Archive for the 'Volunteerism' Category

7 Ways To Use Your School’s Alumni More Wisely

There’s a formula in the business world that somehow proves it is less expensive to sell to established or previous customers than it is to find and develop new customers.

I’m not much of a businessman, but that seems to make sense, right? After all, you already have your previous customers’ (or clients’) names, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, and even information about what they bought from you, which indicates preferences and tastes.

You just don’t have that kind of information on people you haven’t dealt with yet. So, you have to work hard and spend lots of money to get new people to become part of your non-profit community.

Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t always be looking to grow your community, but what I am driving at is there are many reasons to put a significant effort into getting more out of the people already part of the group, alumni, if you will.
Here are three ways alumni can help your organization in very important ways. The final four examples will come in the second part of this article to be published soon.

1. Fundraising. It is much easier to make a compelling fundraising case to people who already have been touched in a positive way by your non-profit. In fact, it is possible that alumni would be extra-open to receive fundraising solicitation letters by mail, since you really don’t have to convince them to give. Letter drives are much cheaper to run for the non-profit, so the overhead costs normally associated with product sales or lage events are eliminated. You just have paper, printer ink, envelopes, address labels, and postage. Not bad. 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

Free & Easy Volunteer Sign-Up Sheets

One of the main purposes of this blog is to share with you, the readers, helpful information that will assist you in your school fundraising efforts. One of the best resources for recruiting and managing your fundraising volunteers is a service provided by

I have written about VolunteerSpot before. Here is a quick description of their mission:

VolunteerSpot launched in Spring, 2009 with the mission of enabling ANYONE to quickly mobilize and coordinate volunteers in their community, congregation and social network. VolunteerSpot’s simple sign up application makes it easy for community members to participate and say YES to volunteering. No waiting for approvals and passwords, no software to install, just easy, free scheduling and sign up tools for everyday heroes making a difference.

If you haven’t been to their site and checked out their amazing free products, you should do so right away. They can make a huge difference in the way you work with your volunteer workers.

On their blog today, they posted specific examples of the kind of resources they can provide for you. I have included a couple of pictures (below) for you to see what they’re talking about. To see more, just click on over to their site.

Here is an excerpt from their blog post:

Sign Up Sheets for School, Sports and Other Fall Events

Fall is full of classroom parties, sports events, fall holidays and service projects. It’s always inspiring to see the creative ways VolunteerSpot’s free online signup sheets are put to use!

We wanted to highlight some simple sign up sheets that make it easy to ask for help during the busy fall season. Whether you’re organizing — classroom Halloween Party, School Carnival, Neighborhood Cleanup, Lacrosse Tournament, pumpkin patch fundraiser — asking for help lowers your stress level and gives others an opportunity to feel (really) good as they can easily contribute to your good work.

Whatever you’re organizing, we hope VolunteerSpot will save you time, get more people involved and make your life a little easier!


Fall Signup Sheet Examples




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

A Genius Idea to Get Parents to Sign up for Stuff!

One of things that schools struggle with is convincing parents to get involved with their children’s education by volunteering or donating to important school-related causes.

Since I have four school age children myself, I know who tough this can be. We juggle several balls at once, just like everybody else. So, even though it’s sad to admit, if something isn’t mandatory, there is a lot less pressure for me to show up at something. It’s just the way it is.

There are a couple of elementary schools in San Diego, California, that have recognized this situation, and they have taken a very bold step against it.

According to a report in The La Jolla Light,

The La Jolla Elementary School PTO and the Bird Rock Foundation have announced the dates for their Back to School sign-up days for the many programs and required forms for the forthcoming school year.

This marks the first year that Bird Rock Elementary School will host a sign up event.

The sign-up days are mandatory for all new and returning families, and will include information and/or registration for the following activities and events:

    • Completing mandatory district and school requirements
    • Purchasing products like yearbooks and logo wear
    • Signing up for volunteer opportunities and after school programs
    • Donating to the Annual Giving Campaign.
    • Joining the PTO/Parent Foundation

“We want to provide parents with a convenient, one-stop approach to organize their child’s coming school year,” said Julie MacDonald, La Jolla Elementary PTO President. “By offering forms and information for everything needed to begin and progress through the school year, we free both parents and school staff to focus solely on the start of classes when September 6th arrives.”

Wow! What a novel idea! Make the parents attend by making the sign up event mandatory.

Does your school do this? If so, how has it gone over? Does every family show up? Do the families who do sign up actually follow through on what they commit to? Is there visible resentment from some parents at being forced to attend a school function?

I ask these questions, because this approach is new to me.  I’m fascinated to learn how common this very smart approach is.

In the near future, I will attempt to contact these two elementary schools and see how things have gone for them and what advice they have for other schools considering such a move.

Photo by: Libelul