…or do I?
Sometimes telecommuting gives me the flexibility to commit to activities that I normally would pass up. It’s the same for the moms that telecommute and homeschool or telecommute and are active church volunteers. This year my oldest started at a brand new charter school. Everything is fresh and new, including the PTO. I have found myself quite involved in helping set up the structure, providing ideas and serving as a sounding board as we are getting things kicked off and started.
Being a brand new school and PTO we are having PTO elections in September and then jumping in feet first to get things going. I thought it might be helpful for others to see how we are making this work quickly and to provide a few tips and tricks on how to be a rockstar volunteer and a working mom.
With elections in our near future, and doing them on such a short time frame I fell back on how I had previously run them at another school. We used a process that embraced new technology to ensure fast results. We used an online survey site called www.addpoll.com
to set up our elections. Each position was listed on it’s own page with bios and pictures of the candidate as well as a description of the position they were running for. This made it very easy for parents to vote online and to be familiar with the candidates if they hadn’t met them in person before.
In order to vote you had to be a paid PTO member. All paid PTO members were sent an email invite to vote but the results themselves were anonymous. We also did a paper ballot at the meeting where candidates were introduced for any parents that did not have an email address.
We also had to determine what all positions we were going to have on our board and announce them for candidacy.
PTO Board and Committee set up
After some research and from my own past experience I came up with the list of positions below. I know the VP set up is unusual, but while researching I found that there are some very successful PTOs recommending this set up to ensure that no one burns out, and each VP has plenty of time to focus on their “season”. So each VP would be in charge of 1 major event and 1-2 social events. It helps divide the labor up and focus efforts allowing them to truly oversee 1 – 2 committees instead of 10. The position of Publicity chair is someone in charge of managing promotion for all aspects of the PTO. This is a position that came from the work I did at our previous school. I am active in social media and these days that is one of the best ways to promote events, coordinate parents and ensure our message is out. The Publicity chair would coordinate pictures from volunteers, submit information/pictures to the paper to promote the school/PTO and make sure that all membership events, promotions, notices, etc get to Facebook, twitter, the PTO website and school send home notices as needed. Committees would be created for each event or need and would report to the appropriate board member.
- Vice President (focus on fundraising and overseeing seasonal VPs)
- VP Fall
- VP Winter
- VP Spring
- Volunteer Chair
- Publicity Chair
- Membership Chair
PTO Today has some great templates and I used one of their nomination forms to quickly update and have ready for our first PTO meeting.
I am also a big fan of creating a PowerPoint show for all meetings. Not only does it help everyone stick to an agenda but it’s great to post on the website later to help catch up those who couldn’t attend. I used a basic Google Doc template and did the whole thing collaboratively online.
Managing information for PTO purposes
Setting up and running a PTO with 11 board members, countless committee members and hopefully an army of volunteers can be a bit mind boggling. I like to set up a gmail account and use google docs to store all documents, budgets, committee reports etc for the PTO. You could organize them in any fashion, but we are setting up our files by position, committee, and event in the hopes that it will be super easy to pass the baton from year to year since all files are stored in a central location.
Another benefit of using an online storage system like Google Docs is that the documents can be worked on by more than one person at a time. So if the Treasurer calls the President and during the discussion both have the budget open in front of them, the Treasurer can make real time updates that the President can see. This can make it a very effective coordination tool for chairs and committees to meet by phone versus always having to meet in person.
Balancing Work and Volunteer Efforts
This is one tip I promote over and over to ensure time for both work and volunteer efforts. Knowing how much time you have available and being organized in your volunteer efforts will ensure that you don’t over commit and that you don’t end up burning the midnight oil.
Plan up front.
I know this sounds like a simple concept and that you might say you already do this, but I’m talking about a 1-2 hour, nit picky, devil’s advocate, worst case scenario kind of planning session. You need to think through what you want to do, need to do, can afford to do and what you have the staffing to do. I set up an online form on our PTO website (again powered by Google Docs) to collect the following information for every event or promotion. There were multiple benefits to this including, we ensured that events were well planned and thought out, our publicity chair had the information necessary to promote the events and we had a running spreadsheet of every event and every step we took to promote it. This was invaluable the following year when we wanted to see what improvements were needed.
- Type of Communication
- Title of Event or Subject line for email and posts
- Who all should this communication go out to
- When should this communication go out? (if multiple emails are needed, please list out dates in the additional information below)
- Charge for this event?
- Budget needed for this event?
- Staff needed for this event
- Event description for posts, emails, and eventbrite page
- Additional Information
- Will a flyer, graphic or picture accompany this communication?
- Registration needed for this event?
Recruit! Spread the word, get some enthusiasm going and recruit others to help. Having a plan first will help you put people in roles they will enjoy and be good at.
Have fun! Probably the single most important tip. Put on good music, meet at a coffee shop, have a happy hour to get the team together and break the ice for those that don’t know each other, whatever it takes.
Thanks for reading and as always I would love to hear your thoughts! Drop a comment below!