Micro-Volunteering and Your PTA

Is your PTA struggling to find volunteers? Are people afraid to join your PTA because you are always asking for volunteers to handle big jobs? If so, your PTA might want to look into micro-volunteering.

What is Micro-Volunteering?

One of the biggest challenges in finding volunteers is people who say they have no time. Micro-volunteering is an approach to overcome that perceived lack of time. There is no agreed to definition of micro-volunteering, but the Institute for Volunteering Research identified eight defining features of most micro-volunteering:

  1. Duration: It involves small increments of time.
  2. Access: It is easy to get started and do.
  3. Immediacy: It is quick to start and complete, and requires minimal planning
  4. Convenience: You decide when and where.
  5. Level of Formality: No formal agreement between the organization and the volunteer is needed.
  6. Frequency: It can be a one-off or repeated.
  7. Activity: It involves discrete actions.
  8. Location: It can be online or offline.

Keep in mind that your PTA may not want to call micro-volunteering opportunities by that name. The term is more common among non-profit leaders and researcher than the general public, so people may not understand what you are looking for in a micro-volunteer. Consider other terms, such as micro-tasks, quick jobs, or whatever you think will resonate with your potential volunteers.

How Can Your PTA Use Micro-Volunteering?

Micro-volunteering won’t work for every job in the PTA, but there may be opportunities for your PTA to take advantage of it. Take a look at everything your PTA does and consider whether there are bits and pieces that could be done by one person, perhaps on their own schedule. Some possibilities might include:

  • Trimming and bundling box tops
  • Bringing a food item or paper goods to a teacher appreciation event
  • Contacting businesses for donations for an event
  • Cutting up materials for the Family Reading Experience
  • Editing the PTA newsletter
  • Maintaining the PTA Facebook page or Twitter account
  • Designing a flyer for an event
  • Providing the collection point for donations of materials for an event
  • Proofreading PTA materials
  • Staffing a welcome table at an event for 30 or 60 minutes

While the tasks assigned to micro-volunteers are often small, they are also usually critical to the success of your PTA. That means that you still need to provide some management for your micro-volunteers, including checking in to see if they have any questions or problems and thanking them publicly and privately for their help.

Potential Benefits of Micro-Volunteering

Very few PTA volunteers started out with a big task. Most started by doing something simple like helping to set up an event or bringing a treat to school. By engaging people in micro-volunteering activities, your PTA has the potential to turn at least some of them into volunteers willing to take on bigger jobs, whether it is organizing an event or serving as a PTA officer.

The key to moving your micro-volunteers along that path to bigger opportunities is to build a relationship with them. Consider providing an incentive (e.g., an entry into a drawing for a prime parking spot at a PTA or school event) for volunteering. Hold a strictly social event for all of your volunteers to thank them for their help (Note: National Volunteer Week is April 23-29, 2017). Use that social event to find out what led your micro-volunteers to step up, what they are looking for in their volunteering opportunities, and what your PTA could do better.

Also keep in mind that micro-volunteers may only pop up for one small task and then disappear. It is still important to make sure that even these one-shot volunteers know that their contribution is appreciated and respect their decision to volunteer again.

Resources on Micro-Volunteering

The Institute for Volunteering Research has created a guide for exploring and developing micro-volunteering in an organization, as well as a full report (with case studies) and a summary report on their research into micro-volunteering.

PTA’s Three for Me program has been helping PTA’s develop a micro-volunteer program for several years by getting parents to commit to volunteering for three hours over the course of the school year.