So what makes the biggest difference when taking this next step to reach out to enlist parent volunteers? It is how you are being – your thoughts, attitudes and motives for reaching out. Remember – your goal is to build a mutually supportive relationship. Keep that in mind as you consider the following suggestions:
- Make a chart for the wall with all of the volunteer activities. Make columns for the activity, date needed, quantity and leave at least two columns for parent volunteer names.
- Write a note to each parent asking if they can help with the particular task you have identified for them. Be specific about times and amounts, for example, “Can you cut out 25 purple flowers for our art project by Thursday morning?” When the parent arrives to drop off or pick up their child, hand them the note and ask them personally if they would mind doing it. Be sure to give them room to say no! A parent will feel much better about helping out if they feel that their time and efforts are appreciated, rather than demanded. They will participate more often if they feel free to say no when they are not able to do a particular task.
- If a parent says no, thank them for their honesty and ask them if they would mind looking at your list of volunteer activities and identifying one thing they can do. Reassure them that your desire is to have a relationship with them and their child so that you can create the best environment possible for their child.
- Once a parent has committed to a task, ask them to write their name on the wall chart you created. Having them write their commitment down themselves helps to cement it in their memory and assists in moving the responsibility from you to them. The note you wrote serves as a reminder for them at home. Another idea for reminders is to send out a group email or text message blast a day before the project is due to restate who has been assigned, and what is being counted on.
The final, and perhaps most important, step in bridging the gap between parents and classroom or center is frequent communication about what’s happening in your little community. Use your newsletter (weekly email newsletter is best, but monthly is fine too) to thank, support and encourage all of your families. Let them know that they are making a difference through their time and effort by helping you to make a difference for their child.