The National PTA Legacy: The Past, The Present, The Future—The Work that Connects Us

In my last blog, I shared with you the story of what is happening today throughout our country. A story that connects the PTA work of today with the legacy of our founders.

We shared how our unique structure and our long history of serving all children and families made us the only organization perfectly situated to help meet the immediate needs of communities during this time, while also acknowledging and addressing the systemic causes.

Today, I want to share with you in a little more detail about what these PTAs are doing, how these PTAs are doing it and what makes PTA special in overcoming challenges and maximizing the impact.

Tackling COVID-19, Together

Amidst COVID turning our country upside down, PTAs immediately began to tackle this grant work. National PTA asked the PTAs to select one of four priority areas in which to begin this work, knowing that there was a high level of intersectionality between them. PTAs were asked to name a starting priority area only as a way to stay centered when things would inevitably get crazy and the need to pivot would become necessary. The four areas are:

  1. Food insecurity
  2. Remote learning
  3. Device and internet access
  4. Mental health

We learned that the priority areas are even more connected than originally thought and the need was overwhelming in all areas. PTAs began sending home devices, accessories for devices, school supplies, resources for mental health services, wellness and hygiene kits, books and food to students and families. We saw family engagement events online, including chalk walks, food drives and socially distanced spirit nights.  Touchless water fountains, book vending machines, outdoor learning spaces and calming rooms were installed. The creativity was endless.

Because the money quickly advanced from our funder, through our national organization and disseminated across the country, PTAs were able to support families immediately. PTAs pulled together teams to collaborate—families, school administrators, faith-based community organizations, other non-profits, local businesses, school staff and community members. Team building is essential to all community engagement work.

PTAs Change Lives

Collective impact depends on the utilization of all available resources in order to fully maximize them—efforts being coordinated and outcomes being impactful. PTAs are in a unique position to bring together these teams, because highly functioning PTAs already consist of all these folks or have access to these folks. PTAs connected with the right partners to ensure grant dollars went further and impact was maximized. 

Our PTAs received a tremendous amount of support, both before applying for the grant and after being awarded the grant. The support is in the PTA network itself. National PTA was happy to be a facilitator, making our organization the best and most impactful child advocacy organization in existence.  Here is how we are structuring the support.

Step 1: Community Assessment

PTAs are encouraged to engage both families and the community as well as to seamlessly work with school administrators and staff—always. This framework ensured that when PTAs were asked to conduct assessments prior to applying for these grants, there was immediate and meaningful action. Leaders know to listen, engage and empower families.

So, when COVID hit, PTAs were already prepared to quickly assess their community and determine where the greatest need existed, who the best partners might be, and how to pull together additional resources. For the leaders that needed additional help, National PTA conducted mini needs assessment workshops and helped them determine which efforts might have the greatest impact. This also helped leaders pivot—when a planned idea became difficult to implement, they had an understanding of the multitude of needs and could quickly implement another. 

Leader to Leader Community of Practice Calls

These calls, hosted by National PTA, give an overview of the space (mental health, internet and device access, remote learning, food insecurity) in which they are working and then open the time for them to talk with one another, recognizing that National PTA is not the expert—they are. They share ideas, celebrate successes and work through challenges. Being with leaders across the country allows them to think about new and innovative ideas and to hear how leaders in different areas are working around barriers.

Just about every PTA is doing something different with this grant funding. There is no one program being implemented. And, PTAs are having to adjust to unusual circumstances with changing conditions—which look different in every school district across the country.

Networking Let’s Chat Calls

One of my favorite resources that National PTA provides is simply to hold space for leaders to share with each other. We answer their questions and provide updates for the first few minutes and then they take over the call and make it their own.

These calls allow leaders who need to talk with one another a place to do so. To share. To brainstorm. To celebrate. I leave every call with a renewed sense of purpose, a love for our great organization, and humbled by the hard work of our volunteers, especially during an incredibly difficult time.

Story Telling

Lastly, we are working with our PTAs to share their story. To collect it and to tell it. The work they are doing is our legacy—our history. People will look back and say, remember the Global Pandemic of 2020? Remember how PTA came together and supported communities in need and then fought to end the systemic reasons behind the need, like—kids needing to be in school to eat and to have access to mental health services. Remember how quickly PTAs jumped into action? We created worksheets and webinars, support and templates for leaders. We are telling our legacy; we are telling our story.

Our PTA leaders are incredible. They always have been. That’s the reason we’ve survived 120+ years. That’s the reason we’ve accomplished so much. That’s the reason we make a difference. 

It is important to remember that the work PTA leaders are doing now is what connects us to our 120+ year legacy. If people don’t know what we do and who we are—they will not join our cause. I often say, our founders got angry about what was not right in the world and they did something about it. People were so passionate about the work and others joined, attracted by that passion and to the cause.

Put your focus on the work. Build your leaders from the passion.

As a PTA leader, focus on the needs of your community. Listen to your families. Do that work. That is how you connect to a legacy that has lasted for over 120 years. If we are doing the right work, people will follow and they will join your cause and when they believe in your cause, they will join your membership.


Kelly Langston is an independent contractor supporting project management for National PTA’s programs and partnerships.

How to Get the Technology Your Local PTA Needs

The first question we often hear at National PTA is … are PTAs allowed to spend PTA dollars on technology? The answer is a resounding YES. Your local PTA is a membership association and a non-profit business. PTAs can budget for, and spend money on, any technology that will be used by the PTA. This year, PTAs across the country must pivot to the new reality of the business world during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means figuring out how to run your PTA either partially, or fully, virtual. This pivot will benefit your PTA well beyond the pandemic as well.

It is important to note that many of the below items have free and paid versions. You will need to look at your specific PTA needs to decide what product may work for you and if the free version is enough or if one of the paid versions is a better fit.  The items are linked so you can learn more about each, and remember, you can Google or YouTube just about anything online to find how-to videos.

Overall PTA Management Needs

  • G-Suite for Nonprofits— Looking for a little bit of everything? Offered by Google for free to non-profits, this is a suite of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products. You can upgrade for a small monthly fee as well. You can get Gmail accounts for your PTA and board members, online drive to store your PTA documents and photos, centralized calendar, Google Meet and other resources
  • Microsoft Office Online—Offers free online use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note
  • TechSoup—A non-profit international network that provides free or discounts on technological tools and support to non-profits.
  • Notion—An all-in-one workspace where you can share and work on the same content. Individual accounts are free and can be shared with up to five guests.

Virtual Gatherings

Planning on hosting a virtual meeting or event? There are many products out there to suit your needs, and some have free versions. Since this is the way your PTA will be doing business for quite some time, your PTA should invest in this expense. Each platform provides tips for setup for all the features, including screen sharing and login requirements. If you use a free version, you may be limited on the number of attendees and how long the event can run, so do your homework. Some of the platforms to look at are:

  • Zoom Meeting– The free plan allows up to 40 minutes per meeting with up to 100 participants. If you need more time, they have a $149 per year plan for unlimited meetings with up to 100 participants.
  • Facebook Live in a Private Group— Consider using this option for a board meeting! Make sure everyone on your board is on Facebook and in your private group.
  • Go to Meeting – $12 per month for up to 150 participants.
  • Google Meet– Free one-hour meetings up to 100 participants, more features if you have G-Suite
  • Skype Meet Now – Up to 50 people per meeting. Anyone can host or join with no need to download an app.
  • FreeConferenceCall.com– Up to 1,000 participants and up to six hours of conference call time, screen sharing and video.
  • WebEx – Can host one meeting free a month or look to upgrade to another option.

Survey and Poll Tools

Need to find out what your members and other families in your community need? Ask virtually!  See the links below for some online survey options.

  • Facebook Polls– This option offers instant feedback but is limited to people who follow your page or are in your closed group
  • Google Forms– Cloud-based questionnaire and survey software, can create reports of the survey responses.
  • SoGoSurvey– Free to non-profits
  • SurveyMonkey– The basic plan is free for up to 10 questions and 40 responses

Storytelling Tools

Showcase the value your PTA brings to the community by sharing #HowWePTA on social media, in your newsletters and more! These tools can help you create beautiful visuals to help tell your PTA story.

  • National PTA Membership Campaign—Check out the over 50 free graphics in the new PTA campaign that can help you highlight and share the benefits of being a part of your PTA.
  • Canva for Nonprofits—Use this easy graphic design platform to create social media graphics, posters and other visual content.
  • Need some free photos? Check out sites that offer many free photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock and iStock Photo.
  • Need to store and share files? Maybe Dropbox is just what you need. The basic version is free.

Other Online Tools and Resources

  • Another tool in your toolbox to help run your PTA virtually is BAND– PTA’s newest national sponsor. BAND can be a timely, modern, no-cost solution for PTAs that need to virtually coordinate activities and events and share information. BAND helps make it easier for parents, teachers and PTA members to stay connected and organized while embracing distance learning. PTAs can use the BAND app for scheduling, instant messaging, video calling and virtual meetings, conducting polls, managing signups, live streaming events, and other critical two-way communication features.
  • Need volunteers to sign-up to help? Try out SignUpGenius. Free option for nonprofits.
  • Need to randomly pick a winner virtually? Want to play a game virtually? Looking to create a word search? Check out Flippity, which is free, and offers all sorts of fun things you can create quickly and easily virtually.

Learn from Others

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Join the PTA Local Leaders Facebook group. Connect with over 6,000 other PTA leaders across the 54 State PTA Congresses. Click on the search icon to look for ideas on how to hold virtual meetings, virtual events or online fundraisers. Check out our other blogs on How to Make Joining PTA Easy, Ways to Make your PTA Virtual, Grow Spirit from Afar and National Volunteer Week blog which recognizes several local PTAs making things happen virtually.


Linda Johnson is the Manager of Membership Data and Training for National PTA.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

Show Your PTA Value to Sustain and Grow Your Membership

This school year will be a year like no other in PTA history. All of us must look at how we PTA in a different way. You may have heard the phrase “PTA flexible.” This is the year to show PTA flexible in action across everything we do. Just like schools have had to pivot, so do PTAs. You don’t need a building to PTA.

PTA is needed now more than ever. Many parents are feeling disconnected and disengaged from their school and community. PTAs can make those connections and rebuild the school community. To do this, PTAs must show their value and relevance in an all, or mostly, virtual setting. Together, we all must learn how to take in-person activities and adjust them to a virtual setting.

First, you need to have a platform to connect with people in a virtual space. There are many products out there, some have free versions. Since this is the way your PTA will be doing business for quite some time, your PTA should invest in this expense. PTAs can budget for, and spend money on, any technology that will be used by the PTA. Remember to look if any of them have a discount for being a non-profit. Some of the platforms to look at are Zoom, Go To Meeting, Google Meet and WebEx. Check nonprofit tech resources through Tech Soup.

Another tool in your toolbox to help run your PTA virtually is BAND—PTA’s newest national sponsor. BAND can be a timely, modern, no-cost solution for PTAs that need to virtually coordinate activities and events and share information. BAND helps make it easier for parents, teachers and PTA members to stay connected and organized while embracing distance learning. PTAs can use the BAND app for scheduling, instant messaging, video calling and virtual meetings, conducting polls, managing signups, live streaming events, and other critical two-way communication features.

After you determine your preferred platform, you need to find what will make your PTA valuable and relevant throughout the year to your community. Here are a ton of ideas, information and content to use and share with your members: to show your PTAs relevance and value.

Check out these recent blogs

Explore National PTA Resources and Training

  • The National PTA website is available in Spanish therefore many of the resources on the webpages can be translated into Spanish. Share this feature with your PTAs and in outreach to your Spanish-speaking membership.
  • There are some great PTA leader resources on the National PTA COVID webpage. If you scroll down on the page there are three sections of resources—Families, PTA Leaders and Educators. Local PTAs can share the resources with their members to show their relevance during this difficult time.
  • The Center for Family Engagement recently held a webinar called Family Engagement in a Virtual World. Here is a link the recording which is found on CFE
  • On that same page is a link to subscribe to the Notes from the Backpack which is a great resource your PTA can share with your members, parents and teachers.
  • We must move our membership campaigns into the virtual world. We are extremely lucky to have a new Membership Campaign that has incredible graphics and messaging for all PTAs to use in the new virtual world of PTA. Did you know that PTA is now a Verb? Check out all the 50+ social media graphics available. All are also available in Spanish. Based on feedback, we are also in the process of adding some new items pieces soon.
  • Encourage your local leaders to join the National PTA local leader Facebook group. People share all sorts of great things on the page.

Host Your PTA Programs Virtually!

  • Visit National PTA’s Reflections Start Your Program page for resources and ideas on how to run your PTA’s Reflections program remotely. Check with your State PTA for specific state guidelines, rules and deadlines.
  • Enroll in the National PTA School of Excellence program to align your COVID-19 relief efforts in best practice for family engagement while gaining national recognition. Enroll by October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence.

Stay Connected!

  • Sign up for National PTA e-newsletters. As a PTA leader, you can harvest information from the newsletters and share it with your members. Click here to sign up for one or all five e-newsletters.
  • Invite your members to bookmark National PTA’s Our Children Magazine; this a great online resource full of valuable information to help families to better help their children.
  • Check out your state PTA webpage as many of them also provide resources, programs and incentives for local PTAs. Not sure of your state’s PTA website? Here is an interactive map for you to quickly connect.
  • Several state PTAs hold virtual events where local leaders can call in and share what virtual events they are already doing or thinking about doing so people can learn and hear from each other. Check-in with your state PTA to see if they are offering something similar.

Not sure what your PTA members and community need?

  • Ask them. Click here to see a sample survey to get you inspired.
  • PTAs leaders do not need to reinvent the wheel or to be content experts in all areas. If you know the needs of the families in your community, reach out to other non-profits in your area that are already providing these needed services. These other non-profits may already have the funding to provide services in the community and are just waiting to make connections.
  • Show how PTA advocates. Help families in your community have a voice. Make sure to share surveys and links from your school or school district and encourage families to respond so their voice is heard. See if the school district as a spot at the table for a PTA representative so you can be part of the discussion and discussion making for your community.

Coming Soon

  • National PTA is currently working on a series of recordings and live Zoom events, around PTAs being virtual, which will include topics such as: creating a virtual membership campaign, running a virtual meeting, virtual fundraising, Making the Case for PTA, and more.
  • National PTA is currently working on moving several programs into the virtual space.
  • Look for the next round of National PTA grants to roll out in November 2020.
  • Be on the lookout for National PTA’s weekly series celebrating the work PTAs have been doing to support COVID relief in their community. Stories will be shared on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and in our e-newletters.

Suzan Yungner is the Director of Membership and Field Service for National PTA. 

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

How to Make Joining PTA Easy

Now more than ever, people want to connect with each other and know what is happening at their child’s school. Your PTA can fulfill the universal need to connect and belong, during this dark time. You should seek to not only renew current members, but to reach out to new audiences, grow your PTA and build an even stronger community. Actions, such as reaching out just to check in on someone’s well-being, build real engagement with current and future PTA members.

We need to think about membership differently. Traditionally, many PTAs have membership tables at several school or PTA events in the beginning of the year to start off their membership campaign. But it is unclear if all school buildings will open at the start of this next school year, so this strategy may not be viable.

Now is a good time to rethink how your PTA will promote membership next year, especially if schools are still remote when they start in the fall. Here are some ideas to start your discussion. (Psst…make sure you read to the end for a surprise reveal from National PTA.)

For Local PTAs Who Don’t Yet Offer Online Join

Setting up online join and renewal isn’t as complicated as it sounds! First check with your state PTA, as more than 30 state PTAs offer an online database that their local units can use, for free! If this is an option, get set up right away, get trained, sign up for online pay and you will be on your way. If your state doesn’t currently offer an online option, there are still lots of free and/or inexpensive options you can put into place easily:

  • Develop an easy to use online membership form that people can fill out (like a Smartsheet or Google Forms) and have a required field to select a payment option.
  • Set up an online payment option like PayPal or Square.

Have fun. Create a fun visual with the link imbedded to join virtually. Get the word out! Post the online form link and payment information everywhere–your PTA website, Facebook page, Twitter, in your PTA/PTSA newsletters, emails, etc. On social media, tag the school or use school hashtags so anyone who follows the school will see your PTA posts.

  • Reach out to everyone who joined last year and ask them to renew their membership by sending them the link. If they don’t renew within a few weeks, send another reminder–something like the new school year is right around the corner, stay connected by renewing your PTA membership.
  • Ask your school to post PTA membership information in their newsletters and or on their website
  • Can’t figure out online join but need a way for people to join your PTA/PTSA remotely? Set up a P.O. Box for people to send their membership forms and payments. Require checks only via this method as you don’t want people sending cash in the mail and you don’t ever want there to be a question of cash missing.

For Local PTAs Who Already Offer Online Join

First, congrats on already offering online join! If your online join is linked to a membership database, now is the time to use all the tools available to you so, no matter what happens in the fall, you can stay connected to your community. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Send an email to everyone who is a member in 2019-2020 and ask them to “Stay connected over the summer by joining PTA now” and provide the link to join. If they don’t renew within a few weeks, send another reminder–something like, “The new school year is right around the corner, stay connected by renewing your PTA membership today.”
  • If you have had your online system for more than a year, reach out to everyone who was a member two or more years ago and ask them to “Come back to PTA” and send the link to join.
  • If your database system offers a communication tool, use it to connect with your members. Use it to share information like upcoming meetings, programs in the works, volunteer opportunities or simply use it to ask for feedback on the issues they want the PTA to focus on in the coming school year.
  • Get the word out! Post the online form link and payment information everywhere–your PTA website, on Facebook, in PTA/PTSA newsletters, emails, etc.
  • Get the word out beyond your current membership–ask the school to include your online join link in their communications or in the Parent Resources section of their website.

For State PTAs

  • If you have an online database, develop a unit look-up option that can go on your state website that allows people to join your local PTAs. Share the link with your local PTAs so if they don’t have a website, they can promote your link in all their messaging. This increases your traffic on your state website and makes it easy for the person and the local PTA. A win-win for all!
    • Check it out in action by visiting https://nyspta.org/ and click on the Join button in the blue ribbon.
  • If you don’t have an online database yet, talk to other state PTAs to see what is working for them and put a plan in place to move to an online membership system. This will make things easier at the state level and is a great new benefit for your local PTAs.
  • List state-level contacts in a prominent area on your website so visitors can quickly find someone in their area if they membership need help. Remember to include all the District/Council/Region PTA contacts and website information too.
  • Make sure there is a membership and/or join button on your website in a very visible place.
  • If you have an online database and not all your units are using it, now is the time to promote the benefits of enrolling. Here are some example benefits your database/state may offer:
    • First – it’s free, and so is training!
    • People join and pay online – easy, safe and saves time for new members and leaders.
    • No need to type membership info into a local tracking tool as the leaders will have access to their full membership data.
    • Reduce the need to print forms, to collect cash and checks or to make multiple trips to the bank.
    • Communication tools to quickly create newsletters and send within the database system.
    • Some online platforms also offer the ability to send text messages or create calendars, volunteer sign-ups, a school directory, fundraisers, events, an e-store, etc.
  • Help your local PTAs by encouraging them to promote membership as the school year gets closer…
    • If you have an online database, suggest they send an email welcoming everyone to a new school year and ask them if they have not yet renewed their membership to join their PTA again this year with a link to join and a link to any online PTA resources like their website, Facebook page, etc.
    • If you do not have a database, but local units manually collect people’s information that includes emails, suggest they send everyone a welcome to the new school year, ask them to join their PTA again this year, include a couple of key links to resources on your state website and let them know they should be hearing more information from their local PTA soon.
  • Try promoting a “PTA unit of the month” on your webpage. Highlight a unit and its accomplishments on your website with a link to join that PTA online. If you do not have a database yet, look to set up on online form (like SmartSheet or GoogleForm) and an online pay option like PayPal or Square.
  • Plan Now for accounts receivable! If your local units have people enter their information online but pay by check, first encourage them to move to online pay. Then, for those that still opt to accept payments via check, develop a process to collect those dollars if they don’t come in within a few weeks. If your state has a database linked with your local PTA’s, you should be able to see them¾create a process to reach out and collect the missing dues payments.

Do you have other ideas on how to promote and sell PTA membership in virtual world? Email us at Membership@pta.org

Psst…National PTA is getting ready to roll out a new membership marketing campaign for you! It will have all sorts of amazing graphics, you can highlight your local work, local people and more. We will offer some free online “how to incorporate it into your work and messaging” training as well. Stay tuned at PTA.org.

 


 

Suzan Yungner is the Director of Membership and Field Service for National PTA.

Ways to Make Your PTA Virtual

With so many schools closed through the end of the school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how are PTA/PTSAs keeping in touch with their school communities? They are going virtual!

National PTA surveyed local leaders from across America and heard about the many amazing things they are doing to be relevant to their members, students, families and communities together during this health crisis, with stay-at-home orders and social distancing in place.

Your PTA serves a vital role in supporting your community, and that role has only become more important during COVID-19. Try some of these creative ideas to bring people together, while respecting social distancing.

Community Building (Online)

Email, Google Docs and remote classrooms can go a long way to serving your students’ academic needs, but what about their emotional ones? Your PTA can support a feeling of community and school spirit even online.

  • #TogetherApart: Support stay at home orders by requesting students and families to post pics of how they are social distancing.
  • A Taste of Normal: Use your PTA Facebook page to help your school continue to deliver morning announcements (weather, birthdays, daily math problems and more) on Facebook Live.
  • Virtual Spirit Wear: Encourage your community to share their school pride by taking a pic in their school gear and sharing to your PTSA’s Facebook.
  • School Spirit Week: Similarly, ask your families to post different pictures online according to a new theme each day–crazy hat day, PJ day, crazy sock day, etc.
  • Bust Boredom: Lift people’s spirits! Send out daily challenges (fitness, crafts, etc.) or provide virtual morale boosters (funny pictures, inspirational quotes, etc.)
  • Let’s Read Together: Pick a book for your community to read together. Have the principal, your PTA President or a great volunteer record themselves reading and share the video online.
  • Make Space: Put the “social” in social isolation by hosting a virtual meet-up for your families on Zoom or Google Hangouts.

The Great Outdoors

Getting a few minutes of fresh air and sunshine can be critical for mental and physical health, particularly for children. Remind your families to don their masks, stay at least six feet from others, and participate in one of these fun challenges.

  • Chalk the Walk: Have families get outside in the fresh air to draw pictures or write positive messages on their driveways or on the sidewalk. Then families can walk around the neighborhood, get some exercise and enjoy all the art and messages. This activity could be neighborhood or community-wide.
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: Host a neighborhood scavenger hunt! Ask school families and community members to place a teddy bear or bear pictures in a window, front yard, in a tree, etc. Kids and families can get outside, get some exercise and hunt for the bears while practicing social distancing. Tell families to post online how many they found!
  • Themed walks! One of our local PTAs held a shamrock walk for St. Patrick’s Day. Families drew and cut out shamrocks and put them in their windows. Families could walk around and find shamrocks. This idea can be adjusted for other occasions, like emojis and signs for Teacher Appreciation Week, or made evergreen by using something like rainbows.

Take Your Events Online!

Don’t let all your PTA’s prep work go to waste! It may take a little creativity, ingenuity and flexibility, but you can (and should!) try to host some of your beloved events online!

  • Virtual Talent Show: Give kids the chance to show off their hobbies and special abilities!
  • Virtual Career Day: Inspire kids to keep studying so they can become their heroes.
  • Virtual Graduation Celebration: Missing milestones can be tough. Collaborate with your school to do something for your High School Seniors.
  • Online After School Programs: Some after school programs sponsored by your PTA might be able to be moved online with the help of your enrichment program vendors.
  • Online Reflections! Encourage your PTA students to start working on their Reflections submissions. This year’s student-selected theme is I Matter Because

Provide Resources

As a family engagement association, your PTA plays a unique role as a go-between with your school and your community. In a crisis like this one, that role becomes even more important.

  • Bulletin Board: Don’t underestimate your reach! Share links to your state’s assistance for unemployment/underemployment or information on free internet options.
  • Food Pantry: If your PTA already runs a food pantry, please continue to do so! Some of our PTAs have switched to a drive-through model of service to minimize contact.
  • Special Delivery: Mobility can be a huge problem for some families. Your PTA could consider delivering school meals for those who can’t come pick them up.
  • Power Community Action: The PTA voice is mighty! Grassroots activism can be as simple as sharing National PTA’s action alerts or starting a petition around your state or local legislation.
  • Community Childcare: Essential workers may be having difficulty arranging reliable childcare. Your PTA can help connect families who are available to provide childcare to families in need of childcare.
  • STEM @ Home: PTA can create easy STEM activity packets (try the ones on our STEM @ Home page!) and hand them out when students pick up school meals.
  • Virtual Vacation: Many families have had to cancel their travel plans for Spring Break. Your PTA can turn this into an educational opportunity by sharing destinations for families to explore together virtually every day, with tours of historic sites, local recipes, themed crafts and traditions.

Keeping Revenue Coming In

Your PTA can’t do all of the great things it does without resources! Try these ideas to raise much-needed funds.

  • Restaurant Takeout Night: Support local businesses while raising money for your PTA and school! Collaborate with a local restaurant and ask your families to order takeout. A percentage of those sales can be donated to your PTA.
  • Set Up a GoFundMe: Make it easy for your families to support each other! Set up a site to collect online monetary donations for your PTA/PTSA food pantry.
  • Sell Graduation Yard Signs: Help your community celebrate their special seniors! Create cute “congrats grad!” signs that, when sold, a volunteer can then drive by and put it in the recipient’s yard.
  • Sell Spirit Wear: Sometimes what you wear can make all the difference in how you feel. Lift spirits and build a sense of community by selling spirit wear for your school and your PTA!
  • Host an Online Auction: Reach out to local businesses for donations of vouchers, gift cards or other “to-be-used-in-the-future” items your families could use, then host an event live on an online conferencing platform.

Meet and Greet

Our PTA Family can always use more members! In a time of social distancing, we need to create connections more than ever before. Use this moment to invite all your school community to join your PTA/PTSA!

  • Make Your Meetings Effective: Your PTA/PTSA meetings can easily be hosted online but be sure to stay organized and on task. Send out all the materials in advance and be respectful of your members’ time.
  • Make Your Meetings Impactful: Invite key players such as the principal, school staff and other school parents to brainstorm how your PTA can best help support families.
  • Celebrate Your Volunteers: Create opportunities to share the great work your PTA is doing, while letting people know you appreciate their efforts.

On behalf of National PTA, thank you for all you do to support children and families. Quarantine is really tough, but we want you to know that you’re doing an amazing job and we’re so #PTAProud of you! Visit PTA.org/COVID-19 for critical resources, join our local PTA leader Facebook group, and share your local PTA/PTSA virtual story with us. Stay safe!


Suzan Yungner is the director of membership and field service for National PTA.

Happy National Volunteer Week!

Charity, volunteering and donating concept. Raised up human hands with red hearts. Children's hands are holding heart symbols. Vector

Our PTA leaders have always been the backbones of their communities, working to make every child’s potential a reality. In moments of crisis, our PTA mission becomes that much more important. Our PTA family members across the country have answered the call, going above and beyond to meet the educational and social and emotional needs of all students, educators and families during the pandemic.

This National Volunteer Week, we want to take the opportunity to recognize a few of the leaders who make us so #PTAProud.

National Volunteer Appreciation Week holiday concept. April. Template for background, banner, card, poster with text inscription. Vector EPS10 illustration

Reaching Out to Families

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean total disconnection! Clara B. Worth PTA in New Jersey is tackling this problem head on with a hefty dose of school spirit. Their school mascot is the “Bees”, so students woke up this weekend with a sign in their front yard saying “YOU’VE BEEN BUZZED! #WEBEELIEVE, with love from the CBW PTA.” What an un-bee-lievably cute way to spread joy. Check out the news article on their efforts.

Partnering with Schools

Family engagement is truly the key to school success, and Beacon Hill PTA in Seattle is a fantastic model of what that can look like in action! This PTA has become a vital go-between for their school and community, hosting weekly virtual meetings with the principal, school staff and other school parents to see how PTA can help support our families. Together, they’ve created a Right Now Needs Fund to help families meet urgent basic needs including food, household supplies and bills. Explore more of the great work they’re doing!

Continuing Initiatives

PTA has long believed that the arts are essential to a well-rounded education—our beloved Reflections program just celebrated 50 years of helping children develop artistic literacy, increase their confidence and explore their own thoughts, feelings and ideas. Blue Grass Elementary PTA member (and K-5 Art teacher) Nikki Gillette is supporting that idea by using her own talents! She has created a new YouTube channel, uploading easy at-home art lessons twice a week to support her students and her community during the pandemic. Watch her awesome videos!

Hosting Virtual Events

Books can help us think more deeply about our lives and the changing world we live in, but they can also provide an escape from everyday stress, which is particularly important for children. Alki Elementary PTA hosted a virtual Scholastic book fair to promote literacy in their school community. All orders will ship to students’ houses, and they have an option for families to pledge money that their principal will match with vouchers that families can use to shop. See how they did it!

Speaking Up for Students

At the end of the day, PTA is all about engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. The Fairfax County Special Education PTA is hard at work getting answers from their school district regarding special education questions to pass them on to their members. As a special education PTA, it’s critical for them to gather information for students with disabilities on how to accommodate their needs during this time. Way to go!

Tackling COVID-19 Together

This is just a very small sample of the amazing things our PTAs are doing to support their communities during the COVID-19 health crisis. To help ease the emerging challenges this pandemic presents, National PTA has compiled resources, tools and information to support our families and teachers who are navigating working, teaching and learning at home. You can access those at PTA.org/COVID-19.

Is your PTA doing something great? Tell us about it! Visit PTA.org/PTAProud.

Corinne Canning is the associate manager of editorial and marketing at National PTA.

National PTA President Addresses Membership Amongst Pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) has reached a critical point. Yesterday we learned that we have lost our first known PTA leader to the virus. Our utmost priority during this crisis is the health and safety of all of our members and all students, educators, staff and families. We are also committed to supporting and making sure all PTAs, children, families, schools and communities have what they need during this challenging time.

COVID-19 has and will continue to have significant impacts and implications on K-12 education and student populations. Please know that National PTA is engaging regularly with congressional staff and fellow education partners on critical issues related to COVID-19 such as state testing requirements, access and support for online learning and school meals. We’re also advocating for Congress to take swift, bipartisan action to provide fiscal and policy relief to state and local education agencies.

Today, we issued a statement calling for the federal government to provide clear and robust guidance for families and schools struggling amid the pandemic. We’ve also compiled resources and will continue to add more for our community to use to help navigate the crisis. We are working every day to provide information to support families and students and advocating on behalf of our nation’s youth.

As you and your PTA have questions regarding COVID-19, we urge you to reach out to your state and local health and education departments. Additionally, you can support efforts to assist  the most vulnerable children and families by engaging with local school districts and departments of health to determine high-need areas and collaborate with community groups—such as food pantries and other non-profits—to provide essential services and support.

Please continue to follow National PTA on social media, read our newsletters and check out resources and information on COVID-19 at www.PTA.org/COVID-19.

Thank you for everything you are doing to support families, students and schools in your states and communities during this time. We remain committed to advocating for and helping you and our nation’s families, schools and communities navigate the challenges that have arisen in this time of crisis.

Sincerely,
Leslie Boggs

What Real-Life Family Engagement Looks Like

When Heather Losneck learned that she had been selected as a National PTA Family Engagement Fellow last spring, she was overjoyed. As president of Berea-Midpark Middle School PTA in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, she was deeply interested in expanding her understanding of how school districts can support transformative family engagement.

She also believed her participation in the Family Engagement Fellowship program would be a compelling reason for the district and community to come together to create more intentional opportunities for the kind of family engagement that truly impacts student success.

A year later, Heather has successfully formed an active and accomplished Family Engagement Team for the Berea City School District. Here’s how she has collaborated with the district and the school board to enhance family engagement practices.

Taking the First Steps

Heather knew she could not accomplish all that she wanted to do alone, so her first priority was to connect with key players she knew could help influence the district, including the school board president, Ana Chapman. Since she was a longtime PTA member, Heather knew Ana felt passionately about family engagement.

As they continued to build their family engagement team, Ana notified her of an outdated family engagement policy that she was interested in revising. Heather, Ana and another dedicated parent, Kim Dettmer, collaborated to rewrite the policy. They used the opportunity to integrate National PTA’s Standards for Family-School Partnerships into their community’s approach.

Ana then brought the updated language to the school board for a vote. Because this policy change was initiated by the school board president, it was a powerful, and relatively quick, first step. The new language signaled a strong commitment to transformative family engagement and created excitement for the creation of a district-wide team.

Forming a Powerful Team

Though their small team of three had achieved an early success, Heather knew their family engagement team still needed more members to be truly transformative. She believed that one of the most important responsibilities as a leader was to empower other parents and caregivers.

So, Heather, Ana and Kim worked to establish a diverse and motivated team of parents, teachers and administrators. An application process—which they promoted using a social media campaign, school newsletters and direct communications from the district—ensured the group was open and inviting, but still manageable in size, and adequately representative of all three cities in the district.

The application process also helped the group to further publicize and elevate the work they were doing. While the application was simple, it provided valuable information that enabled Heather to find out why people were interested in joining the team. They reviewed 60 applications and selected 16 members for to be part of the final Family Engagement Team.

Working to Maximize Impact

The newly-formed Family Engagement Team established three subcommittees that would take on concrete projects to build momentum and create community buy-in for transformative family engagement:

  1. Welcoming Families
  2. Effective Communication
  3. Student Success

To avoid the pitfalls of the work getting stuck in internal processes and endless discussion with little action, they took the time to reach consensus on a clear vision and achievable goals for each subcommittee. Heather shared, “It’s really important not to try to do too much.” She encouraged subcommittees to pick a single, specific project to be passionate about, and then she worked to ensure they had the appropriate resources and empowered them to do the work.

Finding the Keys to Success

The subcommittees have already achieved several accomplishments during their short tenure. Heather credits the momentum to, “checking in with [my] teams regularly and celebrating their successes.”
Of particular note is their work around welcoming families. When a recent survey uncovered that the district could improve in being more welcoming of families from different ethnicities, the Welcoming Families subcommittee collaborated with the district’s new Director of Nutrition Services to add new dishes to the school menu that are more reflective of the community’s cultures.

Their key strategies to successful, transformative family engagement approach included:

  1. Partnering with families who provide their recipes that best exemplify their cultures
  2. A new wellness committee, established by the Director of Nutrition Services, that intentionally recruits parent members.

While food fairs are a regular staple of diversity attempts, the nutritional services approach the Welcoming Families subcommittee used has resulted in a systemic change that directly benefits all kids. It has also opened doors for continuous exchange between families and the district’s Nutrition Services department.

The team has also worked closely with the district’s Communications Director to create a “Before You Visit” link on the district website, which will make it easier for families to find out anything they may know before they come to school.

This initiative was a direct response to parents’ indications that they did not always feel welcome in school buildings and that transitioning from one school building to another was particularly challenging. Rather than simply providing the hours the office is open, the website now includes detailed information such as drop off procedures, sign in rules, good times to visit, who you will meet in the front office, and more.

Creating Sustainability for Family Engagement

Heather shares that the Family Engagement Team’s next goal is to establish a district-level paid position dedicated to family engagement. She says, “In order to sustain the work going forward, it cannot be driven solely by volunteers.”

Collaborating with the School Board President, they are currently analyzing similar positions in other districts, and are eager to begin crafting a job description for the role. The team sees this as a necessary next step to ensure that family engagement efforts are consistent, impactful and effectively integrated to the school district’s overall strategic plan.

We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Stay up to date with the latest best practices in transformative family engagement by subscribing to the Center for Family Engagement’s e-newsletter here.


About the Author: Heather Losneck is one of National PTA’s Family Engagement Fellows and the president of Berea-Midpark Middle School PTA.

 

Growing Our Membership Every Month

Membership is a year-round effort.  It never ends.  As PTA ambassadors, leaders are to constantly promote the value of PTA, and with it, ignite interest in our mission for people to join in.  Our PTA voice is more powerful, and our PTA advocacy is stronger the more members we have.

 The new year is full of additional opportunities to invite everyone to join PTA this second half of the National PTA membership year (7/1-6/30.)  What are those opportunities?

  •  To begin with, all of your remaining meetings and activities in your PTA calendar for this year.
  • To continue, all National PTA programs and activities to celebrate Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW). Choose one of the National PTA program categories (Health & Safety, Literacy, Digital Learning, STEM) to plan your event and create a theme for your week.  On February 17, 2018, PTA celebrates 122 years of existence advocating to improve the education and well-being of all children.  At your Take Your Family to School Week activities, enthusiastically and confidently invite everyone in your community to “Be part of our PTA history and join our PTA.”
  • In March, take advantage of our PTA Family Reading Experience resources available at PTA.org/FRE to celebrate National Reading Month. This is a great opportunity to work with your local librarians to get families (adults and children) to visit their local public libraries, encourage them to sign up to obtain their library cards and borrow books to read at home. In the process, don’t forget to invite all families and community members to support similar PTA efforts by joining your PTA.
  • Our PTA Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit and the PTAKit.org guide for organizing a PTA Program are great resources to help you plan and celebrate national awareness on issues such as:

 These are only possible ideas for which multiple resources are already available.  In the end, all will depend on what the needs of your students and school community are, as PTA you want to be relevant.  If your families need to be empowered to help their children with test taking, that should be your focus at that time; look at our PTA resources on assessment and coordinate with your school administrators. Making our PTA mission relevant to your students and your community by responding to their needs should be the north that guides the focus of your work.

Just remember to always have a way of inviting all to support our PTA work with their PTA membership.  And then, share your work with your state congress PTA. They have multiple ways to recognize your membership and mission advancement efforts.  So, reach out to them, and share and celebrate your accomplishments with all of us for the benefit of all children.

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

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.