Most families are deep into back-to-school preparations (some are already back!). For those getting ready, there’s back-to the mall for school shopping, then back-to the office supply section for glue and crayons, and of course back-to volunteering after the summer break!
Schools are cutting back, teachers and staff are stretched thin, and parent volunteers are needed more than ever. As a parent, how can you help when maybe you work full time or have a toddler at home? More importantly how can you donate your time, talents (or even money), and still keep your sanity intact? Busy parents are exactly that—BUSY!
Here are 5 tips for volunteering at your child’s school:
1. Be realistic with your schedule
- Can you spare 30 minutes a term? Sign up to organize the reading volunteers! Organizing parent volunteers will make a huge difference for the teacher—and it’s even better than sending in a latte!
- Can you spare one morning a term? Volunteer to chaperone a field trip or help with a special holiday performance or class celebration.
- Can you spare one or more mornings per month? Talk to the teacher about needs in the classroom and sign up as a reading, math, or science-station helper.
- Can’t be IN the school building? Volunteer your time at home with your child: prepare craft kits for the class party or cutouts for the bulletin board. When your work shows up at school, your child will be proud that, together, you contributed to the class.
2. Volunteer your talents
Do you love art, music, gardening, or computers? Many of these enriching activities are the first to go with school budget cuts. Talk to your child’s teacher about sharing your special skills and interests with the class.
3. Save time with VolunteerSpot.com
Skip “Reply-All” email chains and clipboard signups! VolunteerSpot’s free online sign up sheets make coordinating parent volunteers a breeze! The teacher or parent leader sets up the schedule of needs online and invites parents to sign up with a link. Parents click to choose when and how to help—even from their smartphones or iPad through the VolunteerSpot app, and then VolunteerSpot sends them reminders! Organize classroom readers and party volunteers, recess and library helpers, snack schedules, and even fundraisers like carnivals, walkathons and book fairs. (It’s great for teams and Scouts, too!)
4. Thinking of becoming the Room Mom?!
If you like organizing events and celebrations and you’re good at delegating, consider becoming the Room Mom. You’ll work with the teacher and make the school year extra memorable for both the kids and their parents! VolunteerSpot has a free Room Mom Survival Guide, with teacher checklists, parent letters, and party plans to guide you.
5. Support the school, too!
Many schools need parents’ help to cover lost staff positions and fund enrichment programs and technology. Consider taking a volunteer shift supervising at recess, in the cafeteria or in the library. Volunteer your sales skills rounding up donations for the auction, or your computer skills helping update the school website. Support fundraisers like school carnivals or volunteer to help at the walkathon, and participate in product sales as your family budget allows.
The best advice for a busy mom or dad is simply to choose what you love and be realistic about time commitments! Teachers will appreciate you and kids will think you’re a superstar whether you simply volunteer to be a class reader once a term, or you choose run the school’s main fundraiser!
Karen Bantuveris is the founder and CEO of VolunteerSpot, a free, time and stress-saving online coordination tool that empowers busy parents, teachers and volunteer leaders by making it easier get involved. Bantuveris is passionate about boosting parent participation at school and speaks regularly about using social media to spark action in the real world. She lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and a ridiculous number of pets. Connect with her online via Facebook: Facebook.com/VolunteerSpot Twitter: @VolunteerSpot and @VSpotMom