Get More Volunteers without begging: Lesson 2.2 - Volunteer pledges

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Each lesson in the Get More Volunteers Without Begging training class is a short, animated video that explains steps in a clear, entertaining way. If you haven’t downloaded the class guide that goes with it, you can now.

  • Done-for-you notes - The downloadable PDF Class Guide includes a detailed summary of each lesson, so you can just relax and absorb the video.

  • Ready-to-use recruiting tools - Get access to one-of-a-kind volunteer recruiting videos and time-saving marketing templates and resources so you can start getting more parent volunteers right away.

Lesson 2.2 video transcript

In Lesson 1.2, we looked at the essential leadership principles that will help you make sure a small group doesn’t get stuck doing everything, including “PTO work should be shared fairly,” and “Everyone is welcome to volunteer and all help is truly appreciated.”

In this lesson, we’ll look at using a volunteer pledge program to make those ideas a reality. You’ll also find tools and recommended resources in the Class Guide to help you start your own as easily as possible.

PTO volunteer pledge program

A pledge program asks every parent or guardian to agree to do at least a minimum amount of volunteer work during the school year. Groups usually ask for at least an hour or two, but it’s completely up to your group.

By keeping the minimum pledge amount fairly small, you make it much more likely people will make the commitment. And volunteering tends to lead to more volunteering, so encouraging people to get started, even in a small way, will help you grow your volunteer base at all levels.

A volunteer pledge program typically consists of:

  • An invitation -- which could be a letter, email, flyer or Web page, or all of the above -- that describes the pledge program and asks parents and guardians to participate.

  • A volunteer survey – which asks people to share information about their interests and availability so your group can match them up with opportunities that are a good fit. The survey often lists specific volunteer opportunities (like lunch and recess volunteers, or helping on an event committee) and more general categories (like One-time projects, or ongoing jobs that can be done at the school or outside of school).

  • And a volunteer database

Some groups have a volunteer coordinator or chairperson who manages volunteer information and helps other committee chairs fill volunteer needs. Other groups have more than one leader sharing this responsibility. Either way, your group needs to make sure that the pledge signup information is stored in a database or spreadsheet so it can be referenced throughout the year.

Also, every person who pledges needs to be contacted in a timely manner with a thank you message and suggested volunteer opportunities. If there are no current opportunities that fit, they should still get a thank you for pledging, and then contacted again later when a good fit opens up.

Why volunteer pledge programs work

There are several reasons why volunteer pledges are a good way to build parent involvement. A pledge program makes it more “official” that everyone is invited and strongly encouraged to be involved. And it offers a clear process for signing up and finding a good volunteering fit. It also makes it easy for people to test the waters of volunteering – dipping their toes or wading in the shallow end – to see if they like it and might even want to venture deeper.

Good pledge invitations also assure parents that even just doing the minimum will help and be appreciated and they won’t be pressured to give more than the minimum if that’s what they choose.

Pledge programs help increase your pool of volunteers which also increases your pool of future leaders, because you’re more likely to fill those roles with active volunteers. So, anything you can do to grow the pool of parents helping at any level makes it easier to fill coordinator, committee chair, and Board roles.

You probably already have some ideas about the kinds of volunteer roles you would include on your volunteer pledge sign-up sheet. Lesson 4.2 will also help you create a variety of manageable jobs.

If you’re wondering whether your group needs a more official sounding volunteer pledge program to grow your volunteer base, the short answer is no. Many groups successfully use the tools and methods, like volunteer interest surveys and creating lots of “entry level” opportunities, that you would find in a pledge program in a less formal way. But packaging up the same tools and methods into a more official sounding program, with a catchy name and a process for matching volunteers to opportunities, can help you engage more parents.

It’s also pretty easy to do, especially with the resources I’ve included in the Class Guide.

For those time-saving tools, plus notes for this lesson, please see the Class Guide.

Do you have questions or comments about this class? I would love to hear from you -- and help! Please email me using the Contact link below or in the Guide.

See you in the next lesson!

Lesson 2.2 - Volunteer pledges  from  Get More Volunteers Without Begging.  Free video training for PTO leaders created by Jen B. Cosgrove,