Adding and Keeping Members
GROWING YOUR PTA
Building PTA membership depends upon more than just recruiting members. It takes making the PTA a meaningful part of school life. When a PTA provides relevant programs, supports student success, and involves all groups within the school community, greater participation and support will naturally follow. It is important to think about ways to encourage participation and support of PTA events but also accept that some people may support PTA by joining but may not wish to attend meetings and events or be more involved.
Increasing membership should be a goal of every PTA. Our membership numbers are a way to measure:
How many people know about PTA, How many people feel that PTA meets their needs, How many people value what PTA does and has to offer, and How strong and relevant we are as an association.
In addition to increasing enrollment, a membership campaign is a marketing tool that can (1) make the public aware of the resources that the PTA offers to parents, educators and members of the community who work, in large and small ways, to secure a nurturing, healthy environment for children; and (2) strengthen the PTA voice so that policy makers in all areas, at all levels, will hear a strong, unified message on behalf of children, youth and families. See more about "marketing" under "More Information".
Adding and keeping members begins when you:
- Ask people to join;
- Acknowledge differences and similarities within the membership;
- Learn to understand and accept those differences;
- Practice respect and be welcoming to all;
- Involve the under-represented groups in the PTA;
- Discuss what is needed for PTA and the school to be most effective for all students and families;
- Set realistic goals. There are no magical membership or outreach answers;
- Recognize each PTA unit is different and unique - what works for one may not work for another;
- Be aware of barriers to involvement and be open to ways to overcome them.
- Set up committees and build representation from diverse groups.
- Provide leadership training opportunities for new members.
- Show appreciation for any amount of time a person gives to PTA.
RETAINING MEMBERS IS EASIER THAN RECRUITING
Getting new members is only one reason for your PTA to put a membership growth plan into motion. There's a second reason: to keep the members you already have. It takes more effort to recruit a new member than it does to keep an existing one. Further, it is the returning member who will more likely take on a leadership role. The future success of your PTA depends on your having a good mix of returning and new members. Below are some tips on how to retain members.
Treat membership marketing like the business it is. Understand that you're in the business of marketing and selling memberships. That means a membership is a product, with many useful features and services. Be ready to explain to renewing members the existing and developing benefits of PTA membership.
Study your niche carefully. Learn about the successes of other PTAs and volunteer organizations. There are a number of websites with volunteer and membership ideas from other organizations—you may be able to implement these ideas in your PTA. Participate in discussions about member¬ship in the PTA Great Idea Bank (PTAgreatideabank.org); pose questions and respond to other PTA leaders about best practices.
Get testimonials from lapsed members who have returned. Perhaps the best kind of testimonial comes from people who were unhappy and then rededicated them¬selves to PTA. Contact members who have recently re¬joined and ask them what spurred their decision to come back. Contact a few former members and ask them what made them leave and what they miss most about belonging to PTA.
Understand that your retention rate goes right to your bottom line. Growing competition for members requires an all ¬out communications plan with sound strategies to encourage feedback from members, determine the services they need, communicate how to use those services, and increase member satisfaction. If you make these efforts, your members will reward you with membership renewals.
Get all of your members involved. The most active mem¬bers will always be the ones who get the most out of their membership, leading them to renew year after year. Therefore, getting members involved is the key to keeping them. It's not always easy, though. Many members don't understand the value of being involved, or don't feel comfort¬able. To help them get their feet wet, draw up a list of activi¬ties that members can choose from, and modify this list as new opportunities arise. Members are more likely to get involved in a short ¬term activity with clearly defined roles.
Open the door to two ¬way communication. Many orga¬nizations rely on a magazine or newsletter to communicate with their members. It has never occurred to them that not all members want their information delivered this way. Make it clear on everything you print how you can be reached: by phone, fax, snail mail, e-mail, voice mail, social networking sites, etc. Give members all the options you can.
Post basic information on your website. In addition to posting a list of events, names of board members, and PTA information and activities (all with contact names, phone numbers, and e¬mail addresses), post membership and registration forms that can be either downloaded or sub¬mitted online. This will make it easy for new and renewing members to join.
Keep the material on your website current and relevant. Outdated material is a sure sign that no one is monitoring or maintaining your website, which makes a bad impres¬sion on existing and potential members. Find relevant material (from your print publications, from National PTA, and from non copyrighted sources) to post on a regularly scheduled basis. (See PTA.org for the National PTA permissions policy.)
Teach new members how to use PTA services. Provide details about the benefits and resources PTA offers to its members. Most importantly, inform new members exactly how to use these great services. Many complaints are heard from new members who say they do not get information about PTA services and how to use them. Put a brochure of benefits and services in your new ¬member packets. Be sure to show members the many resources available at PTA.org.
Find out why your members are leaving. Exit surveys can provide you with crucial information that can help you plug holes in your membership system. Non-renewing members can be one of your best resources for determin¬ing how your PTA can improve its membership retention. Ask past members for honest feedback on their PTA experience. Use this feedback to evaluate your current membership practices.
Outreach is first a commitment to create an inviting climate. It is further about forming respectful, trusting relationships throughout the school community and recognizing that everyone has value. Outreach is sharing and distributing important information about PTA and topics of concern that inform and invite action.
It is important for every PTA and PTSA to regularly evaluate their efforts and assess the needs and interests of their community. Surveys can be an excellent tool. Evaluate with a survey! [pdf]Outreach must be a priority for all of us. The greater the ability of PTA members and leaders to form positive one-on-one relationships with all community members, the greater their ability to generate positive impacts for all children, the school community, and the organization. Outreach efforts are successful when PTA leaders can develop community support with meaningful two-way discussions focusing on student success. Outreach includes efforts that focus on enlisting the participation of parents, students, and community members in the educational process and establishing collaborative relationships focused on positive impacts.
Using the languages represented within your community to communicate:
- Invite and encourage everyone to be a part, and assure everyone may play a role, because your community is your greatest asset.
- Survey the school and community by questionnaire, by telephone, or door-to-door. Find out what type of activities would interest them.
- Empower others with information, support, and resources focused on students' needs.
- See the uniqueness of each individual.
- Work to build representative leadership and voice – support the democratic process. Is the PTA reflective of the greater community?
- Assess practices to assure inclusiveness and speak out for change.
You know Outreach has succeeded when
- The make-up of the PTA board reflects the make-up of the school community.
- There are new PTA board members every year who represent all parts of the school community.
- New people are at each PTA meeting, and many come to the next meeting.
- PTA members ask questions and make suggestions during association meetings.
- The involved membership includes students, teachers, community, and extended family members, not just parents.
- People respond to print and electronic flyers, newsletters and website information translated into all the languages within the school.
- Members talk and socialize together before the association meeting starts.
- Membership and outreach are part of all PTA activity planning.
- The PTA board and membership does not think in terms of "them" and "us."
Make the membership pitch relevant to males. The number one reason men join PTA is "to work to improve the school for the benefit of my child/children." Therefore, explain how a father's involvement in PTA:
- Shows added interest in his child's education and school activities,
- Shows greater support for his child's teachers and school, and
- Improves relationships between parents and school personnel.
Use specific messaging and advertising aimed at men. Be sure to show men's involvement in your PTA in your communications to members and potential members.
Ask the women in your PTA to invite the men in their children's lives to join PTA. Moms can (and should) influence dads to join PTA!
Create more volunteer opportunities and special events for dads. Events aimed at fathers can raise awareness that other fathers are actively involved. When men see that other men are involved, they are more likely to join.
Emphasize that becoming a PTA member doesn't necessarily involve a large time commitment.
Communicate with men the way they want to be reached. Men want fewer meetings and at more convenient times, and they want meetings to have a clear agenda and be results-oriented. Brief communications tend to make men pay more attention to the message or issue at hand—and more likely to participate.
Seek male members in the community. Present the PTA message at local service clubs that have a large male contingent, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, or Lions clubs. If men see that other club members support the work of PTA, they might be more likely to join.
Recognize and celebrate members. Reinforcing men's contributions, while being mindful of what all members do for PTA, creates a positive atmosphere.
INCLUDING TEACHERSThe "T" in PTA stands for teachers. Teachers and staff are crucial partners in our children's success. Encouraging them to join PTA in a collaborative partnership between home and school should be a focus of your PTA and membership campaign.
Here are some ideas for getting teachers involved:
- Enlist the support of your principal. A principal's encouragement to join can go a long way.
- Arrange to provide a breakfast for teachers prior to the start of the school year. Use this breakfast as an opportunity to talk to teachers about the value and importance of joining your PTA.
- Include PTA materials in information packets given to teachers and staff at the start of each school year. Include information about the Continuing Education grants for teachers, counselors and school nurses.
- Print out personal invitations asking teachers and staff to join and include membership envelopes. Remind them that for the cost of a few coffees they can support our national organization of almost five million members!
- Award teachers and staff with a party or lunch when 100% teacher and staff membership is reached.
- Request a bulletin board or showcase at your school to display current information about PTA activities.
- Use back to school nights as an opportunity to speak with both teachers and parents about the importance of supporting PTA. Prepare a short presentation. Be sure to have the permission of your principal.
Some other helpful ideas:
- The teachers and staff expect to be asked to join. If they expect it and you don't ask, they may feel that they are not needed or welcomed. Remember to ask.
- Get to know your teachers. Sometimes teachers or staff may be reluctant to join because of a prior negative experience with PTA. Apologize for whatever may have happened and talk to them about how PTA's work benefits not only the children but the teachers and the school as well.
- Parent Involvement is what PTA does best and it's the law. Remind teachers and staff that partnering with PTA helps them to fulfill the Parent Involvement mandate of No Child Left Behind.
- Remind teachers and staff that PTA is more than a local fundraising group for their school. It is an advocacy association focused on student success!
See "Outreach Downloads" for a customizable flier - T is for "teachers - our middle name that explains PTA to teachers and invites them to join.