Engaging Your Community

For PTA’s policy priorities to be implemented around the country, PTAs must actively work to encourage both their membership and their community to participate. While it can sometimes seem like an uphill battle to get families and communities involved in activism, there are concrete steps that can be taken to get started.

The key to engaging existing and potential new members in PTA is to show people why their local PTA is relevant. If families can see that the PTA in their community is actively working to bring about positive change in their school district - change that can impact their child - they will be more inclined to get involved.

But how can PTAs highlight their continuing relevance? The first step is to recognize that PTAs are advocacy associations with a rich legacy of speaking up for every child. Services like hot lunches in schools and the establishment of juvenile courts would not be what they are today without PTA. It’s also important to take the fear out of advocacy. While the word “advocacy” can be scary for many people, it simply means to support a cause. To engage your local community and potentially gain membership, local PTA units should strive to highlight how they have supported every child and brought about change, especially in recent months or years. Your unit could keep newspaper clippings showcasing PTA success, create a collage of photos with local PTA members working for change or keep a bulletin board with past event notices. Be creative with it! Local PTA leaders should also familiarize themselves with the history of both their state PTA affiliate and National PTA so that communities can see why PTA matters at all levels.

While educating the community on what PTA has done recently, PTA members should also be prepared to answer questions about what they are doing now to speak up for every child. To be able to effectively answer this question and pique interest in the activities of the local PTA, leaders should have an advocacy plan in place. What issues affecting child welfare are happening in your school district? What can your PTA do to address those issues? Remember, your unit does not have to tackle every issue all at once; rather, a better approach is to choose one or two topics that impact families, teachers and students the most and work to build support for PTA’s position. Using a strategy chart, units can set goals for what they would like to see happen. If community interest already exists for the issue, this is an excellent opportunity for local PTAs to raise their visibility by taking a stand and organizing their members for change, which may also result in new members joining. If the community is not aware of the issue, then PTA has the opportunity to educate them.