Get More Volunteers Without Begging: Lesson 4.1 - Make Board positions more manageable

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Lesson 4.1 video transcript

This lesson is about making it easier for parents to volunteer.

Everyone (including you!) is busy with important priorities. And it’s much easier to recruit volunteers for manageable jobs that can fit busy schedules than it is to fill jobs that are so large or inflexible (or both) that most parents can’t even consider them.

If your group struggles to fill Board positions, making these important jobs more manageable, will go a long way towards fixing the problem.

School parent groups are typically managed by a Board of elected officers. Board make-up is decided by each group and varies widely, but it’s common for boards to have at least a President, Treasurer, and Secretary. Vice Presidents, and shared offices, like Co-Presidents, Co-Vice Presidents, are also common.

The individual duties of each Board member are typically spelled out in the groups rules for governing itself, which are known as bylaws. Bylaws list specific duties, but also include phrases like “Responsibilities include, but are not limited to…” to keep things flexible enough to handle new and unexpected needs and situations.

On paper, Board positions often sound pretty reasonable. In reality, though, they often grow into oversized jobs that burn out board members and scare away successors.

When you have to keep job descriptions somewhat flexible, the way jobs are done by different volunteers, and the amount of hours spent, can change a lot over time.

In Lesson 3, we looked at ways to reduce the volunteer hours your group spends to achieve its goals. Board members are responsible for the overall management of the group. So, taking the steps covered in Lesson 3 also makes Board positions easier.

If there’s still plenty of room for improvement….

How to make PTO Board jobs more manageable

You can take parts of unmanageable jobs and reassign them to other volunteers who are willing and able to do them. Or even create a manageable opportunity for someone new. 

For example, at our school, we reached a point where the responsibilities of the Co-Vice Presidents had grown way too big. And it was getting hard to find parents who could even consider doing the job.

Our Vice Presidents were primarily in charge of fundraising. Over time, they became responsible for all committees and activities that generated revenue, even if the primary goal of the event or activity was not fundraising. They were in charge of fundraisers, and social events that generated a small profit, and school pictures and yearbook, and much more.

So, we took two events that were primarily social events and created a new Social Committee to take charge.

If you’re thinking that creating more volunteer jobs is going to make your recruiting challenge harder, not easier, think of it this way. As busy as parents are these days, it’s usually easier to find 5 volunteers to do 5 small jobs, or, perhaps, 3 volunteers to do small jobs and 1 to do a medium job, than it is to find 1 volunteer willing and able to do 1 really big job.

Not only that, but creating a variety of opportunities makes it easier to match volunteer jobs with the interests that parents have. In this case, finding volunteers willing to be in charge of fun Social events was pretty easy!

The Co-President(s) job had also grown too large. Over time, the communication responsibilities of the Co-Presidents had grown as we increased the number of email and web updates, added social media, and asked the Co-Presidents to represent us on more district-wide committees. So we took some of those responsibilities and created a new Communications Coordinator position.

Because this job was a manageable size and could be done outside of school, it was pretty easy to fill with a new volunteer. We also asked the Treasurer to be in charge of our non-profit filings, which fit nicely with the tax filings and record keeping she was already doing. 

Why delegating is so important

This kind of delegating – reassigning work in a permanent way – is essential to making oversized jobs more manageable.

And delegating all kinds of tasks and projects on a regular basis is very important to keeping things manageable. To avoiding overload and burnout and falling short of your goals.

Of course, the more people who are willing and able to help, the easier it is to delegate. That’s why it’s so important to create a strong volunteer mindset, like we talked about in Lessons 1 and 2.

But some leaders resist delegating for other reasons.

Reasons why PTO leaders resist delegating

One of the most common reasons I hear is “That it’s easier to do it myself.” That might be true at the moment. But when you resist teaching someone else how to do something because it would take you more time, you end up costing yourself and others even more time in the long run. Time you could have saved if you had trained them and they were able to help again and maybe even train another volunteer and so on. 

Another hurdle to delegating that some leaders face is their strong preference for having things done their way. This isn’t just a challenge for school parent groups, of course. This is a common challenge in the workplace, at home, etc.

If they want to avoid burnout, leaders have to be okay with others doing things differently.

Leaders sometimes take on more than they should because they pride themselves in going above and beyond. Everything seems totally doable until it doesn’t.

Because there’s always something waiting to trip us up. Like flu season, or computer trouble, or a work emergency. We may like the challenge, but taking on an unreasonable amount of work is asking for trouble.

I’ve been guilty of not delegating enough for all of the reasons I just mentioned. And I learned the hard way how that leads to burnout.

But when leaders resist delegating, they’re not just hurting themselves, they’re also hurting the group.

By not giving someone else, especially a new volunteer, a chance to help and benefit from the experience, you’re throwing away an opportunity to grow your volunteer base. To let someone start with a small job that could easily turn into more volunteering if encouraged.

Delegating might seem inconvenient at time but making it a habit will set you and your group up for more success and less stress. 

So will flexibility.

Being flexible about how you conduct Board business (or any committee business for that matter) will help make these positions more accessible to all parents.

Being open to changing the frequency or the timing of Board or general membership meetings -- or both – for example, will make it possible for more parents to consider Board positions. Taking advantage of audio and video conference calling tools will also make leadership positions accessible to more parents.

Remember that bylaws are not set in stone. So even when your bylaws outline some of the details of how you do business, e.g., job responsibilities, meeting frequency, quorum, etc., they can be revised as needed to fit the ever-changing needs of your group.

To help you make Board positions more manageable, check out the lesson notes in 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 4.1 - Make Board positions more manageable  from  Get More Volunteers Without Begging.  Free video training for PTO leaders created by Jen B. Cosgrove,