Caring for Your Volunteers

[NYPT Summer 2018]

By Antoinette Darden-Cintron, Leadership Development Coordinator

With the start of the new school year upon us, there is no better time than now to think about how we set the tone for optimal volunteer engagement. Volunteerism is one of the most important elements of success in our schools and communities. Volunteers care for the well-being and the achievements of students and their families.
Leadership thrives on dedicated volunteers willing to step up to lead the way in PTA. Engaging volunteers and building leaders is two-fold in sustaining effective PTAs at all levels. So what does it take? It takes knowing not just the needs of your unit, council or region, but it takes knowing your volunteers. Without understanding what makes PTA relevant to our volunteers, without knowing what our volunteers bring to the table and what they’re passionate about, we fail to build a nurturing and stable environment for our members.

How do we engage volunteers so they remain committed to our schools and communities? How do we coalesce our need to sustain our volunteers and build leaders? Here’s what it takes:

  1. Keep in touch. Parents and caregivers that sign your volunteer list should never wait more than a week to hear from you. Any longer than that and your volunteers disappear. Keep all levels of communications timely and consistent when engaging volunteers.
  2. Make a connection with volunteers. Get to know them. Find out about their careers and hidden talents. You may be surprised to find an artist ready to lead a family and community painting night.
  3. Recognize time and talents. There is no other way to say it but volunteers need to know that their time is appreciated! A great way to do that is to present certificates of appreciation at a parent meeting or school event. For more ideas on how to retain and maintain volunteers, read this article from greatschools.org.
  4. Value volunteer time. The quickest way to lose volunteers is to waste their time. Prioritize making sure a volunteers’ time is being put to good use. Kathryn Pauley of Nonprofit Hub points out, “Treat their donation of time with as much importance as you would a monetary donation – because, some would say, a donation of time is more valuable.”
  5. Make a sustained commitment. In other words, just do it! A key element to our success will be to create an inclusive organizational culture and develop diverse relations with volunteers and community members that feel great about supporting PTA. We need to make sure all voices are heard and represented in our communities. Inclusion goes beyond representation. It takes leaving no one out, supporting the needs of families that may not look like our own, and celebrating the value of being different and how it enriches the fabric of our communities.September is very much a renewal for our PTA families and communities. As leaders and members of NYS PTA, let us embrace the changing of the seasons and see opportunities to support our volunteers that inspires greater levels of commitment to our mission through engaging and celebrating our most prized possessions: our volunteers, leaders, families and our communities! Welcome Back!