Increasing parent engagement at meeting with enthusiastic participants

Increasing Parent Engagement in Your Booster Club

by Sandra Pfau Englund on Aug 29, 2019 05:20 pm

Billy has to go to baseball, and Sally to soccer. Your Mom called and is worried about an upcoming doctor’s appointment. You have a looming deadline at work. What’s for dinner?

The last thing many parents want to add to their overly busy schedules is volunteering for the school booster club; accepting the title of President, VP, Treasurer, or Secretary is the last thing on their minds! So how do you recruit enough volunteers to keep a booster club running?

According to the United States Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, parents were employed in 90.8% of families with children, an increase of 0.6% point from the previous year.

Here’s why parents are tapped out, with little time or energy for the booster club:

  • 97.4% of married-couple families with children (K-12) have at least one employed parent; 63% have both parents employed.
  • 76.4% of single parents with children (ages 6-17) worked outside the home.
  • The average parent works 40.5 hours per week.
  • The stay-at-home parent works double the average, 80-90 hours per week.
    (US Census Bureau & Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018.)

The following are a few tips to help your booster club get more parents involved:

  1. Make the meetings fun:
    • Hold meetings at a new, fun or trendy spot in town. Include the kids with mixers, formal nights, and other outings. Find something for all personality types to create and build community within the group. You might take a poll on places parents might like to go. Doodle poll is great for this (and it’s free). And be sure to provide snacks – a parent on the go can always use some fuel.
  2. Make the meetings useful:
    • Make meetings really worth people’s time. Few parents are interested in hearing officers read reports. Instead, include at least one topic for parent discussion, or a speaker parents want to hear. For example, band booster parents may be interested in meeting the choreographer of this year’s marching band show and learn how the choreography is developed, graphed and executed.
  3. Make the meetings convenient:
    • Hold meetings on days, and at times, when both stay-at-home, and working parents can come. You may want to alternate between daytime, and evening meetings. When my son was in band, the boosters held their meetings on Monday nights even though evening marching band rehearsal was on Tuesday night. I was reluctant to make the 30-minute drive to the school an extra night of the week. More of us may have gone if, instead, the meeting was held while our students were rehearsing.
  4. Establish a welcoming committee:
    • A warm, personal welcome goes a long way. In an Economic News Release in 2015 on the topic of volunteering by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, research shows that people are more likely to get involved if they are personally asked, rather than reading an announcement in a newsletter. When new parents come, be sure that they feel welcome and are drawn into the discussions. No one wants to feel like the “third wheel” in an already established group.
      (Source: US Census Bureau & Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, 2015.)
  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate:
    • Set up a web page where parents can get information about the booster club and its activities. Include contact information for officers and board members so it’s easy for parents to reach them. Consider using text messages as a quick way to send out information and reminders. Knowing what’s going on is key for parents to feel involved.
    • Skip the written meeting notes and instead share reports and information electronically. This saves time at meetings to focus on “hot topics,” and ensures that parents who don’t come to the meetings still feel involved.
  6. Avoid parent involvement burnout:
    • It’s a lot to ask of someone to commit to a full year of involvement. Instead, offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, including one-time, short-term and intermittent commitments. Make sure you include how much time each commitment takes. No one wants to jump into the deep dark hole of over commitment.
  7. Say thank you:
    • Offer genuine thanks for those who volunteer. It leaves a lasting impression and leads to continued parent engagement in the club.

Sandra Pfau Englund

Founder of Parent Booster USA

Sandra Pfau Englund was a working mom in 2004 when she volunteered for her son’s elementary school PTO. The nonprofit and tax law attorney quickly became mired in trying to organize the group’s finances, tax-exempt status and fundraising compliance. If it was this complicated and time consuming for someone with her professional knowledge, she wondered how other parents and booster groups managed. From that experience, Parent Booster USA was born.

Sandra is a sought-after subject matter expert and has been quoted by NBC’s TODAY show and in Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, among others. She is published and speaks throughout the country on issues related to nonprofit legal liability, financial controls and audits in a post-Sarbanes-Oxley world, board development and fundraising.

Learn more at


Running an Effective Meeting

Sandra Pfau Englund

Aug 30, 2019

Booster club bylaws often reference Robert’s Rules of Order as the “rules” for managing a meeting. Have you ever read Robert’s Rules? It’s a good way to get a good night’s sleep!

O.k., so, having no rules leads to muddled, oftentimes chaotic meetings. On the other hand, using strict Robert’s Rules of Order can result in confusion or imbalance, dominated by those very few who understand Robert’s Rules. According to Sandra Englund, founder of Parent Booster USA, it’s far better to use a simplified form of parliamentary procedure. Using Sandy’s Simple Parlipro for Nonprofit Organizations, you provide a solid framework for your meeting that encourages everyone to participate and stops any one person from controlling it.

Meetings should not be all about the rules. According to David Gillig, Senior Vice President of Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, a meeting should be 80% inspiration, learning and fun, and 20% business. Busy parents are more likely to attend if they feel as if they will gain something for themselves, and their kids, out of the meeting. We recommend that you start the meeting with something fun or educational — our parent engagement blog talks more about this.

Place reports at the end of the meeting; consider providing digital or written copies of reports that parents can read outside of the meeting. No one wants to sit through standard reports. One exception is financial reports. Always include the treasurer’s report. The treasurer’s report should include a written budget and a report that shows how money was raised and spent. Making bank statements available is a good way to help ensure accountability. You can read more on financial accountability here.

It’s good practice to put start times for each item on the agenda. This helps ensure that the meeting stays on track and flows effectively. It’s particularly important if you are discussing any controversial issues in which it is more likely that someone will filibuster! Having a rule that each person gets an opportunity to speak once, before anyone is given a second opportunity to speak, helps encourage more participation.

Below is a sample agenda to help you get the most out of your booster club meetings. Start your meeting by reviewing the agenda. This is where you can explain the “rules” you’ve set for the meeting, including for example, that you will work to stay on-time to help ensure that the meeting starts and ends accordingly. You can also mention here, or just before the Q&A time with the principal, that each person will be provided the opportunity to speak once before anyone speaks for a second time. The report time is kept brief to allow the bulk of time to be given to the information provided by the principal. Minutes need approved; although a little unusual, we included approving the minutes at the end to allow more time for the more important matters up front.

ABC Booster Club
1. Call to order & Review of Agenda 6:00p
2. Guest speaker – Principal Melissa Everly discusses school remodel plan 6:05-6:25p
3. Q&A 6:25-6:35p
4. Financial report 6:35-6:45p
5. Other reports 6:45-6:55p
6. Approve minutes from prior meeting 6:55p
7. Next Meeting 6:59p
8. Adjourn 7:00p

Planning and structuring your meeting for success if the key to having an effective meeting.


With PBUSA membership, we file all the IRS and state paperwork. We keep your booster club up and running year after year.