Lessons Learned from the PTA

KathieGreen_8x10printAs I retire from PTA this year, there are so many memories and opportunities I have had because of my involvement at the local, council, state and national PTA level.   My entire life would truly be different if one person had not asked me to get involved! I wouldn’t have had two jobs I absolutely love. The skills PTA taught me have served me very well. When I interviewed for my first job when reentering the workforce, the interviewer even bumped up the job I was going for because of the work I did in PTA. At that time I didn’t even equate writing newsletters, managing volunteers, public speaking at school, and organizing events as a PTA member relatable tasks to a job. Every day I am thankful for PTA for teaching me the very skills I need to succeed in the workforce. Without PTA, I wouldn’t have met incredible staff, creative and talented parents, and I wouldn’t have really gotten to know my community. The lifelong friends I have made are a bonus in my life and I am sincerely grateful.

In that spirit, the top things I have learned over the years are:

1) Be positive and be a cheerleader for your school. Sing the praises of the teacher that went above and beyond, thank the staff who work hard every day for our children, and notice the hours your principal is putting in. If you tell EVERYBODY the good stories, then you will start seeing those good stories everywhere. Be a school champion every chance you get!

2) Ask. Ask for help. Getting over this barrier is huge. Importantly though, be specific. Make it reasonable and break it down. I believe people do want to help, they just don’t know how and are worried about over-committing. Know what you need donations for. Is it for programs, scholarships or membership?  As for membership, this may be the most important ask. Members mean more informed parents, more volunteers, more of everything you need or at least access to that. Make it easy to join your PTA and make them ask year round—not just at the beginning of the year.

3) Say yes. Time is a valuable commodity but I will never regret one moment I spent volunteering to help schools. You CAN make a difference – it still stuns me that it is as simple as that. You may have the one idea your school, your PTA, your state, or National PTA needs. What do you do well or what do you want to learn? The opportunities for you to develop as a leader are there, but you have to have to say yes first.

4) Take advantage of opportunities. The smartest thing we ever did was write a Take Your Family to School Week Grant application for National PTA. Winning the grant made it easier to apply again, to have the courage and faith to apply for the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Award, and it gave us the momentum to grow to 729 PTA members—a number we did not expect. This also gave us the opportunity to attend any trainings, and National PTA and state conventions. The very best part of PTA is networking, sharing ideas and knowing you are not alone. So take advantage and step out of the school to make connections that will help you!

4) Say thank you often and to everyone. This spirit can take over PTA and people want to feel needed and appreciated. List your members in a newsletter to say thank you for joining. Start a Volunteer Hall of Fame. Write a thank you note. Post on Facebook that you are grateful for someone after an event. Every little “thank you” can go a long way with being positive.

5) And the most important thing of all…communication is the key and it needs to be consistent. What is the best way to reach parents at your school? At our schools it was a weekly email. This kept us organized and built in a natural deadline so it kept us on our toes. Parents do crave information. There are so many easy, free and even low cost avenues to spread the word about your PTA’s events or projects. The best money we spent was for Constant Contact to send our weekly newsletter. Much of the successes in PTA I have seen–whether it’s growing membership, increasing volunteers, and involving new leaders—is because of connections built through communication on a regular basis. Keep PTA in front of people and let everyone know where you stand. Publicize how many members you have, the events you do, how you help your school. If you don’t tell people, who will? Tell your story!

I sincerely love PTA and what it can bring to schools and children. No one will ever convince me that we don’t change the world every day. It’s in those hugs from kids when you do something fun at school that wouldn’t maybe have happened. It’s in the eyes of a new leader when the light bulb goes off and they figure out they can do it. It’s in the conversations with school personnel who need our support now more than ever. It’s getting your point across to a legislator who needs to hear your voice. Now it is my turn to walk the walk and get out of the way for young leaders to have this wonderful opportunity. I hope you grow to love it as much as I have. Thank you PTA for a wonderful experience over the years and for allowing me to be a small part of an amazing association!


Kathie Green is currently the Indiana PTA NE Region Vice President and National PTA Communications Committee Member. She was a former president for the Fort Wayne Area PTA Council and former co-president of Northrop High School PTSA.
 

Attract More People to Your PTA

More PeopleWhat was it that sparked you to become an active PTA member? Or rather, WHO was it? Think about that person. What did he or she say or do that attracted you to joining and volunteering for PTA? How did you feel that first time you volunteered? What did you most admire about that person?

Hopefully, yours was a positive experience – one where you felt welcomed, supported and empowered to give more of your time, talents and skills. Speaking from my own very recent experience, most of us “newbies” walk in the same way, right? A little shy, a shade intimidated, not sure if “they” (those who seem to know exactly what needs to be done) really want us there – and most of all, fearful of stepping on toes or doing something wrong.

But all it takes is that one PTA leader – title unknown – to change our PTA future.

You know who I’m talking about: that one person who greeted us with a smile, made a quick introduction to the other volunteers, and showed us a specific way to help out that first shaky day. That’s how PTA leadership is sparked. Then the spark becomes a flame of pride when we see the ways students and families benefit from our collective efforts – enjoying the event, learning together, improving the school and strengthening the school community.

In 2015, resolve to be the PTA leader who sparks a PTA future for others. 

No matter the organization, volunteers get involved and stay involved when they feel:

  • Welcomed and supported by leadership through effective, two-way communication;
  • Proud of the way the mission supports others;
  • Engaged in decision-making and respected for unique perspectives;
  • Valued for time, talents and skills contributed; and
  • Connected in a positive way to others in the community.

These expectations of membership and volunteer service align well with what we aim for through the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. These standards are evidence-based guidelines for schools, PTA leaders and families to use when building strong and effective family-school partnerships.

You may have heard someone say before, “Take a look in the leadership mirror.” Well that’s what these standards will help you to do — examine your strengths and weaknesses (it’s ok, we all have them!) as a PTA leader and PTA Board. Once you’ve answered the questions, you can begin to map out a plan for the year to do a few things different. Don’t aim for a self-revolution, nor a PTA overhaul. That wouldn’t be authentic, nor practical – and it might even yield unnecessary drama.

Instead, resolve to engage families – all families, even the ones that you can’t really see yourself hanging out with – in a more meaningful way as PTA members and leaders. See the potential for participation and leadership in every parent, every teacher, every grandparent – every caregiver or community member that cares about the kids of your school.

Making this resolution will increase your PTA membership and grow new leadership. But it will also fuel your own personal satisfaction from this leadership experience. You will feel fulfilled by new energy that new people bring. You will feel the glow of passing on your passion to new child advocates, and you will create a positive flame of family engagement that shines on all of the children of your school community. You’ll be the one they talk about someday – you’ll be “That PTA Leader.”

 GET STARTED – USE THE PTA’S NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR FAMILY-SCHOOL PARTNERSHIPS

Answer the questions below on your own. Then share the questions with other board members. Talk about your answers in a safe, supportive, team-building way. For each Standard, agree on one priority for the PTA Board that will have the greatest impact on your PTA membership and school community.


Standard #1: Welcome All Families

  • Do you know who the families are at your school – their unique perspectives and their needs?
  • Are you welcoming and consider the leadership potential of every parent/caregiver, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender preference, family structure, employment status, education level, socioeconomic level, etc.?
  • Do you know what families and teachers think of your PTA? If so, is it all positive? Is there anything that could be better?
  • Do you always assume every parent/teacher wants what’s best for their students?
  • Do you treat every parent/teacher as a potential PTA leader?
  • How do you welcome families at the beginning of the school year and at each PTA event that follows?


Standard #2:  Communicate Effectively

  • Do you communicate in many ways and often?
  • Do you communicate simply and in the languages preferred by families?
  • Do you encourage feedback for improvement? Do you incorporate the suggestions you receive?
  • Do you view every face-to-face interaction as an opportunity to recruit a PTA member or potential PTA leader?
  • Do you share many ways to contribute to PTA’s success?
  • Leader, Board Member, Event/Program Volunteer, Promotional Volunteer, Program Participant, Financial or In-Kind Supporter, Fundraiser, etc.
  • Do you regularly communicate how membership dollars and PTA volunteer hours contribute to student success and school improvements?
  • Do you know your X, Y and Z so that you can often say, “Thanks to families and teachers like you – who support PTA as members – we can have X, do Y, and improve Z?”


Standard #3: Support Student Success

  • Do you provide opportunities for families to experience what their child is learning and how they can support that at home?
  • Do you offer events or forums that foster relationship-building and positive interactions with school professionals?
  • Do you talk with the teachers about the challenges they are having and work together to develop PTA-supported solutions?
  • Do you access the turn-key toolkits, grants and family resources available through National and State PTA to support your efforts?


Standard #4: Speak Up for Every Child

  • Do you know what students need for their educational success and overall well-being?
  • Are you working in partnership with your school leaders to address a specific school improvement goal?
  • Do you share PTA’s District, State, National advocacy efforts that are important and relevant to your school community?
  • Do you create opportunities for families of your school to voice their perspectives to school leaders, district leaders and policymakers?
  • Do you access the advocacy tools available through National and State PTA to share needs and address concerns of the families at your school?


Standard #5: Share Power

  • Do you treat every member as a potential leader?
  • Do you always say “Yes” when someone offers to help in some way? Do you provide them with direction to get them started?
  • How are you engaging all families in PTA decision-making?
  • Are your general meetings well-promoted and do you offer educational value for families?
  • Do your offer flexibility related to timing and means of attendance (conference calls, etc.)? Do you have translators?
  • Do you have a central place for minutes, upcoming events, and ways to gain feedback on PTA progress from general membership?


Standard #6: Collaborate with Community

  • How are you seeking support from local businesses, including parent-owned businesses?
  • Financial support
  • Member benefits
  • In-kind donations
  • Employee volunteer hours
  • Promotion space/visibility
  • How do you partner with local community organizations to reach new families and support the needs of your families?
  • How do you work with other PTAs to share best practices and support each other?

Mary Pat King, MS is the Director of Programs & Partnerships, National PTA. She serves as the Legislative & Advocacy Chair at Cypress Woods Elementary School PTA in Palm Harbor, FL. She is the mom of Mason (first grade) and Jenna Bea (Pre-K).

Celebrating Schools of Excellence in Garland, TX

Garland 1For the past two months, 170 schools throughout the country have been celebrating their designation as a National PTA School of Excellence. The designation recognized schools and PTAs for building strong, effective family-school partnerships.  Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Garland, Independent School District (ISD) in Garland, Texas to celebrate the 34 schools in this school district that make up an exuberant cohort of Schools of Excellence. With 30 elementary schools, one middle school, and three high schools receiving the designation, Garland ISD represents 80 percent of Texas’s School of Excellence designees and 20 percent of the nation’s.

Garland ISD took a district approach to encourage their schools to enroll and participate in the School of Excellence program. They believed that participation in the program would provide them with specific strategies to engage families at each school building to strengthen family-school partnerships. The vision was set by superintendent Dr. Bob Morrison and supported by family engagement facilitator Dr. Pat Mullins. All of the schools in Garland ISD are fortunate to have either a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or a Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). Consequently, the district approach to participation in the School of Excellence program was monumental and truly a trend setter.

Garland 2Before the bi-monthly Board of Trustee meeting, a reception was hosted to honor each school. At the reception, Shannon Sevier, National PTA vice president of advocacy; Leslie Boggs, Texas State PTA president; and I congratulated each school on their achievement and expressed to them how important the precedence that they had set is for schools in their district and across the nation. Each school was given a small token to celebrate their recognition at the reception.  For me, it was most rewarding to finally meet, face-to-face, with many of the principals, PTA leaders, and family engagement coordinators that I had spoken with on the phone or corresponded with through emails numerous times throughout the school year. Together, we worked to create a successful and impactful program.

Garland ISD 3At the board meeting, Leslie Boggs presented Suellen Atteberry, the immediate past president of Garland ISD, and Shannon Wainscott, president of Garland ISD Council of PTAs with a proclamation to celebrate this outstanding achievement for the district and their support to the schools throughout the program year. Shannon Sevier then awarded Dr. Bob Morrison and Dr. Pat Mullins with a National PTA Lifetime Achievement Award for their unwavering commitment to children. Finally, school board trustee president Rick Lambert awarded each school with a certificate of excellence for their achievement.

As the new school year progresses, I encourage schools and school districts nationwide to evaluate their current family engagement strategies, and commit to establish meaningful partnerships in every school and in every district. Garland ISD has accepted the challenge, and set the mark, where families feel welcomed and empowered to support student success, and PTA is a key partner for continuous school improvement through participation and recognition in the National PTA School of Excellence Program.

Learn more about National PTA School of Excellence at PTA.org/Excellence.

IRS Releases Shorter, Easier Tax-Exempt Status Form

IRS_Form_1023We are pleased to share with you that after National PTA’s extensive effort to advocate for an easier process for small charities applying for and reinstating 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, the IRS has delivered Form 1023-EZ. Unlike the original 26-page Form 1023, the new Form 1023-EZ, which is available as of July 1, is a mere three pages. The IRS estimates that as many as 70 percent of all applicants will qualify to use the new streamlined form. Most organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less and assets of $250,000 or less are eligible. This change will not only enable the IRS to speed up the approval process for these smaller charities, but also will result in additional resources to review applications from larger organizations.

In addition to advocating for a more streamlined application, earlier this spring, National PTA provided feedback to the IRS on the potential form, including suggesting to reduce the gross receipts threshold to $50,000. National PTA will continue to work with the IRS to make the reinstatement process as seamless as possible for those PTAs that are struggling with revocation.

While the new application must be completed online and submitted at pay.gov, National PTA has provided a pre-populated Form 1023-EZ to be used as an example as well as simplified instructions which PTA members can access by visiting National PTA’s Tax-Exempt Revocation webpage, PTA.org/taxhelp. National PTA also will be providing a webinar at the end of August. Look for more information on the webinar to come soon!

The new form should make the application process for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status much simpler for PTAs. We encourage you to share this information with local leaders across your state. For questions and more information, send me an email at lwhite@pta.org.

Lindsey White is a senior accountant for National PTA.

The Lysol Healthy Habits Bus Hits the Road!

National PTA is a proud supporter of the Healthy Habits Bus Tour, which will visit schools nationwide.

Lysol_Health_Habits_Bus_1

We are excited that the National PTA is a proud supporter of the Healthy Habits Program, presented by Lysol in collaboration with the NEA and PTA. The program is focused on providing families and classrooms with the resources and tools they need to help live healthy, happy lives. The Healthy Habits Program provides teachers, parents and children with lesson plans, activity guides and a science museum on wheels – the Healthy Habits Bus, a first-ever educational bus that helps make germs more understandable and real. It’s important to reduce absenteeism in schools due to illness, so we strive to educate children on what they can do to help stop the spread of germs and stay healthy inside and outside of school.

Healthy Habits Bus InteractionBeginning in June and running through October of this year, the Lysol Healthy Habits Bus will tour schools and retailers across the country, spreading news on the importance of healthy habits and good hygiene practices. The bus offers a series of features that show children how thorough hand washing and healthy habits can help keep them healthy:

  • Clean Hands Germs Scan: Children will place their hands in the Hand Scanner and see their hands projected onto a screen in front of them with animated “germs” wriggling all over them! A video then teaches the proper way to clean hands and kill germs.
  • Anatomy of the Sneeze: An animated nose on a screen sneezes – accompanied by a burst of air so children feel like they have been sneezed on. They then see themselves surrounded by animated “germs,” simulating how sneezes spread germs around a small area.
  • When to Wash: A touchscreen game shows a class in progress. Children tap the students who need to wash their hands. Correct answers get a reward; missed chances prompt videos that explain how germs spread when hands aren’t washed.
  • Defeat the Germs!: In this KinectTM –styleaugmented reality game, students use disinfecting wipes with the goal of preventing germs from getting past them.

We have also developed the Lysol Healthy Habits contest, where you can enter your school for a chance to win one of three school grants valued at $15,000, $5,000 and $1,000, a year’s supply of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes, a Healthy Habits Day Celebration and a visit from the Healthy Habits Bus.  Please visit Lysol.com/HealthyHabits to learn more about the Healthy Habits Bus, and visit Facebook.com/Lysol for details and information about how to enter the Healthy Habits Contest!

We hope you to see you soon!

Conor O’Brien is the Marketing Director at Lysol. He drives Lysol’s Mission for Health campaign, a program focused on educating communities across the country on the importance of healthy habits and good hygiene practices.

Grow Your PTA Membership with Diversity & Multiculturalism!

Diversity_CrowdMore than ever, families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders have more reasons to work together for the educational success of children. Why? The Huffington Post states public school demographics will experience a record multicultural growth by 2022. The findings discuss growth in terms of diversity and multiculturalism. These two terms are used by many people, but what do they mean? And how can PTA membership prepare for this growth?

It is important to understand the relationship between diversity and multiculturalism. Diversity and multiculturalism may sound similar, yet they are very different. Simply, diversity can be defined as we are all different from each other. The recognition of diversity within organizations or settings is valuing differences and similarities in people through actions and accountability. However, multiculturalism is the preservation of different cultures or cultural identity, which is identified as first recognizing a person by her or his ethnicity. Diversity can exist in the absence of multiculturalism.

Many people are familiar with efforts to embrace diversity while preserving multiculturalism is not as familiar. As your PTA becomes more familiar with creating diverse and multicultural events for your school and community, take into consideration the necessary steps to strengthen your PTA membership. Be prepared to meet the future of record multicultural growth!

Take steps now to produce a membership growth plan based upon diversity and multiculturalism. Your plan should be three basic things: 1) adaptable, 2) specific, 3) and simple. It should also be dynamic and focus on ways to analyze community demographic trends and new membership opportunities. Review your plan and update it periodically to represent the diverse demographics of your PTA, school, and community.

Embracing diversity and multiculturalism helps Today’s PTA continue to grow and expand our vision. Try the listed three steps to grow your membership and share your experience with me in the comment box below.

Remember, you still have time to participate in the 14 in ’14 National PTA Membership Challenge.

I wish you success!

Armen Alvarez is multicultural membership development manager for National PTA.

What’s Data Got to Do with It?

DATAYou might be wondering what data has to do with membership. The answer to that question is… everything! Data collection is a critical component of membership recruitment, engagement and retention. Having current and accurate data for your members gives you the ability to provide crucial information, PTA member benefits and tools and resources.

What information should your PTA collect? The best thing to do is start with the basics.

  • Names:  This is an obvious one, but many PTAs go beyond collecting just the name of the member. They also ask for the name(s) of the student(s), teacher’s name, and other parents or guardians as well. Having names of individuals gives your PTA the ability to personalize messages and membership cards.
  • Email addresses: While not every member will have an email, many will. National PTA membership survey results stated 80% of PTA members prefer information delivered to them by email. PTA meeting reminders, new member discounts and upcoming events are just a few things that are easy to share with your local PTA members by email.
  • Mailing Addresses: Your PTA might not mail information often, but knowing where your PTA members reside can be quite helpful. For example, if the majority of your membership lives in a certain zip code, deciding to host your next PTA meeting in that area to offer convenience can be a valuable engagement tool. Likewise, this information can help you determine new areas of the community to recruit PTA members.
  • Phone Numbers: This is another basic piece of data offering powerful membership engagement. Imagine the potential of a personal phone call or automated call to your local PTA members asking them to renew their membership or attend an upcoming event.

The best way to collect these basic data points is on your membership application. Individuals are more likely to provide more information at the point of joining than if asked later.

Here are a few fields beyond basic data gathering taken from nationwide PTA membership applications that you may also find helpful:

  • Volunteer/Participation – Find out PTA members’ willingness to volunteer for committee and board roles, programs or events.
  • Special Interest/Talent – Asking this question could help your PTA create engagement by matching people to roles and tasks they love to do!
  • Suggestions/Ideas – Many new members are eager to provide input and have great ideas.
  • Primary Language/Bilingual – Knowing the primary language your members speak is crucial to engagement and key to communication. Finding out if there are bilingual or multilingual members can help support your translation efforts.

Whether your PTA is collecting a name, email address or asking for occupation or gender, be sure to collect data that will help you grow and engage your membership. Always be mindful of PTA’s privacy policy and know that data has everything to do with membership!

Kwana Ingram is Membership Services Specialist for National PTA.

Spring = Growth!

SPRINGSpring is finally here after the long winter that much of America has endured. We are ecstatic to welcome its arrival! Springtime is a natural period of growth and rejuvenation. Trees and flowers begin to bloom, birds and other animals become more visible, and lawns are once again green. But what does spring bring for PTA? More important, what does spring mean for PTA membership recruitment and retention?

The three calendar months of spring (April, May, and June) are traditionally not the highest months for membership growth at PTA. The number of members reported during this season is significantly less than the Back-to-School mega-membership months. Of course, this connects to the natural tendency for most people to join PTA when school starts, rather than when school is nearing summer recess.

However, on this Membership Monday we would like to encourage, inspire and challenge PTA to answer the call of spring and GROW! Don’t stop recruiting! Proudly display your PTA membership table this spring season, fill backpacks with membership applications, and send out a few more emails to ask for engagement and retention. Help us honor the spring spirit of growth!

And for your efforts to help recruit new members now, we offer your PTA an incentive. For every 14 members your PTA recruits and reports now through May 31st, your PTA could win $1,000! The National PTA Membership Committee recognizes students and parents may be thinking of summer, but the committee encourages you to take part of the season of growth and ask members to join PTA. Membership recruitment is a year round necessity. The 14 in ’14 membership challenge was created with these things in mind.

Let’s roar into spring PTA presidents, membership chairs, and board members! Remind parents, family and community members, elected officials, local businesses, teachers, and friends that they can join the PTA in the spring. Recruit 14 of them to join PTA before May 31st and enter for the $1,000 prize. Much greater than the prize, we hope your efforts to recruit members now, will help PTA grow in unison with spring!

Felisha Battle is the Membership Marketing Director for National PTA.

 

Ask Membership! Monday

shutterstock_116859331The National PTA membership team answers your questions about membership recruitment, retention, and engagement every month.

Dear PTA Membership,

What can I do to help my PTA keep its members? We keep some each year, but we lose just as many. How can we stop losing members?

Please help!

Maria H. – Miami, FL

 

Hello Maria,

Did you know it’s easier to keep a PTA member than gain a new one? It’s true. Membership statistics show that you have to put more effort in recruiting a new member than asking an existing member to return.

Membership retention is not about sending a letter once a year to current PTA members asking them to return. Retention starts from the first day you recruit a new member! Here are some quick steps to help you retain members from year-to-year.

  • Encourage engagement now! – Ask new members to get involved with your PTA right away. Welcome them to your PTA by inviting them to an upcoming meeting or asking how they wish to share their skills/talents.
  • Provide useful resources – New members want to know how their PTA membership can help them. Provide tools and resources to help their children reach their potential. Take a survey of your PTA members to learn if your PTA provides relevant tools and resources for your school and community.
  • Keep in touch! – PTA members want to be knowledgeable about their children, school, and community. Keep them informed about events that affect their child. Connect a new PTA member with a returning member to form a “tag-team”, keeping new members up to date on PTA happenings. Email and call members on a regular basis with news they need to know.
  • Ask for renewals – Remind members of the successes your PTA has achieved throughout the year and ask for membership renewal. Sharing your achievements helps PTA members stay connected, understand the value of PTA membership and stay energized! Use phone, email, and social media to ask for renewals. View steps to plan for membership renewal here and download a sample renewal letter.

Remember, successful PTA membership retention leads to a strong membership base, strong school and community ties, as well as a strong pool of potential PTA leaders.  Keep your members empowered, strong, and responsible with engagement that starts on day one!

Best wishes for strong PTA membership,

The PTA Membership Team

 

Have a question for the PTA membership team? Email National PTA’s membership marketing manager at jlindsey@pta.org. Type “Ask Membership! Monday” in the subject line, tell us your question, and include your first and last name, name of your local PTA, and city and state. If your question is selected, it will be answered here in the Ask Membership! Monday blog.

Joy Lindsey is membership marketing manager for National PTA. 

 

Discover Family Friendly Activities in Austin

The 2014 National PTA Convention and Exhibition will be June 19-22 in Austin, Texas– and while it’s a fantastic opportunity for PTA members to network and hear from top experts in the education community — it’s also a great chance to enjoy a new city!

Austin_Activities_Blog

Austin has a bit of everything for the entire family to explore. Check out the following list for activities to seek out while you’re at convention:

Content provided with support from the Austin CVB.