How to Start a School Volunteer Program: 9 Steps For Success

Maybe you’ve already got parents who are passionate about volunteering at your child’s school – or maybe you’re looking to get some momentum started. Either way, a formal school volunteer program can be a way to get the troops mobilized and focused. But where to start? Here are 9 simple steps you can take to get an effective, highly involved school volunteer program started:

1. Find a leader. Ownership is key when you’re starting a school volunteer program. Committees are great, and can be helpful later on, but when you’re just getting started you need a single person who’s willing to own the process.Your official leader can be a parent, a teacher, or an administrator. The person’s role doesn’t matter nearly as much as his or her willingness to grab the ball and run with it.

2. Figure out what you need. There’s no point in getting a group of volunteers together – even an eager, dedicated group – if it’s not clear where their help is most needed. Talk with parents, teachers, and school administrators to get a consensus, and go from there.

3. Recruit members. Once you know what you most need from your volunteers – whether it’s help with sports coaching, reading in classrooms, a mentoring program, help in the school office, or whatever else your group comes up with – now is the time to start brainstorming about who might be a good fit to provide help in these areas.

4. Think broadly. The parents/guardians of current students are the most obvious candidates to serve as school volunteers, but don’t limit your thinking. Many grandparents, community members, and parents of alumni may also be interested in helping out.

5. Make it appealing. Participating in a school volunteer program can be very time-intensive, but that’s not what you want to lead with! Focus instead on the benefits of getting more involved in the school community and the rewards of doing so. If you’re concerned that time might be a factor for the parents at your school, emphasize how much help they can provide even if they only have, say, two free hours every month to commit.

6. Firm things up. Once you have people who are willing to serve as volunteers, you’ll want to pin down exactly what they’ll be responsible for – as well as the applicable deadlines. This not only helps with actually getting stuff done, but it also creates a sense of obligation in your volunteers’ minds – which is exactly what you want so that people don’t flake out on you!

7. Express appreciation – often. Just like our kids, grown-ups like pats on the back, too. Build into your school volunteer program a regular way to express sincere appreciation for the time and talents your volunteers are devoting. Without this, even the most enthusiastic parent can quickly become a resentful volunteer drop-out.

8. Figure out screening obligations. Depending on the capacity in which your volunteers serve, some or all may be required to pass background checks of some kind. Talk to a school administrator for more details.

9. Maintain some structure. You’re not setting up a corporation here, but you should set up some type of governing body for your school volunteer program, as well as a system of regular meetings (which will help keep the group engaged as well as informed).

Have you put together or tried to structure a school volunteer program in any way? Would you share with everyone what you learned by leaving a comment below?