The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

How Schools Can Attract and Retain Parent Volunteers

A girl and man sitting at a table in a classroom. The girl is smiling while she types into a laptop. The man is explaining something. He might be a parent volunteer.Is your school lacking in personpower to run events or help teachers and staff? Getting parents more involved can boost student performance and make parents feel welcome and appreciated. But attracting new parent volunteers and keeping them coming back can be difficult. Many parents who have never volunteered before are likely nervous because they’ve never done it, they’re afraid they won’t do it correctly, or they feel that they don’t have enough time in their schedules. There are ways to work around those fears, however. We’ve put together some helpful tips on recruiting and retaining more parent volunteers.

Forge a genuine connection with parents

One of the easiest and most natural ways you can find potential volunteers is to connect with the parents! Use a low-key approach. Talk to parents at events, meet them for coffee, and make genuine conversation during parent-teacher conferences. When you establish a real connection with parents, it’s that much easier to get a sense of them as people. Are they looking for ways to become more involved in their children’s education? Are they open to helping and improving the school? Asking if they’re interested in volunteering is much less daunting when you’ve made a personal connection.

Reach out to parents of new students

Just like kids who start at a new school, new parents are probably nervous about meeting and connecting with strangers. Take the first step and reach out to parents of newly enrolled students. Share important information with them, like important school events, schedules, classroom rules, PTA meetings, and information for volunteering. They’ll appreciate that you reached out first, as well as the valuable information.

Use social media to inform (and brag)

Does your parent volunteer team have its own social media pages? Encourage leaders to create a Facebook page or Facebook group, or make one for them. Share photos and details of past volunteer events as well as upcoming events so everyone can stay informed. A group or page can give hesitant parent volunteers an idea of what they’re getting into, making it less intimidating for newbies to get involved. As for veteran parent volunteers, sharing success stories or fun highlights of their work is a great way to keep them volunteering.

Ask for honest feedback after events (and use it)

Parent volunteers want to know that their time is appreciated and that they’ve made a difference. Take the time to ask for feedback after events, either by sending anonymous survey forms online or setting up paper forms at the event itself. Ask them what they liked about the event, what they didn’t, and what could be improved upon in the future. Keep it simple. You’ll show parent volunteers that their input is valued, and you’ll get helpful feedback in return.

Play to parents’ different strengths

Just as children learn and work differently, so do parents. When you have a variety of volunteer tasks available, you’re more likely to recruit different parent volunteers. Having just one volunteer job, such as manning a check-in desk for an event, may only attract energetic and talkative parents. You’re closing off opportunities to get parents involved in other ways. Parents may be shy or may be more comfortable doing tasks like setup, breakdown, or running inventory. Be sure to have different types of tasks available so you can attract all kinds of parent volunteers. Don’t have enough tasks? Ask parents how they’d like to help! They may have ideas for volunteering that you haven’t thought of.

Anticipate parent needs

Parents are busy people. They may want to volunteer, but they don’t have enough time to devote an entire afternoon or day to volunteering. Let parents volunteer in shorter blocks of time; rather than an eight-hour volunteer shift, try two-, three-, or four-hour shifts instead. Do your potential parent volunteers need babysitters or rides to school? Encourage other volunteers to help each other out. Maybe you can help a parent find a babysitter, or give them a task that they can do at home. Coordinate a carpool so that parent volunteers can get involved, too.

Show volunteers appreciation

Volunteering is great for mind and body, but who doesn’t love a few tokens of appreciation on top of that? To spark interest in volunteering and keep parents coming back, offer incentives. They can be simple, such as providing free drinks and snacks, or offering free admission to other events that they can enjoy during their time off. Thank parent volunteers in emails, newsletters, and social media groups or pages. Send handwritten thank you notes, if possible. Even small gestures can keep volunteers coming back to help again.

Recruit volunteers with communication and thoughtful planning

Getting more parents to volunteer isn’t just a simple matter of asking them. If many parents are declining your requests, put yourself in their shoes and ask why. If they’re brand new to volunteering (or to the school), they may not have all the information they need. That’s why connecting with new and veteran parents, reaching out, and setting up a parent group can be incredibly helpful in finding and keeping volunteers. Anticipating their needs and playing to their strengths makes volunteering easier and more fun for parents, too. And of course, don’t forget to show parents your appreciation with incentives or gratitude. It’s a surefire way to attract and retain your volunteer recruits.

Latasha DoyleLatasha Doyle (@latashamdoyle) is a content writer who focuses on helping charities, as well as nonprofit software and services, find the right words. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or playing with her six pets. She lives in Denver, Colorado, and can be found on the internet at www.latashadoylewrites.com.

Topics: Volunteers School Volunteers Parent Volunteers