Finding the best fit as a school volunteer

PTO volunteering

For PTO and other school volunteers, finding a good fit for how you spend your volunteer time is critical to your effectiveness. A volunteer’s role should be something that they are comfortable and happy doing, and it should involve responsibilities that are a good match for their abilities and available time. If you’re volunteering in a role that does not fulfill you or makes you feel like you’re not fully effective, you’re likely to get frustrated and give up.

To ensure that your specific role as a volunteer is a good fit for your personality, here are a few recommendations for finding where you can best use your time to make your PTO successful.

Start with something you already know

Starting with a new PTO or other volunteer organization can be intimidating. It’s likely you won’t be familiar with all of the processes, people, and lingo, which can make you feel a bit like a fish out of water at first.

To help ease this transition, start by volunteering in a domain you already know. If you are strong with technology, volunteer to help maintain the PTO’s website or audio/video support for events. If you’re a creative writer, consider volunteering with the social media team. If you are good at accounting, ask if you can help with financial matters. And if you are a “people person”, you can get started by helping to connect other volunteers to tasks that need to be done.

Try out other roles

To explore the inverse of what was described above: once you’re comfortable with the overall workings of the PTO, step outside your wheelhouse to try things that aren’t normally where you would volunteer. If you’re usually an introvert, try out a position that requires a lot of human interaction. If you’ve never participated in creative exercises (event decoration, etc.), ask if you can help with the next such opportunity. If you are technology-averse, see if there are ways you can learn more about how technology can be used to support the PTO and the school in general.

Trying out other roles as a volunteer not only makes you a more valuable asset to the PTO, it also contributes to your overall well-roundedness. You’d be surprised how much you can grow, both personally and professionally, by stepping out of your usual comfort zone.

Get informed

Finding a good place to volunteer requires a general understanding of what each part of your PTA does. When you first get started, phrases such as “hospitality”, “ways and means”, “staff liaison”, and other ambiguous categories don’t fully define what the people behind those roles do. Take a little time to chat with someone with a good understanding of each group within the PTO. Even better, if you have time, meet with each group yourself to understand what they do and the types of volunteer opportunities are available.

This type of research does take time and effort, but can help you more easily identify where you can be most effective as a volunteer.

If necessary, change

It’s possible that you’ll discover that you’ve volunteered for something that just isn’t a good fit. Don’t be afraid to have a frank conversation with PTO leadership to say, “This isn’t for me.” In the long run, it’s better to have that conversation than to do a mediocre job in a role you dislike.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t look at it as a failure. You took a chance on something and it didn’t work out. Good PTO leaders will recognize good volunteers, and will appreciate your honesty and initiative in handling this in such a clear manner. Good PTO leaders will also work hard to find you another role in which to serve.