How to Organize Parent Volunteers
As school begins, the need for classroom volunteers becomes important.
The reason for having parent volunteers is twofold:
- Parents need to be involved at school - good for kids and good for parents.
- We need volunteers to help us with essential tasks that take our focus from our most valuable activities.
How do you organize parent volunteers?
The problems start with organizing parent volunteers. In our busy classrooms, as teachers, we are stretched so thin. Sometimes the very thought of having volunteers seems overwhelming. Isn't it easier to just do all of those tasks ourselves?! NO! You'll have to invest a bit of time and planning in the beginning, but you'll reap the reward of well trained volunteers all year long.
Let's start with deciding what our volunteers should do. What tasks do you do regularly? Make a list. Next, highlight items you could have someone else do. Circle what you need to do yourself.
Now, create a job description for your volunteer help.
I hire a VA, Virtual Assistant, to do tasks I need done but don't have to do myself. So think of your volunteers like your VA. Or in this case, a Volunteer Assistant.
- List and define the tasks you want to delegate.
- Set a time budget needed for each task. How often will each task need to be done? Which tasks have to happen at a set time and/or day? Which ones are flexible? Which tasks can be done at home and returned? How long should each task take? Are there tasks that happen occasionally, but not regularly? When? How much time will they take? How many volunteers do you need for each task?
Don't do a volunteer signup sheet.
I know this sounds crazy. However, I never have volunteers in the classroom until my class is well trained in my systems and has a good routine down (3-4 weeks into the school year). I just let parents know volunteer opportunities will be sent out soon. After the first week of school, I send home an email and a flyer asking interested parents to attend a volunteer training session. If they cannot make the session, I ask them to let me know they are interested but cannot attend. I'll send them a link to the recording after the training.
Matching Volunteers and Jobs
"Hire" them on a temporary basis - 2 weeks to a month. Let your volunteers know you will be making adjustments to schedules and tasks over the next couple of weeks. This gives you an out if a volunteer is not suited to a task they chose. Just adjust and shuffle the jobs.
Onboarding: Have a training session for your volunteers.
- Set a time/date for a training session. Video it if you can so those that can't make it can watch it before they enter the classroom.
- Define expectations.
- Set communication expectations.
- Train your volunteers on how you want each job done. I usually create a checklist for them or a packet with simple, clear directions. Establish routines.
- Show parents where to: sign in/out log, projects, checklists, pickup and drop off jobs and a communicate anything that comes up that they need you to be aware of.
- Have a volunteer contract for parent volunteers to sign. This defines privacy rules and conduct expectations so there is no misunderstanding. Check with your administrator on this for guidance.
- Show parents how to use your signup system. I use Signup Genius.
Last, set up a way for volunteers to sign up for tasks without you having to manage it.
I like Signup Genius. There are both free and paid options. It's easy to set up and use. You can check it to keep tabs on who is coming and when. Volunteers get automatic reminders and calendar updates from the system, and you can too. Just send your families an email with the link to the signup, and you are on your way!
P.S. I use Signup Genius to set up conference times for parents as well. So easy! Parents pick the day/time they want from the available slots I create. Total time saver!