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GET THE WORD OUT BETTER THAN EVER AND YOU'LL RAISE more money through all your fundraisers, increase participation in all your events, and make it impossible for that one parent to complain “I never heard anything!”
Anyone who’s ever thrown a birthday party knows the important stuff about marketing and communications. You have to reach your intended audience in a timely way and tell them why, when, where and how they should join the fun. You'll probably have to use more than one method, like email and phone, to reach everyone. You’ll probably also send a reminder and follow up with thank yous.
Successful PTO marketing and communication is very similar. It just involves reaching more people about more events using more options to get the word out. As a PTO President and Communications Chair, I kept a long checklist of the marketing and communications options used by our PTO. I had to. Because no matter how many times we held a big fundraiser or event, I’d forget at least one option, like arranging mascot appearances. Learn from my mistakes, folks! If you forget to schedule a mascot volunteer, you may end up doing it yourself. (Which, honestly, was pretty fun 😉).
You’ll find a comprehensive checklist of marketing and communications for PTOs below. Check it out and maybe you’ll find some you haven’t used yet, especially for bigger events, that might be a good fit for your school. You can also download it as a Google sheet, to keep with your PTO planning documents, using the link below the table.
Whatever options you choose, you’ll get the best results by delivering current content on a consistent basis. Families must trust that they can get up-to-date PTO information via website, email, social media, etc. If they tune out those sources because they think they're wasting their time, participation will sputter. Here are the keys to delivering current content consistently.
Keys to success for spreading the word about PTO activities
Make fresh content routine - The president or communications chair should review your website at least once a month and contact other chairs and coordinators for updated content as needed. A regular group email to Board members, the Principal, committee chairs and coordinators asking for new info, ahead of your regular email blast to families, helps keep key volunteers on the same page and prevents things from slipping through the cracks. Key items, like the calendar that you share on the website and by email, should be updated weekly. Outdated web pages can be saved for reuse another time, but should be taken offline.
Follow a messaging plan – You can effectively promote most events and fundraisers using simple messaging plan:
1) Save the date/“teaser” – Add all activities to your master public calendar as early as possible. Ahead of big activities (like a major fundraiser or social event) and events that have just been added to the calendar recently and details are still being hashed out, share “save the date” messages with families and give them a few fun details to start building interest.
2) Announce/invite – Kick off fundraisers, or invite people to take part in an upcoming activity, or let them know about an activity that the kids are participating in.
3) Update/thank – Update families on the results of an ongoing activity (like a fundraiser or charity drive), thank them for their support, and remind them of deadlines and other details. For events that unfold over several weeks, regular updates/thank yous will help strengthen engagement. Keep updates interesting by mixing it up a little. Include photos, or a fun graphic, and recognize some of your star helpers.
4) Final results/thank yous – Tell families how things went! Did your fundraiser help raise money for valuable learning experiences and resources? Was the dance a fun time for all? Give them at least a quick recap and thank them for their support, once again. It’s also a great chance to thank volunteers so they’ll keep responding to your communications, too!
Make it a team effort – Communications can be a very big job, especially for larger schools or any size school with a lot of activities. The good news is that it’s also relatively easy to break into smaller, flexible jobs that people can help with at school or from home. Put one person in charge distributing key updates to communications team members. The team members are then responsible for doing their part, whether it’s creating a flyer, updating the website, writing a brief email announcement, updating the sidewalk sign, creating a Facebook post, putting flyers up around town, dressing up as the mascot, etc. Avoid putting too much on one person’s plate. It’s better to deliver current info consistently, even if it’s only through one communications channel, than it is to have several less reliable channels.
Be selective – With limited budgets and volunteer resources, we have to be selective when adding new marketing and communications tools. If your group is already doing a good job delivering current content to families on a consistent basis using the Web and email, for example, adding social media or text messaging, or even both, might make sense.
If you have the volunteer power to add new ways of communicating, you will reach more people where they prefer to connect with you. That’s a recipe for stronger connections with parents and better engagement. Here is a comprehensive list of offline and online PTO marketing and communications channels and tactics for you to consider. If you have other ideas to share with volunteers, please let me know!
If your group delivers current information on a consistent basis using at least one of the communications channels above, good for you! As busy as you are, that’s a great accomplishment. Hopefully other parents realize how lucky they are. Realistically, there will always be at least one parent who claims “I never heard about that!” That’s okay. Just invite them to join your PR team! There’s no better way to stay informed. ;)
I hope you found this comprehensive PTO marketing checklist that I put together helpful. With feedback from volunteers like you, it can truly be “The Ultimate Checklist."
So let’s hear it! What’s missing from this list? What tips and tools would you like to share with other volunteers? Please comment below or send me an email. I would love to hear from you!