Many PTAs are facing stagnant or even declining membership, despite increasing school enrollment. So if you’re feeling the pain, you’re certainly not alone. But some PTAs are wildly successful at growing their ranks, reaching 100% participation. What can we learn from their experience?

In this 3-part blog series, we boil down growing your PTA to three key steps.

Exclusive Bonus: Download our FREE guide on “How to Grow Your PTA in 3 Easy Steps”. Learn from your fellow PTA and PTO leaders who have been very successful at growing their PTA membership!

Let’s start with Step #1: Make it REALLY Worth Their While.

Many schools have a base of “die-hard” PTA fans. These are the parents who keep renewing their membership in the PTA year after year, with little or no prompting. They are the same people who are quick to volunteer, participate in fundraisers, and otherwise engage at the school. They appreciate the important work that the PTA does for their school, and don’t need to be “sold” on the value of joining the PTA.

The problem is that the base of die-hard fans isn’t big enough to sustain – let alone grow – your PTA membership. But here is the good news:

When I say “value”, I don’t necessarily mean “money”. (Although financial benefits can, in fact, be part of your value proposition).

By “value”, I mean all the benefits – both monetary and non-monetary – that being a PTA member provides.

Here are some examples of benefits that you might want to provide:

Financial benefits:

1. Negotiate discounts from local businesses (e.g., pizza parlor or ice cream shop) for PTA members. Members can get those discounts by showing their PTA membership card. It’s a win-win for both sides, as local businesses get new customers, and you get an additional benefit to provide to your members.

2. If you have an online store for your PTA, give discounts to PTA members. Even if the discounts are modest – like 5% or 10% off, it’s still something, and it helps strengthen your overall “value proposition”.

3. At every school or PTA event, provide some small “perks” to PTA members. If you sell popcorn for $1 at those events, maybe you can give a free small bag to PTA members. If you sell ice cream for $3, maybe you can add an extra free scoop for PTA members. You get the idea…

Non-financial benefits:

1. Keep your school community informed and “in the loop”.

a) Post a school calendar online with school vacation dates, early dismissal dates, parent-teacher conferences, etc.

b) Provide information about school-wide events such as concerts, sporting events, fundraisers.

c) Invite everyone to general PTA meetings, and be clear about what each meeting will cover.

d) Publish a monthly newsletter with updates on past and upcoming events.

e) Use SimplyCircle to keep the communication flow going. In addition to sending your communications out via email, SimplyCircle creates a calendar of all the events (complete with automatic reminders to maximize participation), and a permanent and private archive of all updates, documents and photos that you share.

2. Make everyone feel included. For example, if you have a large Spanish-speaking community, make sure to provide all of your information both in English and in Spanish. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you can use the free Google Translate service, or lean on help from volunteers who speak both English and Spanish fluently.

3. Help everyone feel like part of the community. Sponsor events such as New Family Orientation or Ice Cream Social – let people get to know each other in a casual, fun setting. Organize Community Service events and give back to your broader community.

4. Make people feel valued and appreciated, and let them express their appreciation of others. Thank your school volunteers in a creative and unique way – like calling them out by name in a school newspaper, or sending them handwritten thank-you notes from the students. Organize a Teacher Appreciation luncheon, giving parents an opportunity to thank their amazing teachers for all the great work they do.

5. Give people a voice. Emphasize that by becoming a member of the PTA, they get a voice and voting rights in decisions affecting their school and their children. Tell them about the programs that your PTA funds and supports, and how it’s helping the students at your school. Tell a story of a particular student that it helped – putting a name and a face to the program makes it more impactful.

To sum up, there are many, many ways – both financial and non-financial – to add value to your PTA members. We hope that the list above gave you some ideas for things you can implement at your school right away.

But – yes, there’s a but! – just providing value isn’t going to help you get more members.

So, once you put together your “value package”, make sure to tell your current and prospective members about it. And do it early and often.

That’s it for Step 1!

Next time, we’ll talk about Step 2 – how to make the most of the Back to School season.

Exclusive Bonus: Download our FREE guide on “How to Grow Your PTA in 3 Easy Steps”. Learn from your fellow PTA and PTO leaders who have been very successful at growing their PTA membership!

For other useful, free resources for PTA and PTO leaders, visit our PTA Leader Resources page.