During my last 6 years of presenting keynotes and workshops for PTA conventions and leadership trainings across the country focused on ACTIVE family engagement, I have offered a challenging statement to every audience of men and women.
"To fulfill the mission of the PTA, it will take people who buy-in to the mission and run their PTA like a business. In doing so, there's a point that the leadership team(s) and all those who believe in the mission/purpose, at the national/state/local levels, must be willing to ask someone to become a member and become a part of something great that is the PTA. Your servant actions are important, but someone has to ask."
Even though I directly point out that only 4-6 individual PTA members have ever asked me to join their state/local PTA, rarely does anyone ask me after the meeting or during the 2-3 days I spend at the convention to join their PTA. But, for those that have asked, I let them know that it is not about the $$ for the membership, but the value of my investment. So that I know my investment in to their PTA is worth it, I forward a list of questions to them for response.
Here are the questions for a local PTA unit:
a. What is the 3 year history of "local unit" PTA membership? (#)
b. What is the membership target for this year?
c. What % of PTA members actively participate vs. have a membership card?
d. How do you promote to actively engage members (not just sell memberships) for the "local PTA" school community? What's your most successful method?
e. What are the goals for Parent Involvement? How do these differ from membership?
f. To confirm Parent Involvement outcomes, what methods are used to track results? (i.e. Where/How is this information captured? When are feedback surveys conducted? How are the results disseminated to improve outcomes?)
g. What are the membership targets for the next 2-3 years? (# and %)
My belief is that until any organization For- or Non-profit is run like a business instead of a hobby, it's chance for success is minimal. You cannot be successful on "love" alone. At some point, business principles, goals and targets must be set for you to know where you have been and where you are going.
I am proud to say that after 6 years the cycle has been broken. For the first time ever, a PTA leader, not at the national or state level, but a local unit has fully responded to my questions. Not one other individual has made the time to answer my questions which has shown me the others either didn't know them and secondly, they didn't value my potential membership. People/Members/Customers invest where "THEY" feel valued.
1. Here's the original Facebook request after I returned from speaking for NH PTA in November 2009:
"Hi Scott - I would like to formally invite you to join the Hooksett PTA. I will send along the link to our school website, where you can print off the form to join. You would be considered staff and the cost for joining will be $. I think you'd be a great addition and I look forward to hearing a positive response from you!"
2. Then I asked the questions listed above a-g.
3. Here are the Hooksett PTA team's answers.......
"Ok....since I am new to the board, as in this year, I did have to seek outside assistance...being from our current board president:
Here are your answers....
1) (Name) and (Name) have been our leaders for two years and prior to that there is no recording information. They received the PTA with 4 pieces of paper. Last year we were at 590 members, this year we are at 743. Our goal for 2010/2011 is 850.
2) Our goal for this year was 750. Our goal for 2010/2011 is 850.
3) This would take some research. I would say we are at at least 40% (if you take all the things we do).
4) Our most successful method of engaging families is by providing them up to date information via email and flyers being sent home. We are the largest PTA in the State of NH. We have 100% faculty and administration participation. We also have the largest budget of a PTA in our state. We raise and generate approximately $$$$ and invest that in our children's futures. This dollar amount does not include our man hours.
5) We encourage parents to become involved in our PTA to the level that they can. If they can participate in a bake sale, please do so. If everyone does what they can, we can all help the children of our district more.
6) A Survey was not done last year, but our Publicist is working with her husband on creating a Survey Monkey survey for the end of this year. We were too overwhelmed taking over a PTA with no documentation to do it last year. We as a board, felt that our Procedure Manual was our priority. We are now taking steps to seek feedback, rather than just wait for it to be given.
7) As our town growth has slowed considerably. The goal for the next three years is to continue to increase membership by 100 members, 75% of kindergartners that enter our school.
In MY opinion I think it would be an honor to be a part of something that has basically had to build themselves from the ground up...starting with close to nothing and becoming as successful as we are now, is a huge success. We currently have the largest PTA in the state of NH.
I hope these answers satisfy your questions, if there is anything further that you would like to have more clarification on, please let me know."
Would anyone be surprised that this unit won an award for their PTA at the convention? Going forward, I challenge Hooksett PTA to be a little more specific in their goals so they will align further with the mission of National PTA when possible. ACTIVELY engaging the families to participate is a critical step.
I am VERY proud to announce that due to Hooksett PTA's professional representation of their PTA's goals and vision, I accept their request for myself and our organization, Schools And Families Engaged (the S.A.F.E. TEAM ON Campus) to become members of their unit. You are the first to show us the commitment to your cause.
The challenge is on now. We may be willing to become a member for one unit per state and your state's PTA if you are willing to answer the questions to show us why invest in your PTA.
Remember, Someone has to Ask!!
Chief Inspirational Officer
Schools And Families Engaged
P.S. Additional thoughts after sleeping on this post from last evening. Have you ever heard the comment, "you only know what you know." For those of us who live in our own little worlds of PTA, school-based family involvement, child legislation, etc. please do NOT think for a moment anyone has a clue nor a passion for what we do. Even when individuals are signed up and registered members to supposedly support these causes doesn't mean anything. We must become the best promoters, backing up our passion with proper communication skills to inspire and educate others on our mission.
This past week on FB, there was post strand where an ACTIVE PTA member was asking to be reminded
"what is it we do beyond the bake sale?"
A State President confidently responded with many global initiatives that occur on behalf of the children and families. A local unit member shared the details behind how their local funding supports the children within their school community.
When the question is asked, are you ready to respond with the answers in a professional manner? It's great to ASK someone to be involved, but you need to also be ready to help them understand WHY they should be involved.