“We Need Your Help!” How to Manage the Influx of Volunteer Requests

by Christa Hines on August 29, 2016

We Need You!The beginning of the school year is flush with opportunities to get involved in your child’s school. Managed well, volunteering can be personally rewarding. Most of us feel good helping others and investing in community causes or organizations that value our time.

When you take time to volunteer for your child’s school, your kids see that you care about their school community and that it’s an extension of their home life.

Through your involvement, you’ll also get to know other families, and teachers and staff. And if you’re family is new to the school, neighborhood or community, volunteering is a great way to begin connecting with other families and integrating into the community. 

Of course, since many of us have other priorities, including full-time jobs, younger children and multiple other commitments, we have to take a practical approach to how we share our time to avoid getting overwhelmed. Here’s how I balance volunteer work with my paid work and other responsibilities.

  • Take a realistic approach to your calendar. Proactively decide how much time you have for volunteer projects that interest you. Figure out how many hours or which days of the week you can contribute. With advance planning, you’ll avoid falling into a reactive guilt trap that inevitably leads to saying yes to whatever request comes your way.
  • Choose activities that interest you. For example, as a writer and author, I love books and supporting the school library so I usually sign up for the school book fair each year. Maybe you’re creative and can show the kids how to do a craft at the next classroom holiday party. Or, perhaps you’re good at landscaping and can help plant a flower bed on a Saturday morning.
  • Consider where the greatest needs are during the year. Schools typically have annual events that require a lot of parent power. Also, be aware of other needs that you can help with like stuffing envelopes or chaperoning field trips.
  • Decide what you won’t do. If seeking donations isn’t your thing, for example, decline these requests, knowing that plenty of other talented people love fundraising and are more than willing to step into these roles.
  • Look at each year differently. Schedules and commitments change. Maybe this year you’d prefer to dedicate your time leading a student extracurricular activity, which means you’ll pull back from other volunteer commitments.
  • Get creative about ways you can help. If your work schedule doesn’t allow you to volunteer up at the school during the day, ask teachers if there are things you can do to help them outside of normal business hours. Choose weekend/evening activities like leaf clean-up, painting projects, school beautification projects, or leadership committees. Some teachers also look for speakers to visit their classes and talk about their careers as a way to highlight to students a connection between something they’re learning in school and the real-world workplace. 

No job is too small and every helping hand creates a more vibrant community. For more ways to manage volunteering and the questions you should ask, check out my post “Before Your Volunteer Ask These Questions“. 

What are your favorite ways to volunteer for your child’s school?

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