Back to School Welcome Ideas
Time moves so quickly and before we know it, we are once more heading towards open day and orientation day season. To help you get organised, we’ve put a Back to School series together. Packed full of ideas and inspiration, it will not only help you to welcome new families to your school, but also to get them to join your volunteer ranks.
All of this, as well as heaps more, information has been incorporated into our ‘Back To School: For Grown Ups’ eBook that is one of the free resources.
Open and Orientation Days
These are a prime opportunity to make your committee known to new families. You’re not going to attract new members if no one knows who you are so it’s really important that you have a presence at your open day and/or orientation day.
- Make your committee members easily identifiable. This can be done with customized t-shirts or hats but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far nominate a particular colour shirt for your members to wear (possibly one of your school colours) or give them a lanyard with their name and ‘P and C member’ or ‘P and F member’ on it.
- Don’t just plonk yourselves and your information on a table in the corner. This could be perceived by new parents in a negative way. Get amongst it and have your team mingle with parents and staff. Your committee will look a whole lot more approachable and parents can ask questions without feeling intimidated and needing to join on the spot.
- Facebook live – Due to work and other life commitments, there will be some parents who can’t make it on the day. Parents will often follow the Facebook page of a potential school to ‘test the waters’ and Facebook live is an easy way to be able to connect with those who can’t be there. You can provide a ‘virtual’ tour of the school and showcase activities that are happening as well as giving additional information and the opportunity for questions to be asked and answered on the spot.
- Welcome packs – rather than having a whole pile of random pieces of paper to give out. Look at combining everything together into a ‘welcome pack’ that families can sit down with a cuppa later on and digest.
- Take a look at our free downloadable Comittee Recruitment Resources for more ideas.
Welcome pack preparation – Helpful Hints
As a committee, there is so much you want to share with your potential new members, but you don’t want to be seen to be pressuring or overwhelming anyone before the new school year even kicks off. Before you put your Back to School pack together, think about the information that you want to give to families and how you would like to present it. Here are some helpful hints to get you started:
- Make it visual – You would know yourself that starting at a new school can sometimes be an overwhelming experience and trying to take everything in can be difficult. Keep your material informative but visual and easy to read. Using things like bullet points, icons or colour coding can be helpful.
- Go digital – You’ve probably already got digital versions of all your materials, so make them publicly available and easily accessible in digital format as well as paper. Then if a parent loses the paper version, it’s not the end of the world. Availability on the school website or school Facebook page is probably your best option.
- Market your committee – Your committee works hard all year so don’t under-sell yourselves. Talk to new families about the goals you’ve reached as well as your current goals and the projects that your committee has completed. Having photos of past projects is a great idea. This helps to show new parents that your committee IS making a difference. All parents want the best for their kids and seeing what you have achieved could be all the enticement a ‘newbie’ needs to jump on board!
- Sponsorship – Talk to local businesses about sponsoring your back to school activities. Create a range of sponsorship packages for this purpose.
- Don’t forget the kids – All that talking and listening can be quite boring for the littlies who get dragged along to these events. It can be quite affordable to get some promotional items, either printed or labelled with your school logo. Add some bubbles, crayons and a colouring-in page so that they can have fun too. Also perfect if you want to appeal to prospective preppies.
School Welcome Pack
Knowing that you don’t want to overload families with too much information, we’re going to look at presentation and the things that you should definitely include in your school welcome pack. We’ll also talk about a few little optional extras that can add a welcoming touch for new families. So, let’s get started.
It’s probably a good idea to consult with the school to decide on your method of presentation. Perhaps you can split the cost of printing and supplies for your school welcome pack with the school. Things to consider:
- Will a folder be big enough?
- Do you have school merchandise that you’d like to give to new families (a mug, a ruler, a pen, a drink bottle etc.) and how much room will it need?
- Every student needs a library bag right? Can your committee afford to supply a velcro sealed library bag for new students?
- Would it be more fun to have a ‘showbag’ feel to it? Gift bags are an inexpensive option which you could even have printed with the school name and logo.
Once you’ve decided on how you will present your school’s welcome pack, start finding suppliers or printers if necessary.
What to include
In the school welcome pack this will more than likely be a letter from the principal or it could be a joint effort between the principal and P and C president. Make it warm and friendly. You want parents to know that you and the principal are approachable and all part of the same team. Creating community spirit from the start is what will make your fundraising in the coming years even more successful. Talk about what they will find in their welcome pack and let them know all the ways to stay informed and keep up to date with what’s happening at the school – newsletter, Facebook, emails and school apps like Q Schools or skoolbag. Don’t make your letter a ‘novel’ though. Ain’t nobody got time for that! 😉
List the essential names and contact numbers of both the school and the P and C for easy reference. Maybe laminate these and pop a magnet on the back so parents can stick it on the fridge.
Calendar of events
Have you already booked events in for the following year? In conjunction with the school, create a list of dates to help you put a calendar of events together. Include all your fundraisers (of course!), school holidays, sports carnivals, pupil free days, public holidays, P and C meeting dates (if you know them already), school photo day etc. The earlier parents can lock dates into their diaries, the better.
Tell new families about your committee and what it means and the many ways that you contribute to making your school great. Talk about what your past achievements have been and what your future goals are too.
The most important inclusion in your welcome pack! If your school requires all members to have a blue card, make sure you include an application form for this too. You want to make it as easy as possible for new families to join.
If you’ve already got your fundraisers locked in for the following year, give some thought to the jobs (big and small) that will be required for these events. Customising your own version of our ‘just one thing’ letter will help and this can be really
helpful for new families who want to be involved to see what fits in with the time that they can offer. Does your committee run the tuckshop, uniform shop, OSHC? Talk about the requirements for these and include a roster if possible.
To add a little something extra special you can include a gift or poem. You might include an item of school merchandise, a bottle of customised water, a lollypop with a tag saying ‘looking forward to a “sweet” year with you’ or a packet of microwave popcorn with a tag saying ‘Thanks for POPPING in! See you on the first day of school’. Pinterest is a great source for all sorts of idea like this. Your gift could even be as simple as a Kit Kat and a teabag.
The first day of school
Whether you’re a first timer or you’ve done it all before, the first day of school is a big day for us and our kids, and it usually leaves us walking out of the school gate thinking about where the years have gone and when our kids got so big! No matter what grade they’re in, it’s a milestone and a celebration. And what goes hand in hand with a celebration?
- Decorating the school – As a committee, we want to make sure that our school is a welcoming place. A place that both new families and ‘old’ ones love to call ‘their’ school. You never know, decorating the school could become a yearly tradition for you. It’s up to you (and your resources) whether you want to go crazy all over the school, just at the entry gates or the office. Here are a few easy ideas to brighten up the first day at school.
- Chalk Walk – Have you got a boring old concrete path leading into your school? With only the expense of some chunky chalk and a bit of imagination you can customise your own welcome via a school chalk walk and keep your fingers crossed it doesn’t rain!
- Signage – Your committee might like to invest in a large vinyl ‘welcome to our school’ banner that can be hung on the school fence or outside the office. This can be used each year and if you wanted to add the year make sure it can be updated easily. There are also different styles of customised flag or teardrop banners that come with a stand which can be quite eye catching. Perhaps you already have an electronic sign outside your school that you can use.
- Classroom door decorations – If you’re a bit creative, a nice idea is designing ‘welcome’ classroom door decorations for each class. Teachers may be able to help with these too and there are lots of ideas on Pinterest for these.
- Balloons – Balloons are ALWAYS a great idea for celebrations and you can have them in your school colours or sports house colours or for an additional cost, have the balloons printed with your school logo or ‘first day of school 2018’.
- Pool Noodle Pencils – I came across these and thought they looked great. As a bonus, they’re easy and inexpensive to make too! All you need are some pool noodles. Any colour will do, but yellow is popular. Some red noodles that you can cut up and some silver duct tape. You can use the same idea to make crayons too which would be great for a kindy or pre-school.
First day photos
If you’re anything like me, in all the craziness of making sure the kids have everything ready to go and getting them to school on time, there’s been more than one occasion that I’ve neglected to take first day back at school photos. You’ll probably find that as they get older they don’t want to be in a photo anyway. Offering first day photos for preps or even for each classroom can add some more excitement to the day and give those parents (like me!) who run out of time at home a bit of relief. There are photos booths, frames and borrowing an idea from above, chalk designs that are simple to put together. You’d be surprised how plastic table cloths, a bit of bunting and a few school related props can make an inexpensive photo booth! For the older kids you can set up a selfie station and let them snap away. Just make sure that you have a discussion with the school to see what they have already planned as some schools/teachers are all over this!
In the first few weeks
When the madness of the first day is all over and everybody’s had a chance to soak it all in, you’ll probably reflect on the many introductions that will have been made but you won’t always remember all the names. Most parents love to get know the other parents in their class but may not always be around at drop off and pick up. Holding a whole of school community event at the beginning of the year is a great opportunity for new and current parents to socialise and often make long lasting friendships.
Ideas for community welcome events
- Welcome morning tea – This is an event that many schools hold on the first day of school after drop off or during that first week. A morning tea is easy to organise and doesn’t need to be elaborate. Get a coffee van or coffee cart in for a treat or drag out the urn so people can help themselves. Add some cakes, bikkies and a few sandwiches and you’re good to go.
- Welcome picnic or BBQ – Again, this is not a difficult event to put together, especially if you make it a BYO picnic. Hold it on the school oval (if you have one) or a nice local park. Playground to keep the kids busy? Tick! You can put on some simple games or other entertainment such as a band too. (Pro tip: If you’re doing a sausage sizzle, ask for RSVP’s so you have a good idea of how many sausages you’ll need to order.) You might even be able to combine this with a disco or some games for the adults (think Minute to Win It/Human Hungry Hippos) after a conversation with the school’s safety officer/Principal to make sure it is all ok. There’s nothing like a good chuckle and a bit of fun to break the ice.
- Movie night – Indoor or outdoor, this is a great social night. Ask people to BYO chairs or blankets and you’ll need to organise a license for viewing your movie. A movie night can be combined with your picnic or BBQ as well and then you can turn it into a fundraiser as well by charging a movie entry (say $5 per person) and selling popcorn and drinks. This will help cover the cost of your license fee too!
Social events like these create a definite sense of community which is the best starting point for your future fundraising.
And don’t forget facebook, email groups and other social media as a tool to welcome and build community.
We’d love to hear your Back to School success stories for the first day of school too. Let us know what works for you.
Mandy Weidmann is Australia’s ‘Fundraising Whisperer’ – publisher of the Fundraising Directory and author of the Practical Fundraising Handbook for School and Club Volunteers. Mandy believes that parent volunteers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time and is passionate about providing resources to make fundraising easier (and more fun). Click here to learn more about school and club fundraising ideas in Australia.
You might also be interested in:
- ‘Just One Thing’ Letter
- Finding Specialist Volunteers: Limited volunteer time/skill base
- Position Vacant: ‘Thank You Sergeant’
For more back to school welcome ideas for your open day or orientation day, check out our eBook: ‘Back to School: for Grown Ups’, a comprehensive guide full of engagement ideas!