One of the most fun things about VolunteerSpot is getting to meet with inspiring volunteer leaders in the field, such as Stephanie LeBeau of Lafayette Elementary in San Francisco, California. In addition to her role as VP of Leadership with the 2nd District of the California State PTA, Stephanie runs the Stop, Drop & Go program which provides a safe morning drop off system that serves over 100 families per day at her daughter’s urban elementary school. The program has been successfully running with 5 parent volunteers per day, rain or shine, consecutively for over 600 school days! She’s implemented this program at a few other elementary schools in the City and was awarded and thanked for school safety by the San Francisco Police Department.
Stephanie credits well-thought out and implemented communication strategies as a key ingredient of Stop, Drop and Go’s ongoing success. Whether your school is planning a similar safety program, or another program that requires a great deal of parental support (think school-wide health and fitness programs, parent-led literacy initiatives, or a new fundraiser), communicating effectively builds trust with parents and teachers and encourages continuing involvement in the school community.
6 Winning Communication Strategies
Leadership Sanctioning: Involve the principal and teacher leadership team early in program planning. Ask the principal to endorse the program’s importance and set clear expectations for parent participation in a letter to parents at the start of the year, and with ‘booster’ messages of praise and reinforcement during the year.
Elevate the Message to a Common, BIG Win: Frame messages in a way that describes how the program strengthens the community and serves ALL our kids.
Ask for Commitment: Creating a ceremonial commitment, such as a pledge, encourages parents to take ownership in the program. Teachers at Lafayette Elementary distribute a pledge form to their class parents asking them to commit to follow safe drop-off procedures. If many parents are on Facebook, a 'like' action could also be used as way for parents to show their commitment.
Make it a Process: Set clear roles, responsibilities and expectations for how the program is to operate. For example, Stop, Drop and Go has a well-documented process which includes a master schedule assigning coverage to each class two weeks a year, delegating volunteer recruiting to the room parents, a time-line with deadlines for when they are to ask for help and submit their parent volunteer schedule, and contingencies if a certain class had trouble filling spots.
Dial-in on Multiple Channels: Reach out to parents in a variety of ways, and translate key messages to their native language. It may take a few times for parents to ‘get’ the message, but keep trying in newsletters, handouts, posters, the school website and facebook page.
High Touch: Engage with as many parents as possible throughout the year. Thank them face-to-face for participating, ask them for their feedback, and recruit next year’s leaders early from your volunteer team.
Thanks to Stephanie for her leadership and for sharing her best practices. "Go Team!" We’d like to hear your communication best practices too - what works in your school or nonprofit community? Please click ‘comments’ below.