By Tim Healy, Male Engagement Specialist

[Spring 2018 NYPT]

Sometimes a promising idea leads to unintended, extra good things.

Last summer, my unit in Western New York set a goal to make our PTA more welcoming to more people. We wanted to attract more moms and dads to become active members.

The time when we’re most visible, we thought, and where we had the best chance to attract more people, was at our meetings. We set these meeting goals:

Our executive committee had a promising idea. We could invite a new business in our neighborhood, The Little Gym, to our first meeting. The children would play in the gym, while the adults would listen to our guest and conduct business.

In return, we would allow The Little Gym to hand out some pamphlets to advertise their business.

We advertised ahead of time that The Little Gym would be there. It worked! More than 50 parents came to our first meeting, plus around 30 kids!

We started our meeting, held in the cafeteria, promptly at 6:30pm We asked all the kids to line up and head to the gym to play with the people from The Little Gym.

Our guest speaker spoke, the meeting started, and things were going great. We were on track to finish our meeting right at 7:30pm. It was about to be a great success!

Then, around 7:20pm, a parent and a teacher digressed into a conversation that should have taken place outside the meeting. The conversation started to get out of control. I tried to bring them back, but I wasn’t having much luck. I started to worry that we’d never be finished by 7:30pm, and I would break my first promise to our parents.

Then, something incredible happened. Right at 7:30pm, as if on cue, 30 red-faced, sweating, laughing kids came marching into the cafeteria! They all went to their parents and started talking about how much fun they had!

This signaled the end of the meeting in a way that wasn’t rude, didn’t offend anyone, and, best of all, was right on time!

Our whole executive committee was able to stay and finish that conversation with the parent and the teacher, and have conversations with other parents as we were finishing up.

It was a great idea to bring in The Little Gym to entertain the kids who came to our meeting. It was an unintended, extra-good thing that helped us finish up on time.

Through the year we’ve kept this model. It has helped us recruit all the people we need to fill our executive committee next year, including a second male sitting on our committee.