Parents Voice in Government School Education

Struggling to attract volunteers?

If you’re struggling to attract enough volunteers to run your Parent Club committee and keep a program of events going, you’re definitely not alone. In Victoria and across Australia, volunteer numbers have reduced – especially with COVID impact disrupting parents, carers and volunteers being able to come onsite to schools. People have had to rethink community connection and what matters most.  Be mindful of what’s achievable when setting out events, activities or fundraisers for the year.   What might have been achievable several years ago, may not be achievable now. Keep your expectations realistic.  

Levels of commitment

You might find that people will volunteer for a ‘one-off’ event but won’t want to become members or join the committee. This is not unusual. People can be cautious when it comes to making a commitment to join a group. They will often have 2 big concerns:

  • “Once I get into this, I’ll be stuck and the demands on my time will keep growing.”
  • “I might not have the skills required and could get ‘out of my depth’.”

Volunteering for a one-off event, by contrast, has a clear end-point and the skills required are usually clear and simple.

To make membership and committee positions more welcoming, try this:

  • Be clear about the duties and a realistic expectation of time commitment.
  • Create well-defined and limited or set roles, e.g. Club Newsletter Co-ordinator.
  • Consider whether traditional roles can be split, e.g. President and Vice-President can chair alternate meetings, Secretary can have an assistant who takes meeting minutes.
  • Tell people what the required skills are for the role.

Even if the answers to these questions are very simple and minimal, that’s an important message for prospective members.

Two more important messages for parents who might join your club:

  • There is no membership fee to belong to the Parent Club.
  • By being a registered member they are enabling the PC to proactively support the school in the best interest of the children and the whole school community.

See our Toolkit article, Re-inventing a Parent Club for busy parents for more tips.

Know your school community

Try to find ways of reaching out to the whole school community to find out what people actually want from a Parent Club. You could run a survey, or consult teachers and school leadership. In this Toolkit we have provided a sample survey to do a check-in with the school community about their needs / wishes.

Positive messages

Some parents will be happy to help with fundraising efforts, but others may be more interested in other aspects of a Parent Club. It’s not necessarily all about fundraising. A Parent Club can also be a proactive advisory group, a forum for sharing ideas and addressing concerns, and a social and ‘community-building’ group. People want to belong to something positive and it shouldn’t always be seen as “just hard work”. Depending on how the Parent Club is promoted in school literature/newsletter/website, this may or may not attract new members if the messaging does not provide opportunity for parents who might want to join the group for reasons other than fundraising.

Take time to plan

If numbers are low, you might need to scale back your planned activities, to give you time to plan and implement a recruitment strategy. Take a long-term view – it’s not just about this term’s activities, but the long-term survival of the Parent Club.

Coping with low numbers on your Committee

If the club cannot secure nominees for office bearer roles – as an interim measure,  roles can be rotated or shared.  For example if a President cannot be secured – meetings can be co-chaired or you could have a rotating Chair.  Similarly, if the role of Secretary cannot be secured, a temporary coordinator could undertake the role of minute-taker or this task could be rotated/shared.  PV recommends in these instances that the meeting minutes reflect who chaired the meeting and who performed the minute-taker role.

Other volunteer resources

With regard to seeking more volunteers for specific events – are there other local groups to consider e.g. U3A – there may be retired folk, those with past associations with the school or live locally to the school who are willing to assist.

More resources in the Toolkit

Parents Victoria newsletter and membership

If you are interested, you are most welcome to register to receive PV’s regular e-newsletter (sent monthly to your inbox).

See our newsletter page –  you can view examples of the information and updates we share with Victorian government school communities.

You can also register as a member of Parents Victoria – it’s free for parents of children at government schools.