Multiple parent volunteers hands piling into one stack in a teamwork fashion

Looking For More Parent Volunteers? Here’s How to Recruit Them

Do you ever feel exasperated when trying to get more parent volunteers to step up to the plate for the school year, sports season, or specific event/project?

Do you feel bad relying on the same go-to people who always seem to be there to do the work? 

Today’s blog provides immediately actionable tips for recruiting parent volunteers.

This is a guide that can be helpful for parents, principals and heads of school, church leaders, and more during the following times:

  • In the moment of need 
  • Throughout the year 
  • For retaining volunteers year after year.

Table of Contents

The System of Recruiting Parent Volunteers

Cultivate Your Parent Volunteers

Host a Kick-Ass Recruitment Fair in 10 minutes and Gain Overwhelming Support from Parent Volunteers

Recap of Steps to Hosting a Quick Recruitment Fair for Parent Volunteers

Free Guide: How to Organize a Group Gift Like a Boss

The System for Recruiting Parent Volunteers

As an engineer by education and trade, I’ve learned that to everything, there is a ‘system’ that can be applied to make something work effectively and repeatedly. 

Finding that system and adapting it has been my key to minor and significant successes:

  • Exercise habits (4x a week)
  • Starting a business (three so far)
  • A happy marriage (23+ years)
  • Excellent kids (4)
  • Volunteering (100+ hours a year). 

My systems don’t take the joy out of my life. Just the opposite.

They make the joys easier to come by more frequently by reducing the stuff I don’t enjoy to the mechanics of getting it done. 

Cultivate Your Parent Volunteers

Let’s adopt a system from fundraising and apply it to recruiting and retaining parent volunteers: the system of cultivation.

I first learned about cultivation in an academic and practical sense from a man named Fred Bleeke.

Fred was a part of the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis. He oversaw a 9-figure fund and taught non-profit management at my university.

Cultivation was one system Fred taught to support a sustainable donor base. His first lesson was a genius introduction to deploying human nature to “help people do the good they want to do.” 

Donors donate money; volunteers donate their time and money. 

So, let’s cultivate volunteers for specific tasks and as helpful resources of volunteer time.

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Lesson 1: Start early and have a full-lifecycle parent volunteers plan

Last year’s volunteers are your first volunteers this year.

Nothing says you must start from scratch each year and build your roster. Thank goodness for that.

Let’s see if we can shore up your lifecycle parent volunteer cultivation: 

Look to your parent volunteer stars

Review the roster of prior parent volunteers and what each person worked on from the prior season.

Who were the stars that could be retained and ideally granted more responsibility and more ownership this time around?

Are there any individuals with the potential to be great volunteers who might need a conversation or an ask? Likely, your organization hinges on 5 to 10 key people to get you past the finish line. In cultivation terms, these are your major donors. 

Build a community

Involve your past volunteers in the recruitment and retention process of new parent volunteers.

Delegating recruitment to other volunteers can help you build your base, ease stress, and cultivate a community feeling for your organization.

Delegation is especially effective because your past volunteers know the specifics of what it took last year, how they’d like it done, and the benefit of more people to spread the workload.

These key individuals can head up specific events throughout the year and discuss the workload. 

Appreciate parent volunteers often, in person and public

Build in time to thank your volunteers throughout the event, year, season, etc. Everyone enjoys recognition for their efforts.

For example, during a play, social, or tournament, thank individuals by name for what they did before the play, during announcements, or the awards ceremony. 

Recognize parent volunteers at the end

Recognize your volunteers at the end of the year, season, or event. Thank their families as well; it takes effort, negotiation, and strong partnership to enable the volunteer time and money that goes into all of this.

A note of gratitude, a certificate, a trinket, or even an Appreciation Album.

Budget for recruitment and cultivation

This is an often neglected line item. Organizations try to keep administration costs low, so most of the funds affect programs.

Yet, programs can only function with the administration.

Ensure you have some funds for cards, gifts, certificates, and trinkets, so there is zero hesitation to do the right thing for your volunteers when cultivation activities are needed.

Lesson 2: Know your calendar

Likely there is a calendar and a playbook that drives the cadence of your season and year.

Your calendar is a powerful tool you can leverage when you know your dates, the planning lead times to get things done, what tasks to complete, and the hours required for each piece of work. 

In the non-profit world, this is called a campaign. Each campaign is different, but the spirit behind a specific body of work to accomplish an outcome is always present. Campaigns have a start and an end, from kickoff to wrap-up. 

In human nature, it is easier to rally behind a specific campaign with a start, a stop, and an objective. 

Build in breaks and time to recover. 

Lesson 3: Know your parent volunteers hours

Tasks take time. Know the jobs and the estimated hours for each item.

The more specific you are, the better organized you’ll appear. Knowing the specifics in advance empowers you and grants credibility.

Having the specifics, in turn, raises everyone’s confidence and de-risks a volunteer parent’s concern about their time commitment. 

Lesson 4: Flex Into partnerships and sponsorship for people-power

Connect with businesses and organizations in your community and nationwide to flex their abilities for your needs.

Retail, restaurants, and other organizations would love the exposure to your parents as a win-win. Their staff and teams can perform work for your organization in return for a chance to put a coupon in a bag or a note on a flyer. 

For example, at The Appreciation Company, we always volunteer to handle a portion of Teacher Appreciation Week tasks using our free digital service.

Our service frees up 20-40 hours of volunteer time that PTSAs can then use to redeploy to a staff lunch or other in-person activities.

That’s 4-8 volunteers saving between 5-10 hours each!

Cultivate partner organizations like you would any long-term relationship. Yes, this takes some work. But do you want to know what else takes a lot of work?

Making garlands for the children’s dance until 3 in the morning because you had to do it yourself (true story).

What works here can be added to the playbook for future heads of PTSAs, sports rec leagues, or program directors who are tired and at their wit’s end when it is way past midnight and they’re once again doing it themselves. 

Host a Kick-Ass Recruitment Fair in 10 minutes and Gain Overwhelming Support from Parent Volunteers

Here’s how to hold an incredibly effective session for parent volunteer recruitment.

This session only requires a few minutes of prep and 10 minutes to pull off. Then, you are set for the year.

For best results, this quick recruitment session should be bundled with a different in-person activity like parent’s night or an informational meeting about the upcoming season or year. 

You’ll need to be actively engaged and muster your power of persuasion. But, it will be 100% worth it in the long run for a half-hour of flexing your cultivation super-power.

So, I am going to give you a secret power to pull this off easily:

Channel this secret power

This secret power is human nature. We will tap into the human nature of it being easy for a person to commit to an unknown future. Parents are good-natured and want to help. They also want to look good in front of their peers. 

You know how this feels.

For example, it was easy for me to commit to writing a future review of a friend’s upcoming book on Amazon. That release was three months in the future. I was excited for him and wanted to help in his success.

However, here’s what happened when that three-month deadline arrived and I had the book in hand.

Finding the time to a) read the book and b) write the review was much more challenging.

But I was committed, and he reminded me of that commitment. 

We are going to use the same principle to recruit parent volunteers. 

We’ll tap into the reality of how our minds work when we make commitments. 

Typically, organizations have an in-person or virtual information meeting about the organization, the program, or the season.

I’ll lay this out as an in-person experience that can be adapted to virtual using Zoom with meeting polls and chats.

Contact me if you want to navigate specifics. 

What to Do in 10 Minutes

Hold an informational meeting at the beginning of the school year (within the first few weeks) about what is happening at the school, changes this year on campus, and the immediate surrounding community (construction & road repair, new bus routes, etc.). 

Here’s what you need to do:

Have every person fill out two name tags. Each name tag must include:

  • First and Last Name
  • Email address
  • Phone Number

Have each person wear both name badges. Yes, it will feel silly, and that is okay. Let them know it is for an activity later.

Have a few tables set up and staffed with someone who can provide the instructions. You’ll want to avoid a queue at the door for people getting in, as it will take a minute or two for each person to fill out two name tags. 

Prep the room with a handful of 25-inch by 30-inch paper easel sticky pads. If your school has eight major events throughout the year, have eight easel pages stuck to the wall.

  • At the top, write the name of the event and the date it occurs
  • During the next exercise, the parents will take off their name tags and stick them to these poster pages.

What to Say in the Meeting

During your portion of the speaking part for volunteers, emphasize that there is a tradition of strong parent involvement, which is essential to making the school operate smoothly.

Ask, with a show of hands, who is a busy parent here? You’ll get a whole room of parents raising their hands. 

Then, turn it into a laugh by asking, “Okay, maybe I should ask the opposite: Who here isn’t a busy parent?”

Have fun with it; ask with a lot of cheer and over-emphasis. Then, if a person does, or a few parents raise their hands, have some more fun and say, “great, thanks for volunteering.” 

Ask, with a show of hands, who thinks 1 hour per week of parent involvement in support of your child’s school is too much to ask? 

I bet no one raises their hands, which is precisely the idea. But, you are gaining support for their commitment. 

Now share:

“Based on the number of hours of volunteer time we need this year, across 30 weeks of the school year, and with a room of 50 people, each household should sign up for two activities.

Now you know why you had them create two name badges. We will get up and stick our name badges to each board. Please stick two.”

That’s it.

Use a Poll During Virtual Meetings

For a virtual meeting, you can structure this as a poll.

For example, if there are eight activities you need volunteers for, set a poll name for each activity and a yes/no answer for each poll.

Have the parents vote yes for each activity they are interested.

For each vote, your polling software, such as Zoom, will collect the attendee information (test this for your system). 

You are using human nature to catch the parent volunteers early in the season when enthusiasm is high. You are securing commitment in a public forum. 

Recap of Steps to Hosting a Quick Recruitment Fair for Parent Volunteers

You’ve made it super easy for the parents to say ‘yes’ to something in advance of schedules getting tight and the year getting busy.

You’ll leverage the desire to remove those silly name tags and stick them on the boards. Anyone with a name tag will have to stick it on the poster paper, intentionally hide it, or throw it away.

That’s okay. You want a willing volunteer. 

You’ve used your secret power, the power of information and knowing your calendar, and the power of good intentions early in the school year to “help them do the good they want to do,” as Fred Bleeke said.

Download Our Free Guide: How to Organize a Group Gift Like a Boss

Free Guide

How to Organize a Group Gift Like a Boss

Hey Busy Moms! Make life easier with our best tips and tricks for organizing a group gift! Our free guide gives you everything from timelines to templates. By signing up we’ll stay in touch via email.

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