Buckingham Park C of E PTA

Carys Dorritt chairs the Buckingham Park C of E Parent Teacher Association (PTA) She explains how support and advice from CIB has helped her increase the level of volunteering for school events and help embed the PTA in the local community.

What does the PTA do? Its vision is to be a thriving community to raise funds to enrich school life. The fundraising part of the equation is easily understood, but Carys is also passionate about the need to build and maintain a real community of parents, carers, staff and friends of the school to support it. The PTA runs 10 or so events each year, some of which are big fundraisers. Others, like the Community Café run in partnership with the Exchange Church and the Community Centre, raise smaller amounts but contribute more in terms of the community element of the PTA’s vision.

What was it like when she took over as chair?  Carys became Chair of the PTA in October 2018. The school was only 7 years old at that point.  Although the formal structure of the PTA was good, Carys realised that she needed to broaden the appeal of the PTA within the local community and also engage a wider range of volunteers to help with events.

How did CIB help? Carys attended a 1:1 advice session to talk about volunteer management and says that this helped hugely as she learned the importance of proper role descriptions for the volunteers – something she could tackle straight away. She scoped out each volunteer role (big or small) which made a huge difference as potential volunteers as they could see exactly what they were signing up for and gave them much more confidence about they would be expected to do.

Following the advice session, Carys also joined a number of organisations such as NCVO to expand the resources available to her.

Also through CIB, Carys signed up for coaching from Henley Business School. She describes this coaching as ‘brilliant’, enabling her to communicate clearly the mission, vision and objectives of her organisation. It improved her ability to focus her time and energy by helping her develop a sense of direction.

What difference has this made to PTA? Carys has been able to expand the Committee from 3 to 7 people through much more active management. She now tracks and actively manages the volunteer programme so has a better relationship with the volunteers.

The advice session gave Carys good ideas about where to go to look for support and she has followed up on that to sign up for various different tools such as Signup.com and a number of online collaboration tools, such as Trello. She is now happy to explore what training is available to upskill volunteers. She has also developed a range of volunteer roles to appeal to different groups of people who have different motivations for volunteering and different skills to offer. A key new type of volunteer role is that of ‘Community Champion” aimed at improving links with the diverse local community.

The coaching that Carys received enabled her to communicate better what the mission, vision and objectives of the PTA are. These clear messages have been key in relation to sponsors. Each large event run by the PTA now has sponsors.

Are there now more people involved as volunteers? Yes. The summer 2019 event, a “World Fair”, involved about 100 volunteers in a wide range of clearly defined roles, including manning over 60 stalls. The fundraising totals have also gone up.

Carys is confident that after her 2-year stint as Chair, she will leave the PTA in a healthy state to hand on to her successor.

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Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society