Best Ideas for PTAs in a Virtual Setting – 2020

We asked all our parent leaders – What are your best ideas for membership drives or managing programs through a virtual environment? These schools were awarded $200 for the best idea in each of these categories: 

All of the entries are below. Read the entries and consider which of these ideas might work well in your school. Share your photos and ideas with us!

Best Ideas for Virtual Membership Drives

Hembree Springs Elementary School – Awarded $200
Every year, Hembree Springs Elementary chooses a book with a corresponding theme for the school year. This year our school theme is “Your Voice Matters,” and our book is “Say Something” by Peter Reynolds. The book encourages children to speak up and speak out, share their ideas, and share their concerns. As we looked for different ways to incorporate this theme into our school year, the team realized that now more than ever parents/teachers and community members need to speak up and be heard. In an effort to minimize barriers to PTA membership, we instituted a program to allow parents to purchase not only memberships for themselves, but the ability to donate memberships to other parents, faculty and staff. During our virtual membership drive, our Memberhub Store now offers a series of additional options beyond the (1) parent/guardian membership and the (1) teacher/staff options that we had last year. We now offer a (2) parent/guardian product, a donated teacher/staff product, and a donated parent/guardian product. Additionally, we had many community members asking how they could help and be a part of the conversation. We added a product for community members to join and donate as well. We are already seeing community members join, memberships donated, and increases in dual parent memberships being purchased. In the last week alone, 12 people have donated 31 memberships. In addition, the verbiage in our “ask” letter has been updated to better demonstrate the goals of PTA membership. The critical nature of advocacy has often been overlooked during our membership drives. Considering the current crisis, the increased involvement and advocacy is key to making every child’s potential a reality. The new options available within our membership drive will allow more people to join us in the work while eliminating financial barriers. We are so very hopeful these efforts will create a more inclusive environment where more stakeholders can speak up and speak out. Your voice matters! If we secure this grant, the funds will be used for additional donated memberships.

Hillside Elementary School
Membership – From a funding standpoint, this year will be complicated. We expect to receive significantly less in donations, but a lot of our budget areas will need more money. For instance, we love to appreciate teachers and staff, but food must be individually packaged this year which is a lot more expensive. Ironically, in a year when teachers deserve even more celebrating, we will struggle to make it happen in our budget. As such, we are being very honest with our families. They know that we are expecting to see a decrease in membership, and we are ensuring they know that even a basic membership helps. More important than the money, however, is what a robust membership says about our program. While increasing our family participation is a goal we always have, 100% teacher and staff membership is where we are focusing this year. When the teachers support the PTA it tells our families, and our community, that they believe in what we are doing. That teachers feel supported by us, and value the relationship we have worked so hard for. To encourage 100% staff participation, we are reaching out to teachers and staff personally, and being very honest about our needs. We would like to have personalized water bottles made for each of the 88 staff members at Hillside. They would say “Teachers can do virtually anything!” We also plan to purchase keychains that can be hung on lanyards as well that will say “Essential Husky.” Our intention is to honor this year, and all the ways it is different, while also highlighting how much we respect our teachers as essential workers. The grant money would help us honor our teachers while showing our community how important our relationships are.

Roswell High School
It’s all about the QR Code. We put it on EVERYTHING. We created a QR code that is FREE (we like FREE) and you can use it year after year. Use or As long as you are using the same URL year after year, then you can keep on using your same QR code. Last year we were not using MemberHub for the membership campaign, so we had a different QR code. This year we created a new QR code to direct our members to our MemberHub store and since we intend on using MH year after year, we can use this FREE code year after year. How did we use it? First, we usually sign faculty up at the back-to-school pre-planning breakfast and have a table there, but since we could not do that, we put together a goodie bag with treats such as granola bars, mints, mini-chocolate bars, pretzels and various swag from a Business Partner (portable phone fan, phone business card holder, ear pods etc) in a donated (FREE) white paper lunch bag. We hand-wrote notes of encouragement like “You’re a rock star” and “We love you!” on the bag and designed and printed a hang tag affixed with a nice ribbon (school colors of course!) The hang tag reminded the faculty of some of the things that we do for them such as teacher grants, lunches, goodies, document copies and supplies for classrooms and departments and yes, you guessed it, we included the QR code for them to sign up right there! The hang tag reads: “Easy! Simple! Pay with a credit card!” And “Thanks for signing up online and saving a tree!” Within a few hours of getting the gift bag there were 68 faculty signed up! For the parents and students: the QR code is in the PTSA e-newsletter and the QR code is on the PTSA Facebook page in clever messages every other day and the principal has the QR code for his newsletter. When the school goes face to face, we will have a printed flyer with the QR code in every classroom and on the bulletin boards outside of the gyms, cafeteria and media center. The front office, Student Services and Greeter Desk will have an acrylic stand with the QR code ads on August 17. It’s all about the QR Code! p.s. We have photos!

Best Ideas for Virtual Programs

Hillside Elementary School – Awarded $200
International Family Fun Night (Month) International Family Fun Night is the most exciting family event that Hillside PTA offers. Celebrating the diversity of culture that makes up our school has always been an important part of our programming. Being virtual does not take away from our desire to highlight and celebrate our families and their heritage. In a typical year, families would volunteer to provide 100 bites of a dish from a country they have a relationship with. Each volunteer is given a table that they can decorate in any way they would like. This year, we are expanding our International Family Fun Night into a month! Each Thursday in October, Hillside PTA will send families a video presentation from one of our families. Ideas would be a cooking tutorial, origami, a traditional dance, or an informative video about the country represented. While it is possible to provide this with little funding, it would be wonderful to have a drive through event for parents to pick up materials needed for each presentation. Videos can be watched at the family’s convenience and we will encourage parents to send us pictures of their family participating. Pictures would be posted to social media and used in the yearbook.

Webb Bridge Middle School
We have established a Community Cupboard to help address the needs of students during this difficult time. It is stocked with school supplies, hygiene items, cleaning products and simple food that a middle schooler can prepare. Many of of families have experienced sudden job loss or reduced hours. We want to help our students start the year off on the right foot, so we are trying to fill in the gaps that local charity support can’t meet. Our Cupboard is truly for our community, as the name states. Staff members who are in need are also welcome to receive items from the cupboard. Once school resumes Face to Face, our goal is to have the school clubs help us keep the Cupboard stocked. We will also reach out to Business Partners to see if an in-kind donation may be more appropriate for them instead of a financial one, since so many businesses are struggling right now. We want everyone to feel a part of our community’s heart. We are applying for this grant to help us purchase items to stock the Cupboard. Thank you for your consideration.

Haynes Bridge Middle School
While the Haynes Bridge MS PTA is uncertain, as is every PTA, of how our membership and fundraising will turn out, we decided to implement a virtual membership drive, that will also help out our teachers and school environment in ways we COULD help. We believe this serves not only as virtual membership drive, but also a virtual program initiative. To that end, we added a COVID donation option when signing up for membership (online). The donations we received for COVID are earmarked to assist with PPE for teachers and to create a sustainable outdoor learning space for students. This opportunity has helped drive membership at all of our giving levels, and allows for families to feel like they are making an impact on teacher/staff/student safety and well-being. Our HBMS PTA has a teacher stipend program, which drives teachers to become members. With a $10 faculty membership, a teacher at Haynes is afforded the opportunity to submit a receipt up to $75 to the PTA for reimbursement of either PPE, like plexiglass sneeze guards, or classroom items. Our COVID fund has already raised enough money to purchase a face shield for every teacher, and 2 outdoor picnic tables. We partnered with our school administration who have purchased 4 tables. Our school goal is to have 20 such picnic tables around the campus. The teachers and students will be able to use the outdoor picnic tables when they return to the building, and it offers a safer alternative during face-to-face instruction. Our ultimate goal is to raise enough funds to build an outdoor pavilion for class use. We are proud of our big goal, and that our parents have been so willing to contribute toward it.

Benjamin E. Mays High School
Hi there! APS and other community organizations have done a good job preparing students and their families for learning during Covid-19. The one area that no one has prepared families for is the high possibility of food shortages, civil unrest during the election period, and other issues. We want to keep our families safe, prepared, and in the know. We would like to deliver a live interactive session with the APD Zone 4 Captain and PTSA to go over the 8 areas of prepping. This session will be recorded so that those that miss the initial run can watch it later. I already have the presentation prepared. Matter of fact, the presentation with APD was delivered on Monday, Aug 10 to my community. It was a huge success and very valuable. 8 Primary Prepping Categories that will be covered: Food, Water, Security, Energy, Community, Barter Ability, Wealth Preservation, Shelter: Shelter In Place/Bug Out. Please pick us 🙂 Thank you!

Hembree Springs Elementary School
Hembree Springs Elementary School will be fostering a love of reading, even in this fully virtual environment. Both of our Reading Enrichment programs, DEAR Reader and Book Club, with be held online this year with Virtual Volunteers. DEAR Reader: DEAR Reader is our program for Pre-K through Second Grade. Traditionally, a parent volunteer reads age-appropriate books of their choice, while in front of the class. This year, our Virtual Volunteers will be able to record themselves reading the books and the teacher will show the video to the class. Alternatively, volunteers may be able to join a class meeting on Teams to read to the class live. We are working with our teachers to determine the method that is best for them. Book Club: Currently, students in 3rd and 4th Grade have the opportunity to participate in Book Club, where interested students sign up to read the same book individually. Once everyone has finished reading the book in their own time, the parent volunteer would traditionally lead a group discussion with the students about the book at the school. For our online version of Book Club, we are working to buy books to send home to each interested student. For each book that is read, our Virtual Volunteer will join a Teams meeting with the group and lead a discussion about the book. This grant money would be a significant help to us in two ways – we would be able to buy more books for our reading enrichment programs and we could grow our Book Club program to include our 5th grade students as well. We know these virtual programs will be effective outlets for our parents to engage online with both the teachers and students, while keeping our traditions alive. Offering these programs virtually may even allow some parents to participate who otherwise may not have had the ability to physically be at the school, even in a face to face environment.

Roswell High School
Best Idea for Virtual Program— So you think you can’t run a senior scholarship program virtually? Think again! The Roswell High School PTSA Scholarship program has been in place for almost 30 years but this was the first year that it was TOTALLY VIRTUAL, from soup to nuts (well, almost! ) The program was announced in the spring via the PTSA newsletter, senior advisement teachers and the silver bullet was having a senior post the scholarship URL on an unofficial senior social media chat platform that had almost 200 seniors . The application was fully online. Seniors answered questions, uploaded essays and requested recommendations to teachers all online. The teachers uploaded and emailed their recommendations. The moderator gathered all the pieces from the online platform and created online files for each application and was able to use the find and replace feature to de-identify the application assigning a number in place of a name in order to keep the review process equitable. The files were put in folders by scholarship (67 unique applications for 16 scholarships!) and then sent to the review panel a day before the review day took place on Zoom. The review process usually takes 3-6 hours during the course of two days in a room with lots of paper. Online it took less than half the time to review! The review panel never knows who the winners are until Honors Night, typically a month after the review is completed. This year was no different, only Honors Night was virtual. The scholarship chair and the scholarship business partner chair made a video announcing the winners and it was inserted into the Honors Night Video. Usually we have a photo session with the winners and the sponsors of the scholarships. Instead, we had the sponsors submit videos for the students. We did want to celebrate the winners with something physical and gave the winners their real checks and giant checks (that we made on the cheap using school media center and pink foam house insulation from home depot) and gave them out at a nearby park set up for a socially-distanced photo opp. This was the same day as drive-through graduation so they could come right after the drive-through and take a quick photo and get their awards.