Don’t be scared! I’m just the PTO lady (and my name is Karen. Can I talk to your manager? Just kidding.).
This was going to be a post about how I got involved with the PTO and am now knee-deep in volunteer commitments. I decided, instead, to throw out some ideas for how you, too, can get involved at your child’s school, at any commitment level. Long story short: Don’t be scared of the PTO. There really is something for everyone.
Your contributions are so valuable to students’ education and the development of healthy behaviors, according to several studies (many cited here). You don’t have to run for a board position, chair a committee, or be at your child’s school every day to make a difference. Here are ten ways you can engage right now with your local parent group:
There is nothing a committee chair loves more than able hearts and hands, and there is never a shortage of things to do! At my son’s school, we are always looking for volunteers for event support, room parents, copying and laminating for the teachers … the list is endless. If you have a special skill or just some spare time, send a note to your volunteer coordinator and let them know you’re interested. If you don’t know what you can do to be helpful, that’s okay! Just let them know you’re interested. I can guarantee they will take you up on your offer! This is also a great way for middle and high school students to accrue valuable community service hours.
2. Shop using Amazon Smile
Amazon Smile is BY FAR the easiest way to support a 501(c)(3), which many parent organizations are. With Amazon Smile, you shop on Amazon like you normally do, and when you make a purchase, Amazon will donate 0.5% of that purchase to the charitable organization of your choosing. While not every single item on Amazon is eligible for Amazon Smile, millions of products are. Check out Amazon Smile today and select your favorite parent organization to start donating! (If you don’t find your child’s PTO/A listed as a participating organization, contact them and tell them to register ASAP.) Pro tip: Many teachers also have wish lists on Amazon! Go for a win-win and purchase something for a teacher’s classroom while using Amazon Smile!
3. Collect Box Tops
While the BoxTops program is in a state of change, moving from coupon-based to app-based, it is still super easy to participate. Many products you buy have a BoxTops coupon on the packaging. Clip those out and send them to your child’s school. As long as they haven’t expired, they are worth $0.10 each, and that really adds up. BoxTops has also launched an app, to which they will be moving the program completely. Click here to download the BoxTops app and continue to support your local parent group with your grocery purchases!
4. Make a contribution to a classroom with Donors Choose
Donors Choose is an amazing site where educators can post their wish lists and you can donate to directly fund their classroom projects. While donating via Donors Choose doesn’t mean you’re directly supporting the PTO, it doesn’t really matter. Most if not all parent groups raise funds so that they can support teachers in the classroom. By donating to Donors Choose, you are directly fulfilling a teacher’s need. Same goal, different approach. Win, win.
5. Donate to a PTO or PTA (or other parent group), especially at a Title 1 school
While it’s awesome to donate to any parent group, Title 1 schools especially need extra support. I participate on a private Facebook group for PTO and PTA leaders. As a parent group from a school in a relatively affluent area, we are able to do so many things compared to what our peer parent groups from schools in different socioeconomic areas are able to do. So many groups need a little extra TLC, extra hands, and extra dollars. If you are able, lend a hand to a Title 1 parent group. It goes such a long way to making a difference in the lives of their students, teachers, staff and administration.
6. Sponsor a parent group as a small business owner
Do you own or work for a local business? Sponsoring a parent group is a great way to get your business’s name out there. Many parent groups offer multi-level sponsorship opportunities, from annual sponsorship packages to sponsoring a portion of an event and everything in between. Wouldn’t it be great to get your logo on a t-shirt worn by 400 kids all over town, on a banner hung at every school function, or on the PTO website and social media where parents can click right to your business, AND support a parent group at the same time? Ask your parent group about sponsorship opportunities. If they don’t currently have a program, I’d be willing to bet they will still gladly take your money and craft an opportunity just for you!
7. Buy from a fundraiser or donate directly instead
As a parent, I know it is often frustrating and eye-roll inducing to see some kind of pledge form come home in your kiddo’s backpack. I know it’s off-putting when your kiddo wants to sell $500 worth of cookie dough so they can earn a cookie-shaped drone. I GET IT. No one wants to sell stuff. Even the PTO. I promise. But the lure of sales- and pledge-based programs is that they offer administrative support to run the program, as most PTOs are staffed by volunteers who don’t get paid, have jobs and families, and have no time to coordinate a gala event or trivia night or auction. For many groups, these kinds of programs are the best fit. However, if that kind of program doesn’t float your boat, may I offer a couple of suggestions?
- Offer to chair an alternative fundraiser. Find something you like that offers a decent profit percentage and present it for a vote!
- Write a check to the PTO for a direct donation and consider yourself off the hook!
8. Donate a unique item
Do you have a unique service, product or other item that other people might enjoy? Offer it to the PTO as a donation for an event, a drawing or a raffle! We have a couple of parents at our school who are employed by a national movie theater chain. We’re lucky enough to have a donated yearlong pass to the movies for two to offer as a prize for a drawing. Lucky us! And lucky somebodies who will be the excited recipients!
9. Eat out during school restaurant nights
Almost every parent group I know hosts frequent fundraiser nights at local restaurants. Our PTO hosts one every month and we receive a portion of that night’s proceeds. I encourage parents to put those dates on their calendar and plan on a night off from cooking dinner while also supporting the PTO with their dinner purchase! Even better, buy dinner for a teacher’s family that night and make it a win-win-win!
10. Make a donation
If all else fails, write a check to your parent group and feel good knowing that your money will support your school’s community programs and classroom initiatives.
Are you involved with your child’s school? Have you been inspired by these suggestions? Tell us about it in the comments!