a tough characteristic to maintain over the long haul. There are so many other important activities and responsibilities pulling at you that your volunteer time sometimes takes a back seat to other pressing matters. It is unrealistic to expect one person to maintain a laser-like focus on school fundraising during the entire school calendar, so I think the better strategy would be to get several people to share in a part of that necessary focus. Make sure you have a good team to work with on the task of raising money. Going it alone is a sure-fire plan to get burned out.

3. Brand. I know this sounds very “marketing-speak” but it does have a significant importance in your school fundraising campaigns. Just like you are attracted to certain marketing campaigns out in the world, you should think about the ways you present your fundraising materials for public consumption. How is your audience going to react to your fliers? Your website or Facebook page? How will they respond to your ideas for fundraising events? Do you keep them interested with new uses of technology? If you are sending out black and white, clip-art type of announcements, no one is even going to read them. There goes your participation and there goes your revenue. continue reading

Do Your School Families Know Why You are Raising Money?

As you start off the school year, you are most likely starting to think about the fundraisers you need to hold to pay for the events and supplies that are not going to be covered by the school’s operating budget.

Fundraising is very much like a sales job. You need to convince your audience that they should part with their money and send it to your school. That’s a tough task, but it one that you signed up for. So, let’s try to make this as simple and as straight forward as possible.

Here’s one piece of advice that can help win over skeptical parents: Be absolutely sure that every single fundraiser you run is CLEARLY linked to the goal you have in mind. So many times, parents are confronted with a fundraising letter or a packet of information about the product they are being asked to sell, but very little information as to what the heck the money they raise will be used for.

To me, this is a cardinal sin of fundraising. Am I just supposed to “trust” that whatever fundraiser shows up in my kid’s backpack is legit? Well thought out? Necessary? A good deal for the school? I know this may come as a shock to those working in the schools, but not every thing is worthy of a fundraiser. With so many families having to be conscious of how much they spend, there should be a much higher bar when it comes to deciding what merits a fundraiser.

Sadly, I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten a really excellent explanation as to what the money is going to be used for in any individual fundraiser, and I’ve got four kids who have been in school for a while, too.

There have been basic explanations, of course, but nothing that really knocked my socks off and convinced me that no matter what my current financial situation is, I really have to make a sacrifice and donate to the school.

That means the people who have been in charge of fundraising at my kids’ schools have not been very effective sales people.

Think about it. If you were in the market for a new or used car, you’d do a lot of research on the vehicle before plunking down your hard-earned cash, right?

I even did a lot of reading up on televisions before I bought a new set recently. I had to figure out the differences between plasma and LCD. I wasn’t going to spend a few hundred dollars without knowing what I was doing. I spent a lot of time with the sales staff at our local electronics store, before I finally made a purchase. The salesman had to work for my sale. He had to be knowledgeable about everything I could have thought to ask. He knew that the quality of his answers was directly linked to my money.

This is the same mindset anyone raising money in a school setting has to take.

And, as I wrote above, the first way you can do this, is being crystal clear with your audience, what it is you are asking them to buy. Go ahead, knock their socks off!

Photo by: altemark

School Fundraising Tips from Tim Sullivan, PTO Today President

One of my favorite websites in the educational world is PTO Today. There are so many fantastic ideas and conversations going on every day.

You’ll find resources to help you navigate every aspect of school life- from planning fundraisers to how to run PTO meetings, to being able to vent about your frustrations in a friendly forum. PTO Today is a site that everyone involved in school fundraising should be checking out on a regular basis.

The president of PTO Today is Tim Sullivan. Tim has spent his entire career in the education world. He has worked as a teacher and administrator at a NYC high school, then as a senior manager for a New England-based fundraising concern; and now as the founder and leader of PTO Today. He has spoken at hundreds of parent group meetings and to tens of thousands of parent group leaders all across the country. He also maintains a role as a senior writer for PTO Today magazine and is a leading voice on best practices in connecting with parent group leaders.

I spoke to Tim once about the topic of fundraising fatigue. Since he deals with hundreds of schools, he has a verey good perspective on how to ask parents for money without over-burdening him. Here are a few of the things Tim had to say on this topic:

“If you’re feeling the negative effects of fundraising fatigue—perhaps your latest sale didn’t go as well as last year’s or you’re having trouble finding volunteers to help out with the counting—then the problem is likely with your group’s fundraising habits. Nine times out of 10, fundraising struggles are self-inflicted.”

To combat the symptoms of fundraising fatigue, Tim suggests two strategies.

“First, we have to run fewer fundraisers, but run those few more effectively. (Dump a couple—you’ll live!) Two weeks of really hard work and focused fundraising attention is often way better than 12 weeks where some combination of smaller fundraisers are taking place.

“Second, we need to keep in mind the very reason we are engaged in fundraising efforts at all. “The reality is that fundraising provides essential funds for the extras that turn schools from piles of bricks with teachers inside into magical places of discovery and learning and community. Playgrounds. Field trips. A child’s first exposure to the theater or music. The family event that cements friendships that last a lifetime. These are the essentials of fundraising.”

Here is a short video Tim recently posted on PTO Today that covers this topic above, as well as how to grow parent involvement at your school. Thanks to Tim and his staff for doing so much great work that helps us raise money at our schools!