(Photo Credit: Dee Heinz)
If you are a parent or educator, then you probably have a story to tell that begins with, “At my PTA…”
This week, one of those stories gained major media attention for a PTA that took an innovative approach to fundraising—often called a “non-fundraiser.” You may have seen it on Facebook or media outlets like CNN. The Facebook post celebrates the humor PTA leaders had in addressing what most family-school organizations (and all nonprofits) have to do to operate—raise money. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. It’s creative, real and admittedly, hilarious. It’s certainly relevant to today’s busy parents, grandparents and educators.
I have a story too. At my PTA, we’re using the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships to guide our approach to membership, events and yes—even fundraising.
Using these standards to guide your PTA plan is one of the things that makes PTA different than other family-school organizations. In fact, our National PTA Schools of Excellence program has proven that when these standards are used, families feel more welcomed and valued, more involved in supporting their child’s academic success, and more informed about and engaged in improving the school. They also feel more connected in their community.
PTA’s National Standards shift a PTA board from planning around a calendar to focusing the plan on the needs of your students, teachers and school. By the time you get to the calendar stage of planning, every PTA effort and the calendar itself reflects the standards in action:
- Membership recruitment ideas that make all families feel welcome and valued;
- Communication strategies that allow your families and teachers to plan their involvement in PTA, and encourage ongoing feedback about PTA’s efforts;
- Educational PTA programs and events that link to learning and guide families on the ways to support student success;
- Advocacy efforts that speak up on behalf of every child’s needs and improve the school as a whole;
- Shared decision-making about the mix of fundraising activities that will support these school improvements;
- Fun, family experiences that create pride and school spirit, while connecting families to other people and resources in their community.
At my PTA, we began our planning process by sending out a survey to families and teachers that helped us to understand what they perceived about our efforts. Then we canvassed the community—sharing the most frequent feedback we heard—and we asked more questions about what we still needed to know. All of the feedback has resulted in a drumbeat of reoccurring messages explaining how we will:
- Support our students and teachers by…
- Improve our school by…
- Create a welcoming and supportive school community by…
Once we determined our objectives, we sat down with the calendar and made sure everything on it achieved one of the bullets above. Will we fundraise? Oh yes, we will. We are a nonprofit advocacy organization—we have to in order to fulfill our mission! But when we do fundraise, everyone will know how the money raised will make the school a better place for our kids. At my PTA, that’s what we care about most.
Do you have an “At My PTA” story you want to share? Email Programs@PTA.org. We want to hear it and highlight you in one of our future blogs, e-newsletters or magazine articles!
Mary Pat King, MS is the director of programs & partnerships at National PTA. She is also a vice president for her local PTA.