Go Back to School Thinking About Your End Game

It begins again! When’s the first PTA meeting? When is Open House? Do we have enough volunteers? Where’s the budget? Who has the membership forms? It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of preparing PTA for a new school year. Want some advice? Think about the “end game” to help you focus on what matters. It’s so much easier to get to where you want to go if you know where you want to end up!

How many young people will your PTA touch this year? How many will decide to be a writer because of the PTA assembly, shine in a PTA Reflections program, get active in a PTA fun run, or have their futures open wide during a STEM night? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, will your PTA be able to say it positively influenced the lives of 100% of the children in your community? Think about the excitement your PTA can generate as you work toward that goal and think about how great it will feel to achieve it.

How many families will your PTA benefit this year? How many adults will get involved in their child’s education, have fun as a family, advocate on behalf of a child, or create a healthier, safer home environment because PTA provided the opportunity and resources? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t you love to report that your PTA made a positive difference in the lives of 100% of the families of your community? Think about the partners and members you can attract as you work toward that goal and how amazing it will feel to have that type of impact on children and families.

How many community members will your PTA influence this year? What services and programs can be made available through partnerships, how many non-parent adults will be become school supporters, how many resources can become available to families, children and schools because of the relationships your PTA builds? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t it be deeply satisfying to report your PTA’s role in improving your community and increasing the support it provides to children, families and schools?

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that movement as a member, volunteer or leader? PTA is out to change the world. How will your PTA take us all one step closer to our end game?


Deborah Walsh is the National Service Representative Manager for National PTA.

Membership Matters: The Annual Report

Ending the year right is as important as getting it started right. One important and valuable step for wrapping up your PTA year is putting together and offering your members some type of Annual Report. This is an end-of-the-year report that sums up all of the great work your PTA has done and is a powerful resource to inspire support for your association.

Among other things, the Annual Report allows:

  • Everyone recruiting members to easily show what your PTA has done and what their membership will support.
  • Everyone who is or has been a member to see what their membership helped to support.
  • Everyone in your community to see what your PTA accomplished.
  • Your PTA to show appreciation for everyone who supported your initiatives with their attendance, volunteer work, support or sponsorships.
  • Your school to show how family engagement contributed to making a difference in your school community.

Putting an Annual Report together is not difficult. You may want to include the following:

  • The total number of members for the year.
  • The PTA mission-related activities/initiatives organized or sponsored by your PTA to support the students, the teachers, the families and/or the community—every group impacted by your work. List all your PTA did throughout the year:
    • to welcome all families
    • to promote two-way meaningful communication
    • to empower families to support their children’s academic achievement
    • to empower families to secure their child’s safety, well-being and best learning, social and emotional opportunities
    • to work alongside your school leaders to secure public funding and resources that support the best learning conditions in your school or community
    • to work collaboratively with the business, faith-based organizations and various other communities your school is part of?
  • A list of all activities organized or sponsored by your PTA that raised funds to support the mission-related activities or initiatives
  • A thank you section with:
    • A list of all volunteers who helped to make possible all activities or initiatives of the PTA.
    • A list of businesses, individuals and/or organizations who supported the work of your PTA.
  • Other special accomplishments of your PTA.

Your annual report document doesn’t need to be wordy. Just a reflection of all the work that you did. I’ve seen annual reports in the form of a written document. I’ve seen annual reports in the form of fun videos with pictures of all the activities the PTA organized throughout the year. Because of this exercise, you may discover your PTA is already doing the work of a National PTA School of Excellence and would only need to register and complete the application process to be recognized.

Distributing your Annual Report via a short message with an attachment or a link to a simple PDF or video shared via social media channels or text is also a great way to inspire your members to renew their membership and to continue to support PTA. We can’t wait to see your annual reports!

Need some help? Check out these resources:

Thank you so much for all you do to advance the PTA mission for all children.


Ivelisse Castro is a national service representative for National PTA.

Membership Matters: Focus on the Mission

FastCompany recently published an article asking, “Which brands inspire consumers the most with their missions?” The article, written by Adele Peters, reports on an annual survey called the World Value Index. The World Value Index evaluates companies, nonprofits and some social movements that have come to be identified as brands–and studies how well their purpose or mission succeeds in inspiring consumers. Do you think your community knows the PTA mission by your activities and actions?

“To make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.”

Enso, which published a list of the top 10 brands on the World Value Index, identified two questions that you can ask yourselves and your board to improve your community’s awareness of the PTA mission:

  1. Are we inspiring our parents to use their power to support the mission?
  2. What could we be doing more of to inspire and engage people in our purpose and create more value?

Take some time this summer to answer these questions with your board.

This past year, National PTA served 16.5 million children out of the 50 plus million children in the USA. Out of all PTAs, more than half—55%—are in Title 1 schools. A recent PTA study asked parents if they believed that their local PTA lived up to the mission. The response was eye-opening as many participants were unaware of the mission.

Once they heard the mission, they felt that ours is a cause that they could support.

We have a great deal more work to do to secure our children’s future. You are our grassroots ambassadors and we need you to live the mission. PTA is about advocacy, family engagement and student success.

As PTA, we believe in speaking up for all children and our members lend their support on all advocacy efforts both federally and statewide. PTA is the oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy association and has been for the past 120 years. And we’re not slowing down. Over the last year, National PTA endorsed 17 bills and sent over 70 letters to Congress to advocate on behalf of children and families.

We know that parents first want information to help them raise their children. Please take a few minutes to check out the PTA website, where you can find a wide variety of information under the Family Resources tab, such as our parent guides, health, safety and special education information. Or, feel free to share the Our Children Online Magazine, which offers more general parenting advice. As PTA members, you can take those resources and deliver them to your community.

Family engagement resources and activities can be found on our website as well.  The School of Excellence program embodies the values of PTA—school and community improvement through effective family engagement—and can bring the home and school closer together.  The program provides a roadmap on how to implement change in your school. Enrollment starts now and ends Oct. 1, 2018.

National PTA also offers grants for other activities, including arts education and STEM programs. It is important to check the PTA website often.

As you plan for your year ahead, take a hard look at our PTA mission and plan activities that promote student success and family engagement. Our education systems and schools are facing difficult issues such as school safety and budget cuts—so get involved. We need YOU.

Thank you for all that do in the name of PTA for families, children and educators each and every day.


Mary Jo Neil is a national service representative for National PTA.

Membership Matters: Reevaluating at the End of the School Year

It’s hard to believe, but the school year will be over in just a few short months. Right now is the perfect time to take a step back and evaluate the impact that your PTA has had on your community over the past year. Have you created a welcoming environment for parents, teachers and community members? If you feel that you may have missed the mark or would like to try some new things, now is the time to try out some new tactics.

In a recent article in FastCompany titled, “The Best Brands Are The Ones That Build ‘Belonging’,” enso co-founder Sebastian Buck explains that most people today essentially live in social isolation. This means that despite the fact that we communicate more than ever—with the advent of social media, texting and emailing—these means of communication are impersonal, and we end up feeling more alone than ever before.

Buck cites several disheartening statistics to back up his point, including the following: 40% of Americans report feeling chronically lonely and only half of the population trust their neighbors. It seems that we have lost the ability to spontaneously begin the meaningful, in-person conversations that build relationships and communities. But PTA just may be the perfect solution.

Association trends show that individuals want to join groups to belong. Here is an opportunity for PTAs to create a strong community where families, teachers and the community can interact and connect with one another. From these interactions, your community will develop trust and empathy toward each other as well as learn about each other’s similarities and differences.

So before the school year ends, ask yourself and your fellow PTA members the following:

  • What can you do to build these relationships?
  • Have you considered having an icebreaker at the start of your general meetings—something to get folks talking to people that they would not otherwise reach out to?
  • Could you do some large team building activities to get the community involved?

At a recent training, we did an exercise where individuals walked around and greeted each other. The concept was simply to say hello; however, the activity went to a new level and participants ended up hugging each other.

Another idea that we played with was to thank people for coming to a training session by saying “thank you” in some fashion. I observed participants giving each other high fives and hugging each other. Could you imagine how your members would feel if you ended your meeting or training session in this manner?

The last few months of the school year provide you with the chance to try something new and to build stronger relationships with your members. Give it a try, who knows what kind of connections you might make!

Mary Jo Neil is a National Service Representative at National PTA.

Parents are critical to education’s success

This column was originally published via The Detroit News. 

I was visiting a local school district, meeting with some of their student PTSA members. While there, I had the opportunity to meet the administrative team — principal, assistant principals, office staff. They were amazed that the president of Michigan Parent Teacher Association (PTA) — a statewide association — was there to visit. They felt compelled to discuss how valuable the PTSA was to their school, to the community (as if I had some say over whether or not they existed). The administrators spoke of the dedication of the PTA leaders, how they don’t know what they would do without their help. How they helped with things that the school leaders needed but didn’t know how they would accomplish.

I told them that was the message they need to spread among other administrators. I mentioned that often school officials get intimidated by parents coming into the schools. That they ‘say’ they want parents involved, but sometimes, when they hear “PTA” especially, they draw back support. As if informed, aware parents weren’t what every school — especially those in Michigan — need. I reminded them that parents are the ‘real’ bosses because it’s our tax dollars that fund these schools and without that branch, that aspect of involvement from parents, that none of this is going to work.

“We should have taped that,” the assistant principal said. “That was perfect.”

So, is parental involvement necessary for Michigan to improve in student achievement? Is parental involvement necessary for Michigan to become a Top 10 in 10 in education? Yes.

If parents aren’t active stakeholders in the educational process, we can’t succeed. PTA has known and operated on this premise for 121 years; 100 years now in Michigan. That’s why the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships are key to the transformation we seek as a state. There are six aspects of this partnership that strengthen the school community as they are established: welcoming all families, effective communication, supporting student success, speaking up for every child, sharing power, and collaborating with the community.

Every family is important and adds to the culture of the school. Effective communication allows free transfer of information between families and teachers for the benefit of the students. As communication increases, so does collaboration. Advocacy is part of speaking up for every child — once we all realize how intertwined our lives are, we will begin to make changes that are driven by the quest for student success. This should pull us out of our corners to agree that every child deserves a quality education — regardless of ZIP code. Sharing power is another aspect of coming together to foster nurturing environments that support quality schools and educational programs. Strong collaboration with the community means schools are not looked at as separate entities, but necessary to the state’s success. All these factors support student success, the supposed goal.

For Michigan to become a leading education state, the citizens of the state must push for reform that is not tied to partisan efforts, but truly focused on every child. For 100 years, the Michigan PTA has worked to ensure that every child’s possibility becomes their reality. We must restore the core of our educational structures and values so every child in Michigan will be guaranteed quality education.

Sibyl Wilson is president of the Michigan Parent Teacher Association.

Jan Harp Domene: A Legacy

It is more than a positive coincidence that as part of my responsibilities as chair of the Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach Committee, I am privileged to administer the Jan Harp Domene Diversity Award, named after past National PTA President, Jan Harp Domene.

Many in PTA knew Jan, particularly during her time as National president (2007-2009). My involvement with Jan began when I was appointed as an At Large Board of Directors member by president Shirley Igo. I quickly got to know Jan through her many PTA activities in California and nationally. She immediately impressed me as a knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated PTA advocate.

When I first joined the Board, I thought I would serve a couple of years and be done with National PTA. That changed after I had a heartfelt conversation with Jan, who helped me understand what PTA volunteers bring through their time and talent. I now understood why she gave so much of herself to PTA, and she became an inspiration to me about how to make a difference. I’m now well into more than 16 years of volunteering for National PTA.

Knowing Jan made my PTA time so much richer, and well before becoming president, Jan demonstrated her commitment to diversity through her words and actions. She and I shared many goals in bringing more diversity into PTA, seeing it as a real opportunity to grow PTA and continue to have it be relevant to the needs of children and families. It was no surprise that Jan made diversity a key priority during her presidency, supporting the Urban Family Engagement Initiative and Emerging Minority Leaders program. I know that Jan was personally responsible for mentoring, encouraging and developing new leaders for PTA.

We miss Jan deeply after her unexpected passing, but there is no better tribute than the award named after her. It is a core program of the Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach Committee, and it has been very rewarding to recognize the diversity efforts of PTAs at all levels. More than recognition, the chance to promote high quality work is especially valuable. The Award fits in with the Diversity Toolkit to welcome many underserved communities. The Award winners have shown what can be done with imagination and dedication in building bridges to the families and communities they serve.

Sharing these success stories is a resource in itself – PTAs understand the value of learning from each other. The programs that are recognized are highlighted at National PTA Annual Convention & Expo at the Awards Ceremony, and at the following morning’s Diversity Breakfast. We have featured a winning program in depth at the breakfast, hearing directly from those involved how they built their accomplishment. Last year our State PTA winner, the Real Talk from Florida shared their excitement and passion about their program, and we all left with new insights to take home. Our council/district/region winner, Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District Council PTA and our local unit winner Garfield Elementary PTA were also honored the breakfast and Awards Ceremony.

We continue to grow the Jan Harp Domene Diversity Award – for the first time this year, National PTA will be giving $1,000 to the winning PTAs at the state, regional / district /council, and local levels as well as offering the application in Spanish. It is a major investment in recognizing the role of diversity, and what it brings to PTA.

Those who already know PTA understand its value – our true mission now is to bring that message to more communities, and encourage our entire PTA family to make diversity a special effort. We know, as Jan Harp Domene did, this is what will make us all a stronger PTA community.

Checking in with one of last year’s winners:

Garfield Elementary PTA’s Co President, Rocio Munoz has been hard at work since winning the 2017 Local Unit JHD Award. “JHD opened up many doors for our PTA, giving us visibility in local media and bringing forth new partnerships. The Corvallis-Albany branch of the NAACP found out about our national award and our efforts toward diversity and inclusivity and recognized us at their meeting. We didn’t realize the great resources and grant opportunities National PTA has to offer or that our efforts could go beyond PTA. This was an eye-opening experience! Since JHD, we’ve been awarded 3 additional grants!” Read more about Garfield Elementary: http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/naacp-honors-garfield-pta-for-diversity-and-inclusion-award/article_d9a9a31a-37ef-511f-b6b1-522d4e552cb2.html.

Frank Kwan is a PTA leader and the Chair of the Diversity, Inclusion & Outreach Committee. 

How will your PTA change the lives of children in 2018?

The school-year kick-off is past and holiday craziness is on the horizon. Right now it’s time to grab a pumpkin spice latte, sit back and take stock.

Did the membership year start off with a bang? Maybe a mid-year drive is in order. Plan to start right after the holidays when potential members refocus on school. What value has your PTA already delivered? What value do you plan to deliver in 2018? Call attention to your success and ask for support for the future. Position membership in your PTA as a way to support students and PTA.  Ask people to join a successful movement to improve your school community.  People want to be part of successful teams. They want to know that their dues dollars have impact. Tie PTA membership with positive results.

Will your PTA meet its goals? Now is a good time to acknowledge successes and plan next steps. No goals? It’s not too late. Gather the board and decide what can be accomplished in 2018. Focus on empowering families to support student success.  Find a community agency or organization to partner in hosting a family event. Research your school’s goals and brainstorm ways to align PTA’s efforts to achieve goals together. Concentrate on making an impact and providing value to your community.

Are a few overworked volunteers trying to do the work of many? Consider how you ask for help: “Come be part of our success” vs. “We need people” and “400 children and family members had a blast in 2017. We’re aiming at 500 this year. Help us build an even better 2018 Spring Fair” vs. “We need volunteers for the Spring Fair.” Tie volunteer opportunities to outcomes, tell people they will be part of successful events, and help volunteers feel their volunteer hours have an impact. Break down opportunities into small jobs and find ways people can help from home or with their families—look for ways to help people say, “Yes” to the opportunity.

Candy canes will soon replace candy corn and PTA thoughts will take second place to planning family gatherings and holiday celebrations. Now is the time to make plans to jump start the New Year. How will your PTA change the lives of children in 2018?

Deborah Walsh is a National PTA Service Manager. 

Start Planning for Take Your Family to School Week

National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW) is Feb. 11-17, 2017. The week is timed to honor our Founder’s Day (Feb. 13) and celebrate PTA’s long legacy of family engagement. Although February seems far away, with the holidays coming up it will be here before you know it! Now is a great time to start planning your Take Your Family to School Week celebrations.

Take Your Family to School Week is a great time to:

  • Engage the whole family in reading activities to support children’s literacy skills and help foster a love of reading.
  • Empower families with tools to adopt more active, healthy lifestyles.
  • Showcase how students use technology in the classroom, help close the homework gap by increasing technology access and digital learning at home and support families in creating safe digital environments through the Smart Talk.

This year, in partnership with Chrysler Pacifica and Google Chromebooks, National PTA will provide 55 local PTAs with $1000 to host a Take Your Family to School Week event. All grant recipients must be in good-standing with their State PTA and be a 501(c)(3) organization. Below are four quick steps to take advantage of this opportunity:

  1. Visit PTA.org/TYFTSW to download the grant requirements and a practice grant application.
  2. Use the practice application to design your Take Your Family to School Week event and to save your great ideas.
  • The grant application page will automatically refresh if it is left open. Please use the word document to craft your event and then copy and paste when you are ready to submit.
  1. Complete the grant application by Friday, Nov. 17 to be considered for a $1,000 Take Your Family to School Week Grant.
  2. Celebrate Take Your Family to School Week with hundreds of other PTAs across the country Feb. 11-17, 2017.

A Take Your Family to School Week toolkit will be made available to all PTAs hosting an event during the week. This digital toolkit will include documents that help you plan, promote and report the success of your event. Be on the lookout for helpful resources around your Winter Holiday Break.

National PTA encourages all PTAs to participate in this opportunity and to begin planning for Take Your Family to School Week!

Not Your Momma’s PTA

This is my first year in any kind of Parent Teacher Association (PTA). In years past I would see the slips come home to sign up for the PTA and they would get tossed in the trash. In my head I had this idea of what the PTA was and I definitely didn’t fit into that mold: I’m not a stay at home mom and able to go to every function. I’m BUSY!

As I went to register my son for 3rd grade this year as with the previous years I tried to avoid eye contact with the moms manning the PTA table. They, however, had a different idea. They were raffling off prizes for the people who signed up at registration, which caught my son’s eye. As he dragged me over to the PTA table, there was a woman sitting there with a huge smile on her face who greeted us and started talking about the “new” direction of Florence Community PTA. I listened and was interested but didn’t sign up. I knew that I wanted to help the kids of our community because I could see that not every child was as fortunate as my child.  Fast forward to the first PTA meeting of the year, on of my mom friends convinced me to attend my first PTA meeting…and I knew I had to go because she was much busier than me!  I walked into the meeting expecting the stereotypical PTA with the home baked cookies and 50s styled dresses, but what I got was the polar opposite.

That woman from the PTA table at registration was bouncing around the room greeting people as they walked in with that same huge smile she had during the raffle. As the meeting was called to order I quickly realized that that woman was the PTA president. She shared her passion to make the PTA a champion for the kids. There was something about her passion that helped inspire the group – myself included. There were a few topics being discussed that I chimed in on and after the meeting our president came and talked to me for a few minutes about a couple of projects. In those few minutes I learned more about what the PTA was really about than I could have ever have imagined. This group of individuals were some of the most genuine people I had ever met and were nothing like I had previously imagined the PTA to be. During that meeting, the changed how I saw the PTA. It was clear that they were kind, loving and supportive of one another.

As time went on I became more and more involved with PTA projects. Due to a situation that had happened with my son coming home without his coat several times, I organized a coat drive through my employer to donate all the coats through the PTA. A couple of weeks prior to the meeting where the coats would be presented to the PTA, the president and I ran into each other while volunteering at the school. She told me that there was a need for a new secretary as the current one would be resigning. She told me that she loved my passion for the kids and my desire to make sure no child went without care and attention. She also told me to think about throwing my hat in the ring. I went home and thought about how the PTA could change the lives of kids in our community and came to that next meeting with an overwhelming since of belonging. I knew that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.

I have now coined the phrase that Florence Community PTA is “Not your Momma’s PTA”. We do so much more than sit around, talk and bake cookies despite the stereotypes that exist. This group of men and women have done so much to bring the families and community together to rally around our children. I am now proud to say I am a member of Florence Community PTA.

This blog was submitted by Sarah Nunez, a local leader at Florence Community PTA.

The Rewards of Spring: Fundraising

(Sponsored Post)  For many PTAs, Spring is a time of finishing the school year strong by continuing to support the school and its students so the students are well prepared for the next grade.  PTA plays such a critical role in that by helping to provide programs, curriculum and other opportunities that would not otherwise be available to many students.  With school budgets continuing to tighten across the country, the question is typically not “what programs should we provide our students”, but rather “how will we fund them?”

Schools earn funding from a number of sources throughout the year.  Once source that can make an even larger impact beyond the funding the school may expect is fundraising.  Now, you may be thinking to yourself “Our families are burnt out on fundraising and cannot support another one”.  This is where Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. can step in and help.

Back in 2012, Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. set out find an effective way to further give back to communities.  What they built is a cutting edge fundraising program call Schwan’s Cares that is revolutionizing the way schools raise funds and reinventing the perception volunteers have about fundraising.

A school in Illinois had this to say:

“The Schwan’s Cares™ fundraising program was a huge success for our school.  As a small-town school, it can often be difficult to raise money to keep the curriculum current.  Through the generosity of our school families and community, we were able to raise over $7700 this past year.  Schwan’s, along with other fundraisers, allowed us to purchase a new English/Language Arts curriculum for our students.”

The Schwan’s Cares program is an online fundraising program in which your PTA supporters shop from the over 300 delicious foods from Schwan’s Home Service, Inc with up to 40% of each purchase going back to the group.  Schwan’s takes fundraising a step further by also taking the orders, delivering the orders to each supporter and handling the cash.  The foundation this program was built on was to give back to communities by providing a seamless, effective program that eliminates the hassles associated with more traditional forms of fundraising. As a result, the Schwan’s Cares program has hosted over 14,000 campaigns and have helped give back over $11M to communities.

You know your PTA and school families better than anyone. If now is not the appropriate time to run a new fundraising campaign then there is no need to push it.  However, if your PTA or school could still use funding for end of year celebrations, additional program or curriculum – the Schwan’s Cares program might just be the perfect solution at this point in the year.

To learn more about the Schwan’s Cares program – please visit www.Schwans-Cares.com.

Robb Kaufenberg is the Manager of Fundraising Operations for the Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. fundraising program Schwan’s Cares.