Inspiration and ideas for Parent Committees on welcoming new families at the start of the school year.
The arrival of new families at your school is a momentous occasion. It’s a chance to create lasting impressions, foster a sense of belonging, and establish a vibrant school community. As a Parent Association, you play a pivotal role in ensuring the experience of welcoming new families is not just memorable but also inclusive and informative. A warm welcome really helps to build community and engagement.
Table of contents
- Inspiration and ideas for Parent Committees on welcoming new families at the start of the school year.
- Open Days/ Orientation Days
- Welcome New Families – your ‘Welcome Pack’
- First Day of School Celebrations
- Community Welcome Events
Open Days/ Orientation Days
When you are choosing a school for your child, one of the biggest factors is your own first impression of the school’s community. Your Parent Association can significantly shape these impressions, so it’s vital to be present and approachable from the start. Open Days and Orientation Events are particularly important opportunities to make your new families feel welcome. Here are some things to think about when preparing for those events:
1. Identify Committee Members
Make your committee members easily recognisable. Whether through custom attire, name tags, or a designated colour scheme, ensuring your presence is unmistakable is really important. This approach breaks the ice and makes parents feel comfortable approaching you.
2. Active Engagement
Don’t just set up an information booth in a corner and think your work is done. It is so important to engage proactively – 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. The more approachable and helpful you are as a committee, the more trust and connection new parents will have.
3. Leverage Social Media
In today’s fast-paced world, not all parents can attend school events physically due to work or other commitments. To bridge this gap, use social media. Platforms like Facebook Live provide an excellent means to connect with parents who can’t be there in person. You can offer a ‘Parent’s Perspective’ Q&A Session, provide additional information, and engage with questions and comments.
Another great idea to welcome new families is to create a closed Facebook or Whatsapp group for the incoming cohort of parents. By creating it yourself, you can be there to answer any questions, but it also allows families to connect with each other and potentially organise catch-ups.
Welcome New Families – your ‘Welcome Pack’
New families, and sometimes even seasoned ones, are bound to have questions about school procedures, expectations, and community involvement. Crafting a guide (hint: use a platform like Canva) such as a welcome pack aka ‘Dummies Guide’ aka ‘FAQ‘ that addresses these common queries can serve multiple purposes. If the school produces one, discuss contributing to theirs or else creating a more informal version with practical info for families. Perhaps you can split the cost of printing and supplies for your school welcome pack with the school. Things to consider:
1. What will it look like?
The guide should be informative as well as visually appealing. Think bullet points, icons, and colour coding to make information easy to digest. Also, make it available in both print and digital formats for accessibility if possible. Digital versions can be posted on the school website or Facebook page for easy access and reference. Here are some ideas for what to include in it.
– Welcome letter
Here is where your president officially welcomes new families! 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. Don’t make your letter a novel, though. Ain’t nobody got time for that! 😉 Make sure you include:
– Contact information
List the essential names and contact numbers of both the school and the Parent Committee for easy reference. Maybe laminate these and pop a magnet on the back so parents can stick it on the fridge. Even though absences etc aren’t in your scope, include those details so they are there for ready reference.
– 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, Parent Committee meeting dates (if you know them already), school photo day etc. The earlier parents can lock dates into their diaries, the better.
– Mission statement
It doesn’t have to be a formal, glossy phrase (unless you have one already!), but it’s important to let your families know about your committee and what it stands for. Talk about what you care about as well as the many ways that you contribute to making your school great. Talk about your past achievements and what your future goals are too.
– Membership form
The most important inclusion in your welcome pack! If your school requires all members to have any safety checks, make sure you include an application form for this too. You want to make it as easy as possible for new families to join.
– Volunteer opportunities
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. Do you have major roles that need filling? Flag them here. Invite any interested parents to get in touch for a coffee chat – trust me… if an interested person feels like a part of your team from the start, you are avoiding a lot of wasted talent! You may even want to draft a….
– ‘Just One Thing’ Letter
That’s right! A Just One Thing Letter encourages parents to get involved in your school community through a ‘Just One Thing’ campaign. This campaign sets out various ways parents can contribute, from attending meetings to volunteering at a sports carnival to assisting with fundraising. Invite your families to nominate the ‘One Thing’ they are prepared to do to contribute in a meaningful way. Check out our ‘Just One Thing’ letter template here. Feel free to customise it to suit your school’s needs and goals 🙂
– Something Special
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.
– Celebrate Committee Achievements
Don’t forget to highlight your Parent Association’s contributions to the school. Showcase past achievements and ongoing projects. Including photos of successful initiatives can demonstrate the positive impact your committee has. This can be a powerful motivator for new parents considering getting involved.
3. Seek Feedback
As you are preparing the draft of your document, reach out to existing families via surveys and social media (and in person too!) to understand what they wished they knew when they first joined the school community. The existing cohort of newbie families can be particularly helpful with this. You can then address not only the common concerns and questions, but also the kooky and left-field ones, making it even more valuable as a tool for welcoming new families.
4. Explore Sponsorship Opportunities
If your guide becomes a substantial document, consider getting it professionally designed and printed. This opens the door to sponsorship and advertising opportunities. Local businesses might be interested in supporting your school’s efforts as well as gaining exposure, creating a win-win scenario.
First Day of School Celebrations
The first day of school is a milestone for students and parents alike. It’s a time for both celebration and reflection. Here’s how you can make this day special:
1. Decorate the School
Nothing is better for welcoming new families than decorating the school premises. While it may require some effort and resources, it’s an excellent way to create a welcoming atmosphere! You might even turn it into a yearly tradition.
- Chalk Walk: Transform a plain concrete path into a colourful welcome with chunky chalk and creativity.
- Signage: Invest in welcoming banners, flags or a selfie frame or backdrop that can be reused annually.
- Classroom Door Decorations: Design personalised welcome decorations for each class.
2. Welcome Gifts and Photos
Welcome new families with small tokens or gifts. If you like, you can write a thoughtful poem to go along with it. This gesture makes them feel valued and excited to join the school community. Additionally, set up photo opportunities for students, so parents can capture memorable moments.
Here’s an example Welcome Poem, written by Mandy Weidmann, that you are free to customise for your own use 🙂
It’s time for school at last,
We’re so excited you are here!
We hope that you are ready
for the new school year
You’ll need a good breakfast
and lots of great sleep
There is so much to learn
and many friends to meet!
In the classroom and playground
you will learn and you will play
You’ll go home a bit tired
at the end of every day
To the big people in your life
A huge welcome to them too!
They are an important part
of what is great at our school
One day when you’re a grown up,
you’ll look back once in a while
We hope that you remember our school
with pride and a great big smile
Community Welcome Events
When the madness of the first day is all over and everybody’s had a chance to soak it all in, consider hosting some kind of welcome event. 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 lasting friendships. Here are some ideas for events.
1. Welcome Morning Tea
Hold a simple morning tea during the first week of school. It’s an easy event to organise and doesn’t require elaborate preparations. Consider having a coffee van or cart to treat parents, along with cakes, biscuits, and sandwiches. If you have your event on the first day, you can call it ‘Tea and Tissues’.
2. Welcome Picnic or BBQ
Organise a picnic or BBQ, either on the school grounds or at a nearby park. This casual gathering encourages families to bring their own food or participate in a sausage sizzle. Add some games or entertainment to keep both kids and adults engaged.
3. Movie Night
Host an indoor or outdoor movie night for the school community. Families can bring their own chairs or blankets. Ensure you have the necessary licensing for the movie, and consider selling popcorn and drinks as a fundraiser.
Incorporating these strategies will ensure that your Parent Association creates a warm, inclusive, and vibrant school community. New families will feel welcomed and motivated to become active members, enriching the overall school experience.
And don’t forget facebook, email groups and other social media as a tool to welcome and build community.
Best of luck for your own ‘Back to School’ preparation!
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’
You may also be interested in:
- Grants Space
- 25 All-Time Best Fundraising Ideas
- The Power of a Grants Calendar
- Grant Writing: Mastering the Art
- Welcoming New Families