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By Craig Bystrynski, PTO Today
"Position available." Write help-wanted ads. Create a flyer or section of your newsletter with descriptions of the jobs you need help for. Include the duties of the position, likely time commitment, and other pertinent information. You're more likely to find a good match for your position if you publicize it well.
"There's a lot you can do." You already know that one of the biggest fears of volunteers is that they'll be sucked into a black hole of never-ending time commitment. One way to address this fear is to create a list of all of the things that volunteers can do in one hour to help your group.
"Would you help?" The No. 1 reason people say they don't volunteer is because "no one asked." Asking doesn't mean a newsletter ad that says "new officers needed." It requires a personal approach, and it works best if you have a specific task in mind. "Jim, we need ticket-takers for the carnival. Can you spare an hour to help?"
"Bring your friends!" People are much more likely to participate in a group if they know someone who participates already. You can use this to your advantage by asking existing members to issue personal invitations to people they know.
"Thanks for your interest." Don't let volunteer surveys sit around for weeks before you respond, even to people who expressed interest in an event that is months away. People are much more likely to follow through later if you make a connection now. Also, this is an opening to ask for more involvement: "I know you said you'd help with the spring carnival, but I wonder if you could spare an hour to help children pick out books at the book fair in October?"
"Let me show you." When you have a new volunteer, have an experienced volunteer work with her to show her the ropes. Your new volunteer will get up to speed faster and, if your mentor does her job well, will feel more like a part of the team from the start.
"It's all written down." Create a binder with information on your most common activities. Include resources, tools, and key steps. Don't forget items like tips for using the copy machine, how to handle cash, etc.
"Let's work together." Two heads sometimes are better than one. By sharing one job, two people can often put more energy and creativity into the work. This tends to work best if you have, for example, a chairman and a chairman-elect - one person as the final decisionmaker in case of disagreements and the other preparing to step into that role next year.
"You can do this at home." It's common for people who aren't familiar with parent groups to think every job needs to be done at school during school hours. Make a list of "flex time" and "work at home" jobs to attract people who can't help out during the day.
"This is what you can expect." Set expectations from the start. You don't have to be formal and businesslike with volunteers, but let them know that you expect punctuality, a positive attitude, that they abide by school and group rules, and maintain confidentiality, if applicable. Likewise, make sure your committee chairs know what volunteers expect from them: the tools and training to do the job, a positive work atmosphere, respect for their time, and an understanding of how the task relates to overall goals.
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