Who is supporting the PTOs and their volunteers while they are supporting everyone else?
The definition of “Parent Teacher Organization” varies. But for this blog, Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs) includes
- Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs)
- Parent Teacher Student Associations (PTSAs)
- Parent Committees
- Any group that oversees the essential, much needed, noble, and selfless work that parents perform at their schools with other parents, teachers, and students.
Table of Contents
Eliminate the ‘Herding Cats’ Feeling
Reduce Wasted or Unproductive Time
Create and Increase Positive Benefits of PTOs
What Used to Take Hours Now Takes Minutes
Challenges Facing PTOs
When listening to PTOs express their challenges, I hear statements like:
- “It’s [Teacher Appreciation Week or fundraisers) like herding cats. It takes so much work.”
- “While the parent committee wants to appreciate the teachers and staff, the school says our approach is confusing because the timing overlapped with a fundraiser.”
- The amount of work ‘this’ [auctions, fun-runs, bike-a-thons, other fundraisers] takes is significant, but we do need to do something.
- We did it ‘this way’ once, and it seemed great. But some families and staff were left out.”
- We had a great parent committee the past few years, but this year’s parents are different.
- “I don’t want to stick my nose in this, But I don’t particularly appreciate how it is being done.”
- “It needs to be sincere and come from the parents. I don’t want to influence this overtly, but I’ve seen it done well, and this year… well, I’m grateful they are trying.”
So, how can we as individuals and communities support PTOs and solve these challenges? That’s exactly what today’s blog will cover.
If any of these topics are something you are navigating today and you want to solve them, call me, and let’s talk.
The benefits of most solutions are typically the elimination or avoidance of something negative (i.e., avoiding pain) or the addition of something positive (i.e., experiencing pleasure).
The Appreciation Company does both. We eliminate negatives and create positives.
Our approach to staff appreciation and fundraising is unique. We intentionally create a benefits-filled experience for the school, the teachers, and the parents.
How to Remove Pain for PTOs
Eliminate the ‘herding cats’ feeling for your staff and volunteers
Herding includes chasing individuals for answers, results, opinions, money, items promised. It’s the list of everything that has to get done around a fundraising event, teacher appreciation week, a jog-a-thon, or the auction.
That’s the herding cars feeling.
If only someone else could be your ‘cat wrangler’ for you. Not for everything. Maybe just one event. If you had to pick one, what would you choose?
Would you hand over the wrangling of a fundraising or staff appreciation?
Imagine a professional wrangler for communications, collecting money, and reminders. That’s what The Appreciation Company does. We remove the need for any and all wrangling.
Reduce wasted and unproductive time
Schools, and specifically, the people aligned with the school, never have enough time to accomplish everything they wish. The same goes for busy parents. We never have enough free time for self-care.
Organizing a fundraiser and managing staff appreciation are two common efforts of a PTO. Both take a lot of time to do. How much of that time is productive and moving the ball forward?
Two questions a school leader could ask:
- How much time does everyone involved spend on organizing and administering something like teacher appreciation gifts or a fundraiser?
- How much time-savings would be worth considering a 15 phone call to try and save x hours?
Suppose a group of volunteers spends 25 hours over a few weeks versus 3 to 4 hours by a single individual. Are the 20+ hours in saved time–half a work week–worth the consideration of a new approach?
Eliminate Unintended Inequity
Have you ever seen one teacher who isn’t recognized during Teacher Appreciation Week while another brings in a haul?
Most likely, this arises from something I describe as unintentional inequity.
Here’s how it happens. The extent to which a teacher is appreciated is subject to the time availability, organizing skills, and penchant for follow-ups by the individuals who fill the roles within each of the three structures.
Schools tend to organize and administer the work of fundraising and teacher appreciation through one of three approaches:
- Centralized by a school administrator, a PTA, or a parent committee. A small group overseeing all the work and tasks.
- Decentralized manner with limited coordination. Each classroom self-organizes, if at all.
- Semi-centralized where a centralized body sets guidelines. Then, a room parent or group of room parents carries out the work each classroom for a grade or subject.
Schools with a decentralized approach tend to have the most unintended inequality across classrooms. In contrast, a centralized system tends to have the least. Semi-centralized tends to fall in the middle.
The Appreciation Company can be helpful in supporting PTOs in all three structures. For example, a centralized system could use our service across a whole school to fundraise and appreciate teachers.
A second type of inequality can arise when looking at the role within the school. Teachers are often the emphasis for Teacher Appreciation Week. Yet, some additional individuals who work directly with the students aren’t always recognized: nurses, counselors, the librarian, music, PE, and other roles.
In addition, administrators, custodial, and other staff are essential to the daily and long-term function of the school. The list can grow long. But it’s not unreasonable to consider which additional individuals beyond the teachers can and should be appreciated.
The Appreciation Company makes it so easy to give to everyone who supports your children and the school. We designed our concept around the concept of Groups, or a shared cluster or sub-cluster of recipients that a collection of parent contributors will appreciate.
Shame and Exclusion
People have an incredible ability to detect injustice. Just watch your children get dessert when one serving is larger than the other. We call this our injustice sensor at our home. We don’t intend to trigger the injustice sensor. It just happens as a natural byproduct of everyday occurrences.
Like parents, PTOs, and most other organizations authentically and intentionally seek to avoid any situations that might invoke negative feelings in someone through their work and activities. This is the exact opposite of their mission: to raise people up.
That said, it can be unavoidable when an individual is responsible for collecting money from families. That person knows how much, how little, or no money at all is contributed. That person may be the most discrete and sensitive person on the planet. Negative feelings around money have existed as long as money has existed.
Each family’s financial situation is it’s own and should remain out of other people’s knowledge. The Appreciation Company avoids negative emotions such as shame because our service anonymizes how much each person or family contributes. The amount could be zero dollars. On the other hand, it could be $50 or more. Regardless, your teacher will only see a cumulative balance for their Appreciation Album.
Create and Increase Positive Benefits of PTOs
What used to take hours now takes minutes.
Suppose parents take 5 hours to perform a specific outcome. What if they can reach the same effect in 10 minutes? In that case, that’s a 96% productivity gain.
With The Appreciation Company, all teacher appreciation work is centralized and only requires three key steps from parent groups.
First, you create a roster of recipients. The roster then must be grouped based on who will contribute.
For example, schools will create groupings around classrooms and include the teacher, supporting staff such as a counselor, admins, the PE teacher, music teacher, and other shared roles that the parents would want to recognize.
Next, you decide if a fundraising aspect will be included in the appreciation campaign and designate that fund. Schools extract their staff roster from a software system and can create the groupings in excel. Roster creation takes about an hour.
Finally, communicate. If the school elects to send the communications themselves, they must create and send them to each grouping. The Appreciation Company generates a unique URL link per grouping.
Then the contributing parents are all included in the same email specifically for that groping. For example, all the parents’ of Ms. Brown’s 2nd-grade class get one email with a specific link. The parents of Mr. Ramirez’s 3rd-grade class get a different link in their email specific to his class.
Email communications and follow-up reminders take up to two hours if the school uses our pre-made templates.
Consistency Becomes a Legacy
My mom taught for over 35 years. As a result, teaching was a lifestyle for our whole family.
Now that The Appreciation Company exists, I like to imagine if my mom had 35 years of notes of appreciation assembled into albums from her high school students.
That’s 35 years, two semesters per year, 30 students per class, five classes in a day. Imagine if she had over 10,000 deposits of appreciation and gratitude into her bank of goodwill.
Parents and students can now deposit lasting goodwill into the emotional bank accounts of our educators in the form of appreciation and gratitude. The Appreciation Company is incredibly effective at supporting PTOs to create digital albums of notes, photos, and gift balances from the parents and students for your teachers and staff. These albums can grow and expand year over year.
Most PTOs say, “we are doing a pretty good job,” handling Teacher Appreciation Week. I’d assume nothing less, and frankly, they are humble. Every President I speak with is competent, capable, deeply committed, and has a solid playbook to build upon.
I’m always tempted to ask them a question
Have you ever considered “building the legacy” as PTO and expanding your annual playbook?
A legacy is something significant that builds and builds. It inspires the next generation while positively affecting the current generation.
For example, suppose a teacher receives 20 to 25 notes of gratitude from her students in a month due to an outreach. In that case, we like to call these campaigns. How many could she receive over her career?
Fair and Inclusive
The only requirements to participate in a digital group gift are an internet-connected device and a contact method (email or text).
We don’t need or want to know about your personal financial situation, location on the earth, gender, or any other preference or attribute about you.
Don’t carry cash? No problem. We are digital. Don’t want to give a monetary amount? No problem. Instead, write a note or opt out of this round. That is your choice.
No one knows how much money is gifted when someone contributes to an Appreciation with our service. No one! Not even the recipient.
The Appreciation Company only displays the aggregate balance to the recipient. Therefore, we protect everyone involved from the slightest perception that there could be bias.
Additionally, this eliminates any shame if someone doesn’t feel like they can give enough or doesn’t want to contribute a monetary amount.
Sincere Community Connection
Teachers repeatedly tell me they want to feel appreciated by the community they serve.
Even further, teachers need to feel appreciated.
This basic human need is rooted in one quest for a purpose in life. Maslow mentions this 3rd layer of his Hierarchy of Needs when discussing belonging and social connection.
Social connection is essential both at an individual level and within an organization.
Being a teacher today is difficult. Likewise, being an administrator, staff member, board member, or district-level worker is difficult, too. Guess what? Volunteering is also difficult. This is why The Appreciation Company emphasizes supporting PTOs as part of our mission. We are all in this together.
When the parents express their gratitude to the teachers and staff, we express an appreciation directly from the community that the teachers and staff serve.
We commonly see engagement rates of 50%, 60%, and even exceeding 75% of households when parents appreciate the teachers and staff at their school.
In other words, the more people brought into the activity, the more inclusive and engaged the community feels.
Recap of Supporting PTOs By Using The Appreciation Company
In summary, The Appreciation Company is effective at supporting PTOs through the reduction of pain while increasing benefits.
As parent organizers ourselves, we’ve experienced the manual, person-by-person organizing experience of collecting money to appreciate a teacher.
We know how much work it is and how uncomfortable people can feel asking for money and giving, especially when there isn’t much to offer.
Therefore, we created a solution to eliminate the challenges and pains of creating positive benefits like saving time, being inclusive, and creating a legacy.
Supporting PTOs is core to our mission. As an organizer of fundraising and teacher appreciation activities, you have a central role in the cohesion of the school experience. If we can make your job easier, especially as volunteers, it is our pleasure to be helpful.
Get a Taste of The Appreciation Company
If you’re ready to start supporting PTOs right away, high five! Here are your next steps.
If you’d like to get to get to know us more, we have a free download for you. Check out our free guide that walks parents through the process of organizing group gifts for teachers, coaches, club leaders, and more.
It’s full of tips, templates, and timelines to make group gifting much easier on you and more meaningful for your recipient(s).
How to Organize a Group Gift Like a Boss
Hey busy parents! 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.