PTO Today Blog

Ideas, news, opinions and tips about what’s happening in the parent group world

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At this time of year, groups are often looking for ways to do a little more fundraising before school wraps up, but they don’t have the bandwidth to start planning a big-production event. One option is to hold a few restaurant fundraisers this spring.

Our sister site, Restaurant-Fundraisers.com, has resources and planning tips that will come in handy for these events. While restaurant fundraisers (or spirit nights) aren’t huge moneymakers, they can be planned quickly and don’t require lots of volunteer time. Depending on the size of your community, you could make a few hundred dollars per event. One PTA we spoke to made $6,000 last year with monthly events. 

To get started, go to the Restaurant-Fundraisers.com guide, How To Run a Successful Restaurant Night, where you’ll find a step-by-step plan covering everything from how to contact local restaurants to ideas for promoting your event. 

The site has a listings section of 50 restaurants that offer fundraising programs. There’s a variety of restaurant types so your group will likely find something that your school community would like. The listings include links to many national chains, like Chuck E. Cheese, Chick-fil-A, and Chipotle, where you will find details on their programs. Many of the programs are similar, in that they involve you working with a restaurant to host an evening (or other block of time) for your community. The restaurant, in turn, donates to your group a percentage of sales that came in from your families and friends. 

You’ll see differences in how restaurants calculate what they’ll donate. Most will donate somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of your group’s total sales. Others donate a percentage of total sales. Also, some restaurants will offer more help than others with promotions, with some even sending mascots to your school. 

Restaurant-Fundraisers.com also has a tools section that includes free flyers you can download and customize for your group, clip art that you can use in your emails or on Facebook, and a template to use when writing a thank-you note after your event. 

Posted in Family Events

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If you're appreciating volunteers, I assume you're both thankful for their efforts and trying in some ways to keep them motivated and coming back. There's one mistake that hurts your group on both of those counts: leaving out volunteers or being somehow exclusive with your thanks.

Do you only appreciate those who've given a certain number of hours or volunteered at a certain senior level? Do you have tiers of appreciation, like a luncheon for some and a note for others? Both of those habits are surefire ways to get branded with a clique reputation. It's not unfair to appreciate stalwart volunteers more than dabblers, but it sure is counter-productive. 

My advice: Thank everyone well and equally. If in doubt -- thank. It's far better to thank 14 people who didn't do much of anything than to leave out one volunteer who did help. 

Ensuring that your volunteers feel valued is the best way to keep them coming back. And it isn't hard to do. Here are some resources that can help:

A Culture of Volunteer Appreciation

10 Quick and Easy Volunteer Gifts

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Lots of parent groups steer clear of using a debit card because they worry the card will get lost, people will steal money from the group, and they’ll have to spend too much time managing the card. But our group decided to give it a try. We carefully planned out how we would use a debit card and, so far, it’s been a great asset. 

That’s when we decided to take the plunge with a debit card. We put a series of controls in place, including: 

1. Trackers and keepers. The treasurer is our primary line of defense. Because she’s the one tracking card usage, she is not the keeper of the card. She can set up alerts with the bank so that it receives an email whenever certain dollar limits are debited from our account, so the bank will know right away if the card is being used inappropriately. The bank issued cards (same account number) to two of our board members who are responsible for them and do the shopping and banking with them. 

2. Weekly review. The treasurer logs in weekly to check the bank account and check for any unusual activity that is below the alert limit.  

3. Time limits. We’ve set a time limit for when the documentation on a charge has to be turned in (generally within a week or two of the charge), or the person holding the card loses her debit card privileges.

So now that we are using a debit card, we’ve found two big advantages: 

1. We can do so much more shopping online. We’ve discovered that instead of taking the time to drive to the office supply store and buy two cases of paper for the school copying machine, we can order it while at home (working on other things!) and have delivered (for free!) directly to the school office the next day.

2. Other financial transactions are easier for our board. They can use the debit card to make deposits at an ATM if they need to. This helps us do our banking on time. 

Of course, whatever controls you put in place, it is still quite possible that your card number could be used fraudulently. My Girl Scouts troop account was completely wiped out by someone clear across the country a few years ago. But the troop had no liability whatsoever; the bank replaced the card and restored the funds within a week. Check your bank’s policies on fraudulent usage before signing up for a card.

For us, we look at the debit card as doing something for our volunteers. With so many demands on people’s time, convenience to parent volunteer can’t be discounted. Plus, while many people might be fine with charging expenses on their own cards and then being reimbursed, you can’t assume that your officers and committee chairs are willing to do that. Volunteers dedicate lots of time and energy to your group; they shouldn’t be expected to serve as your bank as well. Some people are afraid of using debit cards, but with careful planning they can be very effective.

Posted in Finance

So, we know that the last thing any PTO leader needs right now is another thing to do, right? We get that. But we also want to say: It's time to start your search for new leaders for the 2015-2016 school year.

Ok, will your group fall apart if you don't get to this task right this minute? No. But, trust us, your life will be so much easier in the spring when your group hold elections if you do some outreach this month. Our editor in chief, Craig Bystrynski, explains the first steps to look for new officers in this one-minute video: 

Posted in Parent Involvement

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When I was in elementary school, kids were often teased and called names. Not good. But it was the 1960s and, frankly, issues like bullying were not top of mind. And while we are far from perfect today, we are making progress with events like No Name-Calling Week, which takes place next week, Jan. 19-24. 

What’s even more heartening is to see how so many PTOs and PTAs are on the front lines of this issue, supporting their schools by running programs that encourage and reward kindness. 

If next week’s No Name-Calling celebration inspires your group, we have some simple ideas you could implement anytime throughout the school year. We’ve gathered these ideas from our community, our own PTO Today resources, and from the No Name- Calling Week website, www.nonamecallingweek.org

1. Make a video that emphasizes how hurtful name-calling can be. Provide teachers with the video so they can use it in their classrooms to promote discussion. Ask teachers from each grade for a few student volunteers who can appear in the video. Get input from the students about what should be said in the video to make sure it will appeal to kids. 

2. Ask the school librarian if you can create a display with books that teach lessons about kindness or have an anti-bulling message. 

3. Run a poster or artwork contest at the school in which kids are encourage to illustrate kindness. 

4. Hold a T-shirt design contest that supports a kindness theme. Create a small list of semifinalists and have students vote on best T-shirt. Then, if the budget permits, provide each student with a T-shirt. 

5. Work with the principal and teachers to create a rewards program for students “caught” in an act of kindness. Select a few student winners each month. Reward: A special pizza-with-the-principal lunch. A spin on this idea would be to name a “Citizen of the Month,” naming one student who has demonstrated kindness in an outstanding way. 

6. Set up a buddy program to team up older students with students in younger grades. The older students can model good behavior while spending time with the younger students. They could team up as reading buddies, lunch buddies, or bus buddies. 

7. Create a kindness bulletin board at school that spotlights individual classrooms throughout the year. Ask classroom teachers to provide drawings, short essays, or other expressions of kindness from their students that you can display on the board. 

Posted in Parent Involvement

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This blog post was written by Shonne Fegan-Ehrhardt, a PTA president and freelance writer who wrote the article Small Groups, Big Achievements for the January 2015 issue of PTO Today. 

Being a parent group leader can be a lot of work, but I’ve found that creating a network—both internal and external—has helped me tremendously as PTA president. I’ve not only benefited from fresh ideas, but also have made new friends in the process. 

My first year in the position, I jumped in feet first and quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone. I looked at our board of committee chairs to find each individual’s strengths and I drew upon this local network of volunteers for assistance. When I was struggling with formatting the PTA board list, I mentioned it at a meeting and our treasurer offered to help. Turns out she was an Excel master and what would have taken me hours took her minutes! Next I looked one degree further to our local PTA council, which meets monthly. Connecting with other PTA presidents has been really helpful when I have questions about using funds (such as funding field trips) or school events (for example, what do they do for teacher appreciation week?). As well, many PTOs have town- or districtwide groups that provide this kind of network. 

I also share a lot of PTA accomplishments on my personal Facebook page which has led to new Facebook friends who are current or past PTA presidents or volunteers. I called one Facebook “referral” a few weeks ago and caught her in the grocery store line. She made the time to talk to me about how her board was arranged (two vice presidents for each position, allowing them to share the load), and this gave me a great idea to fill some of our open committee chair positions.  

Just recently, as we were sitting across the table from our extended family at a holiday dinner, volunteer work came up in conversation. I realized many of my cousins were also involved in their parent groups and we were able to share ideas about the events we host, such as our Holiday Helper program and what to buy for teacher thank-you gifts. I mentally added my cousins, who live across the country, to my extended parent group network and will keep them in mind when I have a question. 

Coincidentally, I’ve found one of my biggest sources of help is only a phone call away. My sister and I live 2,000 miles and two time zones apart in San Diego and Chicago and are both PTA presidents of our respective schools. I find we talk about something related to our PTAs on almost every phone call. She gave me a great idea for membership recruitment, and I can’t wait to try a volunteer fair like hers, where they sign up parent volunteers on the first day of school. 

So when it comes to building a network, I’d say keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to talk about your parent group’s work. Chances are you will find people willing to “join your network,” providing you with the support all parent group leaders and volunteers need!

Posted in Parent Involvement

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Catholic Schools Week, which will be celebrated Jan. 25-31 this year, is a time to celebrate a shared faith, fortify a sense of community, thank those who make a difference, and celebrate accomplishments. It’s a great opportunity for PTOs and PTAs to support the entire school community. Here are some ideas your group may want to try:

Hold parent-group-sponsored events: Host a special event that focuses on families. Do a PTO or PTA breakfast for grandparents, run a reading program with parents as guest readers in classrooms, or hold a fun family night that features a trivia contest or a game-show event like Jeopardy.

Groups also can help classrooms with special projects such as assisting the graduating 8th grade class with creating and burying a time capsule, or working with the youngest students to produce a show-and-tell day that supports messages of faith and family. 

Run a schoolwide special service project: Organize an effort to write valentines to senior citizens in the community or letters of support to soldiers. Another option is to manage a schoolwide canned goods collection for a local food pantry. 

Add a special touch: Many schools hold masses and open houses during Catholic Schools Week and need parents to be on hand to help with children and community members. Offer to organize volunteers who can assist with tours at open houses, create and print out programs, and serve refreshments. Another option: Set up an art gallery (perhaps in hallways) that showcases students’ work.

Pitch in where needed: Many schools also host their big events, like winter carnivals, book fairs, talent shows, or other schoolwide productions, during this week. PTO and PTA members can participate by running activities at the carnivals, manning the cash register at book fairs, and managing acts for the talent show. 

Handle staff appreciation celebrations: This is a parent group’s bread and butter! Often schools will take time during this week to celebrate teachers, pastors, and staff. Offer to host a staff appreciation luncheon. Organize a thank-you letter campaign for students to show their appreciation to the school principal and parish members who make a difference at the school. 

Get in on the fun: Lots of schools do a series of spirit day celebrations for each day of Catholic Schools Week. Your group can offer to coordinate these, and if you’re in need of ideas, consider these: dress-down day (no uniforms), dress as a favorite book character day, crazy hat day, crazy socks day, school colors day, and favorite decade day. 

Posted in Parent Involvement

Our founder Tim Sullivan explains why reaching out to parents, one at a time, with a specific volunteer request is so much more effective than blasting the community with flyers pleading for help. 

Posted in Uncategorized

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After the holidays, many schools start anticipating the 100th day of school. It’s a nice, low-key way to give kids something to look forward to when that post-holiday, back-to-the-grind feeling sets in. And like lots of other celebrations, those for 100th day can be as simple or involved as a group would like. We have an article called “11 Ways To Mark the 100th Day of School” that lists cute ways to celebrate the day at school and at home, like asking students to write 100 reasons they like their school (or town), challenging classes to read 100 books, and sending each child home with a small plastic bag to be filled with 100 small items (buttons, paper clips, etc.).

One very simple activity for 100th day that we seem to hear about from a lot of schools and parent groups is to have kids decorate and wear T-shirts with 100 of something on them, like safety pins, buttons, or fuzzy balls. Making a shirt also gives kids a nice takeaway and the chance to be creative. Some schools ask kids to decorate shirts to represent their interests, such as by drawing 100 baseballs. You could even up the fun and the feel of the day as a true celebration by having the kids wear their shirts in a parade. (Tip: If you organize the decorating as a home (not in-class) activity, it’s a good idea to keep some shirts and fabric markers on hand for quick shirt-making so kids who forgot or didn’t make one don’t feel left out.)

Thinking of decorating shirts makes me recall my own favorite 100th day memory from when my boys (now teenagers) were small, which involved making a T-shirt for my older son, then a 1st grader. We kept it super simple and used fabric pens to write up a bunch of equations that added up to the number 100 (1 + 99, 37 + 63, 22 + 78, and so on). The reason I remember these equations so clearly is because he wore it for a couple of years on 100th day, as did his younger brother. In fact, that shirt, which took all of a half-hour to make together, was probably worn on seven 100th days! It’s been tucked away in the back of a drawer for years at this point, and I smile each time I unearth it. So you never know when a simple effort to commemorate something fun can create a long-lasting memory.

For more 100th Day celebration ideas, go to our 100th Day of School board on Pinterest.

 
Posted in Bright Ideas

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Welcome to 2015, the 2015th consecutive year (A.D.) of wishing that more people would volunteer.

The good news: We have a new article on the topic called “Why Don’t People Volunteer? ” that offers great insight. For me, the key takeaway is to get personal. You don't add volunteers with flyers and general meetings. You add volunteers one at a time. I'm guessing your group has maybe 10 or 20 regular volunteers, right? Rather than wondering why the other 200 parents don't step up, this year focus on adding one more volunteer at a time by identifying great candidates and personally inviting them. Then find a good job that suits them and make sure their volunteer experience goes super-well.

You're doing a really good job with your 10 or 20 current volunteers. Just think of what you can do if you can make that 12 or 22 and then 14 or 24. That's a much more productive approach than sending yet another flyer and hoping the masses show up.

Best wishes for an amazing, volunteer-filled 2015!

Posted in Tim's Tip

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One of the best things about January is that it can be a fresh start. It turns out January is Get Organized Month, so it’s an opportunity for PTO and PTA leaders to set aside time during the next few weeks to review plans for winter and spring meetings and events. We’ve put together a list of tips from PTO Today resources as well as community members that we think will help you as you get your PTO ducks in a row.

1. Block out a chunk of time to review the calendar for the second half of the school year and double check that all key events are listed on your group’s website and the school’s calendar. Make sure you’re covered on the smaller events, like Pi Day on March 14. (Oh, and don’t forget to make sure these items are on your personal calendar!) Our 2014-15 Planning Calendar will help. 

2. Clean out old emails and documents that you don’t need and are cluttering up your computer. Group together files related to upcoming events and meetings. 

3. Check supplies and order what you need for the remainder of the year. 

4. Meet with committee chairs to discuss upcoming events. See how they are doing and find out if you can assist them in any way. This article on committee management is worth a look to help you guide volunteers who may have questions or concerns.

5. Do a check-in on teacher appreciation plans. It’s really never too soon to get started on this! Will your group do a big event or series of events during Teacher Appreciation Week? We have many teacher appreciation resources that will help you with your planning. 

6. Set a meeting with the principal to go over highlights of winter and spring plans. Ask for suggestions and discuss any concerns. Time permitting, ask the principal for feedback on the school year to date and see if there are any outstanding issues to be addressed. Check out our articles on working with the principal, which are particularly helpful if your relationship is rocky or these kinds of check-ins cause you stress. 

7. Sketch out a basic plan for upcoming general meetings. Are you planning any guest speakers or student presentations in upcoming months? Now’s a good time to confirm these. Also, get inspiration from our article about keeping meetings fun

8. Start a low-key search for leadership candidates. It really isn’t too soon. If there are a few parents who have been participating and seem to have leadership qualities, think about how to connect with them in a casual way to gauge their interest in getting more involved. 

9. Do a social media reboot. Spend a little time looking for new folks to follow on Facebook and Twitter. Do a scan of what’s been posted in the last few months and analyze if it’s working by looking at the comments and shares you get on posts. Consider trying something new or setting a new goal, like posting photos of school happenings at least once a week. Our article about Facebook will come in handy. 

10. If your board was unable to do a get-together over the holidays, try to set up a casual off-site meeting (breakfast or lunch) before the end of the month so your team can reconnect and get inspired for the second half of the school year. 

Posted in Running Your Group

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We loved looking back at Facebook in 2014 to see the wonderful sharing our community did throughout the year to help and support each other. So we decided to collect our favorite Facebook post from each month and share it. Based on the reaction these posts received, they were some of your favorites, too!

JANUARY

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Classic PTO and PTA leaders! This top post from January 2014 shows that by early winter you were already thinking about Teacher Appreciation Week, which, as we know, takes place in May!

FEBRUARY

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We know you love getting new auction ideas and this February 2014 post proved it. This gem involved putting prize names on little slips of paper and putting them inside balloons!

MARCH

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You know you are a tried-and-true volunteer if you wouldn’t think of entering the school building without hand sanitizer and tissues! That’s just one little joke you definitely get if you’re in the PTO or PTA community! This March 2014 post had us all chuckling.

APRIL

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Our back-to-back April 2014 posts of teacher appreciation ideas were top posts. No wonder: The ideas were awesome because they came from all of you!

MAY

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Our community loves inspirational quotes. This one from Michael J. Fox was a top post in May 2014 and one of our top posts of the year!

JUNE

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Our post about creating a PTO procedures book was a hit in June 2014. Some may think an instruction manual is a boring topic, but we know many of you consider it a fun summer project!

JULY

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Come July, we’re gearing up for back-to-school season, and it’s hard to escape this time without all of us getting a little sentimental, as our July 2014 top post showed.

AUGUST

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New federal guidelines on snacks in schools had a big impact on your groups this year, as this August 2014 post showed.

SEPTEMBER

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We had a big response to our September 2014 post on duct-taping the principal. This could well be one of our community’s favorite activities! Thank goodness for principals who are good sports!

OCTOBER

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When cooler weather rolls in, groups love to do indoor events, like Family Movie Night.This October 2014 post featuring new movie night tickets was really popular!

NOVEMBER

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Our top post in November 2014 was our sneak peak at the new PTO Today Expo 2015 bag! Hope you’re dreaming of filling these up with goodies at one of our Expos!

DECEMBER

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Our favorite December 2014 post was our Toys for Tots album! We had a blast collecting toys and delivering them to a local collection center!

And...

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Our runaway post of the year was our back-to-school teacher survival kit! One thing we know for sure, PTO and PTA leaders love showing teachers how much they care!

Posted in Just For Fun

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No practical tip this Christmas week, but rather an invitation. At this time of year, I hope you especially remember the great stuff about volunteering at school.

I bet you have a best memory or a favorite reason for volunteering. The good moments are so, so great. Check out the favorite volunteering memories of other leaders. And I hope you'll add your own to the growing list.

Mine? Every year, I help organize our school's basketball tournament, and there's always a game when the whole gym is perfect: crowded stands, positive parents, tons of enthusiasm, close game, kids having so much fun. Those are the days that bring me back the next year. I can't wait to read about yours.

P.S. Our 2015 Expos are coming to 12 cities this spring, and we have a video and more showing you what they are all about.

Posted in Tim's Tip

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We asked PTO leaders what they’d like to do over the holiday break. And can you guess what was the number one answer?


Sleep! 

And some of you were very specific, with one community member wishing for “8 hours of sleep, every night” and another requesting “Sleep, sleep, sleep, and more sleep.’’

You work hard all year, and the holiday season in particular can wear out any parent who is managing family and school obligations. So we hope all of you get some well-deserved downtime to fill with what you love to do. 

Here are some other ideas shared by PTO leaders on Facebook. Some of these look very doable. Willing to try a few? 


Tracy: Sleep in every day and wake up to a lovely breakfast and a perfectly cleaned home (laundry done, too); then do an hour or two of yoga, followed by spa treatment and a lovely lunch.

Lori: The grocery store without the kiddos.


Debby: Pack a backpack, catch a train into the city with my family, eat new foods, explore the list of places I haven't been to yet with them, photo journal some of the moments, and hopefully meet some new friends.


Suzi: Listen to more music, read, and catch up on drawing, all while sipping hot chocolate (in my pajamas, of course).


Melissa: Family time for sure doing anything as long as I could leave my phone and computer locked away!
Posted in For Your Parents
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The holiday break is almost upon us. The last thing we want to suggest is more work for anyone, but there are a few very easy things you can do right now that will make January a little less hectic.

1. Send out a reminder for the January PTO meeting. Promise folks you’ll do something fun, like a trivia game with small prizes, to get people interested. 

2. Ask the principal if you can meet in early January to discuss the school’s 100th day celebration plans. Find out how your group can help. 

3. Schedule a leadership meeting for January. Bring together the board and committee chairs to discuss ways to increase involvement during the second half of the school year. 

4. Think about potential leader candidates for the 2015-16 school year (yes, now!). Jot down a few names and schedule a January board meeting to discuss transition plans. 

5. Take a quick look at the supply closet and schedule a time to order online or hit the stores early next month. 
Posted in Running Your Group

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We love dads here at PTO Today, especially involved school dads. And this week I have a few simple tips and links and programs to help you connect with more dads at your school.
First, please do note that dads’ involvement is different. The most successful schools in terms of involving fathers have custom programs just for them. It might not be fair that PTOs and PTAs are mostly associated with moms, but it's reality. Don't fight it -- get dads involved with whatever name works.
And I have a sneak preview of an article about dads from our upcoming January magazine. Called “A Place for Dads,” it’s a piece that highlights three programs that help fathers be part of their kids’ education. Each is worth a look.
We'd love to hear about dads at your school. Jump into our Facebook conversation about dads’ involvement.
Posted in Parent Involvement
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We recently asked our Facebook friends to share community service ideas that promote kindness and the spirit of giving. We had the opportunity to give away 10 copies of the best-selling book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and so we are sharing them with the community members who posted our favorite ideas. Here’s a summary of those ideas:

We hold a free Winter Wonderland craft night and we ask for donations of hats, gloves, and scarves. The children hang them on a tree as they walk in to the event and these are donated to local families. One of the craft stations is a cardmaking area and the cards are delivered to a local nursing home. —Patty McPhie  

Our school does a book exchange before our school breaks (winter, spring, and summer). The children bring in books they no longer read and they take another book in exchange. We make sure children who aren’t able to donate a book still get one to bring home. —Melissa Derhake Buttry

We ask parents to donate gently used clothes for our clothes closet. Our guidance counselor sends out letters with permission slips to get information on the type of clothing and sizes needed. She then tells the PTO know what’s needed and we fill bags with clothes for her to distribute. —Denise Bailey Pickett

We recently held a fundraiser to help one of our students with medical bills. Our PTO purchased a flat-screen TV for a raffle and our cafeteria ladies put together a spaghetti night. The PTO helped sell spaghetti plates. We raised close to $2000! —Rebekka Beattie 

Our school has a lot of low-income families—that being said, they are the most giving and caring! We participate in a sock, hat, and mitten drive, as well as the Coats for Kids and Toys for Tots programs. Our community garden provides students and neighbors through the warmer months with fresh produce. Also, we have some classes that draw names for a “Secret Friend” each week and the students will go above and beyond to be nice to that student each day. —Michelle Sutton 

We  asked school families to donate gently used coats, gloves, mittens, boots, and hats to school. We arrange for students in need to select items and then we donate the remainder to a homeless shelter. We had some of the students deliver the unwanted item to the shelter. It was a great experience. —Joni Waterburys-Salazar. 

We hold an annual Holiday Bazaar. We ask our families to donate gently used items. Volunteers sort through donations and put them on display during a two-day event at school. The students “go shopping” by selecting free items for their family members or friends. Volunteers wrap gifts for the students. We usually have so many donations that each of our 500-plus students are permitted three gifts each. It is such a heartwarming experience to watch these young children shop! —Jennifer Griffin Boivin
 
Our school just finished one of our several “giving back” events. Children were asked to work at home to earn money. For each dollar earned and donated, they receive a paper hand with their name on it. We posted the hands to the wall, creating a giant loop of “giving hands”! We then purchased $50 gift cards from the donations and give those to local charities. —Tracy Rich Sisti 

Our middle school raises money and collects toys for needy families in our city during the holiday season. To raise money, kids sell hot chocolate, snacks, drinks, and candy canes at school. They even donate unneeded items and hold an auction among their classmates. Also, students  do a gift-wrapping night for the community. —Kim Nevers 

Our 2nd and 3rd graders have a readathon and get pledges from family members and close friends. The students use the money to buy food for our church’s food pantry. Students and teachers go to the local retailers to purchase the food and deliver it to the food pantry. —Wendy Hallquist-Horen
Posted in Community Service
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How do you plan to say thanks to your volunteers this holiday season? We have two very simple no-cost suggestions that will make your volunteers happy and pay dividends for your group.

First of all, a word about volunteer appreciation. A lot of groups, if they think of volunteer appreciation at all, think of it as an end-of-year event when you celebrate the contributions of everyone who helped out during the year. You hold this great energizing event, but then everyone heads their separate ways for the summer. Why not focus on volunteer appreciation during the year, when you can reap the benefits of your positive gesture? 

In fact, volunteer appreciation works best as an ongoing effort rather than a single big event. Think of it as a regular series of small gestures that continually let people know that their contributions really matter. In that vein, here are our two suggestions for the holiday season.

First, for people who have volunteered this semester, send them a personal email simply saying thanks for their help and how much you appreciate their time and effort. You can split this task up among board members or committee chairs. Every email doesn’t have to be different, but they all need to be personalized. (No mass “thanks to everybody who helped out”—that doesn’t work.)

Second, reach out to people who haven’t helped out at all this semester. Specifically, go through your records and email everyone who signed up as a potential volunteer at back-to-school time or during the fall. Let them know that you appreciate their support of your parent group and their willingness to volunteer. Say that you look forward to working with them in the coming weeks and months. Then, be sure to act on contacting them for specific volunteer opportunities, whether now or in the next month or so. 

The point of contacting your volunteers is to spread a little holiday goodwill and, especially, to keep them thinking warmly about your group.
 
The point of contacting people who didn’t volunteer—but once expressed their willingness—is to reopen the window of opportunity by letting them know you still value what they can provide.

So take some time to reach out and spread a little appreciation. After all, ’tis the season.
Here's a wish for the happiest of holidays to everyone! 

Posted in PTO Today News

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This week I'm going for the practical. If your group is planning an upcoming auction, we have some great resources that you have to share with your planning team:
 
1. Have you gotten connected with our Ultimate Donation List yet? This popped up organically on our message boards several years ago and has taken on a life of its own.  Your donations committee will thank you!


2. At my kids' school, our best sellers each year are special, one-of-a-kind items made by the kids. Check out this Pinterest board for exactly the kinds of things I'm talking about.

 
3. We also have our Auctions page with links to dozens of auction ideas and resources. 

 
4. Finally, I loved the sharing on this lively Facebook discussion about how many items to include in your live auction. Read and learn, or offer your own insight.

 
Good luck!
Posted in Auctions