Keep calm and plan now

It is easy for P&C office bearers to take on too much, struggle with too few volunteers and then feel burnt out at the end of year. The best way to avoid this is to begin planning now.

Shared goalsVolunteer TickSMALL

The community is much more likely to support your events and efforts if you have a clear aim. For example, link fundraisers with a much needed or appreciated purchase for the school and make the aim of community events clear. Try to involve the school community in decisions about priorities and work in with the school board’s plans.

Schedule activities

Now is the time to identify the P&C’s major activities for the whole year and when they will happen. Include a good mix — fundraising events (the fete, a movie night or trivia evening), community events (an end of year BBQ) and take-home fundraisers (selling plants or mangoes) —spread evenly through the year. Work with the principal to avoid clashes with school events and busy times.

Break it down

Breaking down big activities into smaller, more manageable tasks takes some work and planning now, but it will make it much easier to get other people to help. If someone has never helped with a P&C event before, taking on a fundraiser or event can be very daunting and most people will baulk at the size of the task and the time commitment needed. If, however, you approach parents with smaller tasks, you should have more luck in securing new volunteers to take on a piece of the project. So instead of asking for someone to organise the movie night, you’re looking for people to each take on a small task — decorating the hall, advertising, ticketing, catering, licensing for the movie and so on.

Be specific

The more specific you can be about a task, the better. Some people will have the skills to pick up a task like advertising the movie night and run with it, but you’re more likely to find someone to take it on if you specify what is needed — a flyer to send home with students and some posters to hang around the school. It’s even better if you can provide a copy of the ones from last year to use as a template, or similar resources.

Give a loooong lead-time

Even if your movie night is not until term three, ask people to sign up for one of your small tasks now. “Could you arrange posters and flyers for the movie night in term three” is a much more likely to be met with a “yes” if you ask now than if you wait until two weeks before the event!

Bring in the volunteers!

The best way to ask people to take on your neatly bundled tasks is face-to-face, so do ask parents you see at the school gate, those who come to school events and people who come to P&C meetings. More than likely, though, you’ll have to supplement this with notices in your school newsletter, emails to parents and carers and calls for help on any social media your P&C runs. You could try a carefully crafted note home, which asks families to commit to ‘just one thing’ this year, with each task listed next to check-boxes.

Look after your volunteers

If you’ve attracted some new volunteers, make sure you look after them so that they come back to help again!

  • Make sure it is clear what to do and how to do it.
  • Don’t ask for more than they have committed to. No one likes turning up to cook sausages for a one-hour slot, and then getting trapped there for hours.
  • Ensure everyone has something to do so that volunteers feel that their time is valued, even if it means doing less yourself.
  • Be patient. Volunteers are not necessarily skilled experts.
  • Be friendly and welcoming. Resist the natural tendency to only chat with people you already know.
  • Provide the opportunity for making contact with other volunteers by introducing people doing related tasks or rostering people in pairs.
  • Listen to your volunteers’ feedback and suggestions for the future.
  • Thank everyone profusely, specifically and publicly.

Celebrate your success

Once each event is over, thank everyone for their input and let the community know how successful it was. This might be how much money was raised, photographs of equipment purchased with the funds raised, or just how much fun everyone had at the event. You may want to hold a volunteers’ prize draw where everyone who helped has a shot at winning a gift (it doesn’t have to be big) or even a party or morning tea for all the helpers.

Help is available

Good luck with the year ahead, but do remember that you are not alone. Council has a range of resources to help P&C office bearers and you can contact our office for help and advice.

The Fundraising Directory also has a pile of great ideas as well as resources, templates and spreadsheets to help you plan events.

See www.fundraisingdirectory.com.au and www.fetesandfestivals.com.au.

This article appeared in ParentACTion, Term 1, 2017.