Working with all types of PTAs from primary to secondary, large and small, town and country, we are often struck by the fact that some of the most successful are from schools which have a very small number of pupils and therefore parents.
You would naturally assume that it is those with vast numbers of pupils and parents from which to raise funds that will be the most successful, but this isn't always the case. Our experience tells us it is the associations which establish strong links with the local community, that do the best.
Your local community can provide lots more attendees for your events, sponsorship opportunities, raffle prizes, promotion of your activities and recognition for what you have achieved.
The need for support from the local community tends to favour smaller, rural primary schools where it is easy for the school and PTA to establish a high level of recognition and awareness. Often the school is the hub of the community, with many local residents having previously attended the school or with older / grown-up children who went there. The school will benefit from a high level of good will with many locals eager to lend their support even if this is just based on nostalgia.
To be successful your PTA needs to think about how it can build and maintain links with the local community. Find out what ways exist for you to promote the PTA and its activities. Often local newspapers will feature articles about forthcoming events or noteworthy successes. Are there key local employers, other charities or businesses from which you would benefit from associating? It will often be useful to talk to parents as they will already have a variety of links with the local community. They may work for, own or be the customers of local businesses and they may also be involved with other local charities or use local services. All can be utilised to build important links with the local community which will benefit your association.
Ironically, it tends to be most difficult to build links where the local community is vast - in an urban or inner city setting. This can be for several reasons; there will be a multiplicity of other organisations seeking the kind of loyalty that your PTA is trying to build amongst the local community, the local population is often transitory and it is almost impossible to determine what actually constitutes the local community.
Where this is the case your association needs to define its local community. Find out from parents which are the key local organisations and work with them to develop a sense of shared community. You might find it beneficial to do this in partnership with the PTAs of schools in your cluster or your feeder schools. It may well be hard work at first but with time links can be built and a real sense of common ground developed. You will often find that some of the organisations that you want to target will be eager to hear from you. They will be facing similar issues in trying to raise their profile within the local community and with your access to the school community and lots of parents you have something very valuable to offer them.
When you have established a link, it's important to make sure the partnership is nurtured to help it develop further. Make sure the local businesses that support your association understand what you will do for them in return, such as promoting their products and services to your parent body. It's also vital that your association remembers to say thank you and acknowledges the support given. There are many ways to do this; from asking the pupils to write and say 'thank-you' to presenting the company with a 'Thank You' certificate.
• utilise your local community to gain support for your PTA
• remember to say thank you
• work with parents to exploit any links they already have with the local community
• in urban or inner city settings, work with parents and possibly other schools to define the local community, to develop and exploit links
•Friends of Allanson Street Primary School: Intergenerational Community Programme
This PTA led project made a big impression on the PTA-UK judging panel. By working in partnership with the largest local social landlord, the Helena Housing Association, hard to reach parents will be encouraged to take up opportunities to learn alongside their children in a community setting. The underlying sense of community collaboration came through strongly and judges felt children would also benefit from working with older members of the local community. The Friends of Allanson Street already have further plans to use the knowledge and skills of these community members to benefit children through reminiscence and traditional crafts projects.
•Friends of Whitley School, Higher Whitley, Cheshire: Seed to Saucepan project