So you’re a new PTA president getting ready to start your first term. Maybe this is your first position with the PTA; maybe you’ve been involved for years. Either way, leading your PTA is a big new step. Here are our suggestions for finding happiness as a PTA president.
You Can’t Do It All Yourself
As a leader, your role is to guide, facilitate, encourage, and enable your volunteers to be successful, not to be the SuperMom or SuperDad who does it all. The do-it-all leader tends to drive away volunteers and leave the PTA in worse shape when they leave office. A successful leader cultivates volunteers and makes them feel valued, which generates enthusiasm for the PTA and its work. Illinois PTA has tips to get more volunteers and to overcome those who say they can’t volunteer.
Chances are your parents didn’t just toss you the car keys and wave when you turned 16. You took a driver’s education class and spent time behind the wheel with an experienced driver guiding your learning. Illinois PTA has several free training courses to help PTA leaders learn the ins and outs of their PTA position. Contact your district or region director or Illinois PTA Leadership Director Brenda Diehl to find out when training is scheduled in your area or to set up training. Take a look at National PTA’s E-Learning Library for online courses, many of which are available in both English and Spanish.
Communications is Key
Both National PTA and Illinois PTA provide lots of resources to help PTA leaders be successful. From the National PTA Back-to-School Kit to the Illinois PTA Local Unit Packet that is distributed to all PTA presidents, this information is yours to share with your PTA leaders and members. Be sure to look through all of the materials you receive and pass on applicable information to those who need it. Your PTA treasurer, Reflections chairperson, or other leader will be more likely to run for a second term if you’ve been providing them with the information that they need to be successful.
Effective communication isn’t just with your PTA board, but with your members and community as well. If the families in your school know what the PTA is doing, they are more likely to step up and volunteer to be a part of the great things your PTA is doing for kids. If the businesses and community members know that the PTA is making a difference in your school, they are more likely to sponsor PTA activities and donate time or materials. Use Illinois PTA’s tips for effective communication to help plan your outreach.
Work with Your School Administrators and Teachers
A well-run PTA can be a principal’s or a teacher’s biggest asset. A poorly-run PTA can be their worst nightmare. Having a good working relationship with your school’s principal and teachers is critical to having an effective PTA. Communicate regularly with your principal. Work together to map out the school year in terms of PTA activities, fundraising, and meetings. Find out what the school’s goals are for your students, and see what PTA programs can help meet those goals.
Remember You Are Running a Business
You may think you are running “just the PTA,” but you are in fact running a 501(c)3 organization. Make sure your PTA is following the IRS requirements on filing tax forms. Remember that PTA fundraising is to support the mission and purposes of the PTA, not just to make money. Consider incorporating to protect your PTA officers if your PTA hasn’t done so already. Use procedure books to preserve your PTA’s knowledge and experience. Make sure your bylaws have been updated in the last two years, and develop standing rules to cover things the bylaws do not.
Be an Advocate
You joined PTA because you care about your child and their school. Maybe you’ve spoken with a teacher about a classroom problem, a principal about a school problem, or perhaps even a superintendent or the school board about a district problem. If so, you’ve been an advocate for your child, but also for the children in that classroom, school, or district. PTA provides you with the opportunity to advocate and make a difference in the lives of children across Illinois and across the country. Illinois PTA uses tools to make advocacy as easy as clicking a few buttons. Sign up to receive Illinois PTA advocacy e-mails, and encourage your members to sign up as well. A single drop of water seems insignificant, but a drop of water falling into a pond can spread ripples across the surface of the entire pond. When single drops of water move together, they can power a mill or carve the Grand Canyon.
Being a PTA leader can be a lot of fun, whether it is seeing all the smiling faces at a PTA event or taking a cream pie to the face when your PTA meets a difficult goal. If you and your fellow PTA leaders are having fun, chances are your members are as well, and those who haven’t joined the PTA will want to join in the fun, too. So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy your presidency.
Photo ©2009 by thephotographymuse under Creative Commons license.