Parent-teacher organizations (PTO) are at the very core of the development of school activities and events. They serve a very vital role — to connect parents and staff, address issues, raise funds and create the extracurricular activities that make school such a fun and memorable part of young students’ lives.
However, there are some things new PTO groups should avoid in order to be as successful as possible and best benefit the school and its students. Apex Leadership Co. suggests 10 mistakes that every new parent-teacher group should avoid.
Focusing Only on Fundraising
Yes, many schools desperately need the funds raised, but raising funds is not the sole job of PTOs. And when it comes time to enlist new PTO members, many may shy away from a group that seems to only need “free labor” to help produce a fundraiser. The PTO group can and should be a great way for parents, staff, and teachers to connect in a social environment while also working towards the betterment of the school as a whole. Oftentimes great ideas are developed and shared in just such social settings.
PTO groups can create opportunities for this to happen, and grow their group, by organizing some fun welcoming events that invite new and potential members to find out what the group is all about without feeling the pressure to become a committee member on the spot.
Not Setting a Budget
Whether it’s for school dances, book fairs, fundraisers, or other events, not setting a budget can become a very costly mistake. At the beginning of the year, PTO groups should dedicate a full meeting (or more) to figuring out how to allocate proper funds for each activity. And once the budget is set, it’s important to stick to it!
Being Afraid to Try New Things
Many schools have the same events and fundraisers each year… year after year. And while there is something to be said for tradition, it’s also fun to shake things up a bit and try something new! Doing something again and again just because that’s how it’s been done for however many numbers of years may lead to event boredom. If PTOs are looking to gain more interest and ultimately raise more funds for the school, they need to consider events and activities that will appeal to the masses and get people excited to participate … and donate!
Only Hearing Board Members’ Ideas
Speaking of appealing to the masses, it’s a good idea to give everyone on the PTO a chance to voice their ideas and opinions. This will not only help new members feel welcome and valued, but it will also allow an opportunity for imaginative new ideas to be heard and developed.
Communication is so important when working with a group that requires many roles and many moving parts. When it comes to the PTO groups, it’s important to delegate someone as a “communication coordinator.” This job includes making sure the principal and administration are kept in the loop on key issues and that their approval is garnered before making any major decisions.
Not Delegating Responsibilities
It’s likely that most of the work of a fundraiser or other PTO-driven event may naturally fall on just a few shoulders. But that can quickly lead to members getting stressed, frustrated and even burned out. So it’s important to garner enough volunteers and committee members to make any event or activity easy and fun — as it should be! It’s also a good idea to ask members and volunteers what they like to do and what their skillsets are so the PTO can align those things with roles that volunteers will excel at and enjoy!
Taking Volunteers for Granted
There’s no doubt that PTO members and volunteers do a lot for their schools and students. And while they are happy to do it, a little appreciation goes a long way. After any major event, PTOs should take the opportunity to personally thank volunteers. Hosting an annual volunteer appreciation event such as a breakfast or cocktail hour that honors and recognizes these hardworking helpers is also a good way to show gratitude. After all, when volunteers feel appreciated, they’re more likely to come back again next year to lend a hand.
Letting Organization Slide
Without an organized approach to conducting meetings, planning events, or communicating properly with administration, parents and the community, the PTO is going to probably have some pitfalls that could easily be avoided. Just as important as communication, an organization can ensure smooth sailing during meetings and events. Any PTO group can benefit by assigning an “organizational officer” to help reduce chaos, manage records and so on keep things running properly.
Not Planning Far Enough Ahead
Community events and fundraisers take time — not just to plan and execute but to get enough volunteers lined up, organize the vendors, spread the word about the event, and get the students prepared and excited about it. So, any PTO group looking to put on a successful event or fundraiser should diligently plan ahead.
Not Having Effective Problem-Solving Strategies
Not everyone is going to agree all the time so it’s a good idea for a PTO group to have effective problem-solving strategies in place in the case of a stalemate. Simply taking a vote on an issue with “majority wins,” for example, can ensure a solution in a fair format.
Apex Leadership Co. understands the vital role that PTOs serve for their schools. By avoiding these 10 pitfalls, PTOs can be even more successful in their purpose to serve, improve, and build their school communities.