Find some great ideas for retaining and increasing membership in your PTA on the California PTA website.
Building PTA membership depends upon more than just recruiting members. It takes making the PTA a meaningful part of school life. When a PTA provides relevant programs, supports student success, and involves all groups within the school community, greater participation and support will naturally follow. It is important to think about ways to encourage participation and support of PTA events but also accept that some people may support PTA by joining but may not wish to attend meetings and events or be more involved.
Adding and keeping members begins when you:
- Ask people to join
- Acknowledge differences and similarities within the membership
- Learn to understand and accept those differences
- Practice respect and be welcoming to all
- Involve the under-represented groups in the PTA
- Discuss what is needed for PTA and the school to be most effective for all students and families
- Set realistic goals. There are no magical membership or outreach answers.
- Recognize each PTA unit is different and unique – what works for one may not work for another
- Be aware of barriers to involvement and be open to ways to overcome them
- Set up committees and build representation from diverse groups
- Provide leadership training opportunities for new members
- Show appreciation for any amount of time a person gives to PTA
Retaining Members is Easier than Recruiting
Getting new members is only one reason for your PTA to put a membership growth plan into motion. There’s a second reason: to keep the members you already have. It takes more effort to recruit a new member than it does to keep an existing one. Further, it is the returning member who will more likely take on a leadership role. The future success of your PTA depends on your having a good mix of returning and new members. Below are some tips on how to retain members.
- Treat membership marketing like the business it is.
Understand that you’re in the business of marketing and selling memberships. That means a membership is a product, with many useful features and services. Be ready to explain to renewing members the existing and developing benefits of PTA membership.
- Study your niche carefully.
Learn about the successes of other PTAs and volunteer organizations.
- Get testimonials from lapsed members who have returned.Perhaps the best kind of testimonial comes from people who were unhappy and then rededicated themselves to PTA. Contact members who have recently rejoined and ask them what spurred their decision to come back. Contact a few former members and ask them what made them leave and what they miss most about belonging to PTA.
- Understand that your retention rate goes right to your bottom line.
Growing competition for members requires an all out communications plan with sound strategies to encourage feedback from members, determine the services they need, communicate how to use those services, and increase member satisfaction. If you make these efforts, your members will reward you with membership renewals.
- Get all of your members involved.
The most active members will always be the ones who get the most out of their membership, leading them to renew year after year. Therefore, getting members involved is the key to keeping them. It’s not always easy, though. Many members don’t understand the value of being involved, or don’t feel comfortable. To help them get their feet wet, draw up a list of activities that members can choose from, and modify this list as new opportunities arise. Members are more likely to get involved in a short term activity with clearly defined roles.
- Open the door to two way communication.
Many organizations rely on a magazine or newsletter to communicate with their members. It has never occurred to them that not all members want their information delivered this way. Make it clear on everything you print how you can be reached: by phone, fax, snail mail, e-mail, voice mail, social networking sites, etc. Give members all the options you can.
- Post basic information on your website.In addition to posting a list of events, names of board members, and PTA information and activities (all with contact names, phone numbers, and email addresses), post membership and registration forms that can be either downloaded or submitted online. This will make it easy for new and renewing members to join.
- Keep the material on your website current and relevant.
Outdated material is a sure sign that no one is monitoring or maintaining your website, which makes a bad impression on existing and potential members. Find relevant material (from your print publications, from National PTA, and from non copyrighted sources) to post on a regularly scheduled basis. (See PTA.org for the National PTA permissions policy.)
- Teach new members how to use PTA services.Provide details about the benefits and resources PTA offers to its members. Most importantly, inform new members exactly how to use these great services. Many complaints are heard from new members who say they do not get information about PTA services and how to use them. Put a brochure of benefits and services in your new member packets. Be sure to show members the many resources available at PTA.org.
- Find out why your members are leaving.
Exit surveys can provide you with crucial information that can help you plug holes in your membership system. Non-renewing members can be one of your best resources for determining how your PTA can improve its membership retention. Ask past members for honest feedback on their PTA experience. Use this feedback to evaluate your current membership practices.
You know Outreach has succeeded when:
- The make-up of the PTA board reflects the make-up of the school community.
- There are new PTA board members every year who represent all parts of the school community.
- New people are at each PTA meeting, and many come to the next meeting.
- PTA members ask questions and make suggestions during association meetings.
- The involved membership includes students, teachers, community, and extended family members, not just parents.
- People respond to print and electronic flyers, newsletters and website information translated into all the languages within the school.
- Members talk and socialize together before the association meeting starts.
- Membership and outreach are part of all PTA activity planning.
- The PTA board and membership does not think in terms of “them” and “us.”