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Rock the Bake Sale: 3 Steps for Simpler, Easier Volunteering

Have you ever hidden behind another parent when the sign-up sheet was passed? Ever starting digging in your purse to avoid the teacher gaze after she asked for car line helpers? If so you’re not alone. While it’s okay that you’d rather eat glue sticks than create the classroom bulletin board, slashed budgets and swollen classrooms can leave teachers feeling stressed. When teachers struggle, your child may pay the price. All that to say this may be the year to volunteer, or up your game. If it’s your turn to chair the committee, organize the parents, or plan the event, fear not. Stepping up has never been so easy, especially when you keep it simple.

Step 1: Simplify Planning

Need a bake sale winner or an A+ teacher appreciation breakfast? You do not have to reinvent the celebration or the fundraiser. If you can use Google you can plan a party or program that gets results. National organizations like PTA and PTO offer free resources, too, including planning kits for all kinds of events. So get searching! To avoid overwhelm, set a timer for ten minutes. When the ringer chimes, pick something.

If you have control over the date, consult teachers, administration, and other parents for prime times and conflicts. For a community-supported event, like a carnival or rummage sale, don’t forget to check local calendars for competing events. While some people keep things simple by including no more than a few people in the initial planning, others prefer to “crowd source” from the get-go to build consensus. Whatever your preference, you’re going to need help.

Step 2: Organize & Outsource Online

Once you’ve done some initial planning, it’s time to organize the troops. Think beyond the old regulars who show up for every field day and spaghetti dinner. These few are a godsend, but sometime they need a break and there are many, many more parents who are happy to help out if given the right opportunity. Parents may not be able to attend meetings during office hours so consider setting up a free conference call account at FreeConferenceCall.com.

Once you know your needs in terms of supplies, shifts, or skills, you can organize all your sign-ups with VoluteerSpot.com, another free web-based tool that allows parents to sign-up 24/7 for the things they enjoy, or are able to do. VolunteerSpot eliminates most of the phone calls and Reply-All email messages and sends reminders to help people keep their commitments.

Step 3: Promote and Collect

Use social media to promote events to parents, students, and the community at large. Find someone with skills to make a cute graphic that can be shared on Facebook and Instagram and then give people the exact words to say. When it comes to promotion, cut and paste works better than asking people to think of something clever to say. Students can be very helpful spreading the word. When they share with their friends, parents and friends of parents will also see the message.

If your event appeals to the community (not just school families) get it listed on Chamber of Commerce and local magazine event calendars. And then sit back and get ready to collect. Cash and checks still work, but you’ll want to be able to accept credit cards as well. Smartphones and apps have made it easier than ever to collect contributions online and on your website. VolunteerSpot support collections, and Square lets you accept credit card payments by swiping cards with an attachment for the iPhone, with no set up fees and a reasonable transaction rate.

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Tags: Featured Story, Food & Home

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