P&C President – An Interview
Finding volunteers for any school fundraising effort can be quite a challenge. Although most parents would love to help out and contribute to improving their children’s school, the pressures and stresses of modern life mean that many feel they simply don’t have the time. This is not to say that wonderfully enthusiastic and skilled volunteers cannot be found. It just means that you need to have approached the recruiting process with sensitivity and understanding, and have an engaging and social approach to creating events. This can be daunting as a new P&C President.
A perfect example of how to attract, and just as importantly retain good volunteers, is Leife Shallcross, President of the North Ainslie Primary School P&C. For a school of only 120 or so families, the school community has pulled off some spectacularly impressive fundraising efforts including the Big Green Garage Sale, the Multicultural Festival, the Student Canteen and a Student Art Show. Leife and I spoke earlier this week about her impressive fundraising efforts to tease out the best strategies, tactics and approaches to coax fantastic volunteers from the school community.
The first piece of advice Leife offers is to be assertive about recruiting. “Don’t just put a note in the newsletter,” she says “Hanging out in the quadrangle in the morning or afternoon and directly asking parents for help can work better than a hundred words in the newsletter that parents might not even read.”
Don’t Forget Balance
But it’s important to balance this assertiveness with understanding. “You have to be respectful and understand when parents can’t help out,” Leife was quick to warn. The same goes for fundraising and P&C meetings. “It’s important to keep meetings as painless as possible,” she advises, “sometimes you have to bang on a glass with a spoon if discussions are going too long or getting out of hand”. It’s also important to avoid over-burdening volunteers and avoid burn out. She offers as her final piece of advice on managing volunteers, “You can’t lump people with more work than they can handle.”
Promote the Positives
P&C President Leife also made sure to stress the social side of volunteer work and the sense of community it generates. Keeping this in mind is important when planning events as well. “Parents can be really drawn to the social side of fundraising,” highlighting the fun that can be had by volunteers, “and helping to organise events like the multicultural festival can be a great way for the ethnic communities to come together to engage and build relationships with the wider community.”
Getting the Children Involved
It’s important to engage with the children themselves and get their input on events. “Kids get a big kick out of being involved and active. It empowers them when they can see that they are directly involved and are directly influencing their environment.” Being able to really participate and contribute to events like the student run canteen, art show, vegie garden, art sales and side show alley, really got the kids involved and excited. Few things are more motivating for parents than the enthusiasm and excitement their children can have for improving their school.
All theories and strategy aside, the most important piece of advice P&C President Leife offers is about maintaining your own motivation. “It’s important to remember why you’re doing it,” was the sentiment Leife left me with “At the end of the day it’s about making your kid’s school a better school.”
Originally published 29 March 2012 but contains timeless advice.