Hanging Out the Welcome Sign

Labor Day has come and gone and most of our students are back in school for the fall. The school year is filled with excitement and possibility for your PTA. Now is your chance to “Make a difference every day with PTA!”

What are you going to do every day to make the families in your community feel valued and welcome? Here are a few tips that may be helpful:
Create a welcoming meeting atmosphere: Assign an officer or two (or your entire PTA board) to greet newcomers at each meeting. Wear name tags so that everyone can get to know each other’s names. Avoid using acronyms or jargon. Explain the programs and events you put on at the school in detail so that everyone can understand them so they do not feel like outsiders. Have everyone at the meeting raise a hand to speak. This prevents one or two members from dominating the discussion. Follow up after the meeting. Thank new families for coming and asking if they have any questions or would like to become involved.

Recruit everyone: Consider every interaction with a new family as a chance to talk about what your PTA does and to invite them to get involved, not just to join. Make it easy to get involved. Set up different volunteer opportunities with varying levels of commitment so that everyone can give of their time and energy in a way that works for them. Try an online volunteer sign-up or management system. Follow up after asking for input or help. Consider having a volunteer coordinator on your board.

Be available: Update your PTA website frequently. Make contact information for your PTA officers and committee chairs easy to find so members can reach out with questions or to get involved. Link your PTA information to the school website. Hang welcome signs and post notices about PTA events where they are easily seen.

Welcome new volunteers and fresh ideas: Use committee assignments to encourage volunteers to ease into larger PTA roles. Provide job descriptions where they can easily be found and read. Provide members a timeline of when new board members and committee chairpeople are selected so they know when these opportunities for involvement are available. Engage and start with kindergarten and transitional kindergarten (TK) parents each year.

Build diversity: Listen to your community. Do not assume you know what it needs from PTA. Survey families in their home language, if possible, to see what kinds of programs they are interested in and how the PTA can support them. Include new voices in the planning and execution of events. Fresh feedback and input are a gift! Reach out for wide representation from your community. Ask people to invite their friends. Call new families to personally invite them to events or meetings. On forms and paperwork, remember to be inclusive in your language. Ask for the name of parents, caregivers, or guardians. Bring meetings and interactions out into your community. Do not always expect families to come to you.

Use every day as your chance to make somebody feel welcome in your school’s PTA!

For a wealth of helpful ideas regarding engaging volunteers, conducting inclusive and welcoming meetings, and making everyone feel like a part of your PTA, look at the California State PTA Leaders’ Website.