February 16, 2023

How to Facilitate Volunteer Events for School Families

Part of our series on Family Networking Opportunities

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Families can often feel like family engagement efforts happen to them, and volunteer options flip the script. Meaningful volunteer opportunities can help participating families see themselves as integral members of the school community.  

Keep in mind that some families may feel distanced from the school community due to virtual schooling during the pandemic. Plan events in ways that enhance participation and build relationships to make families feel comfortable networking. 

Involve the community in decision-making  

Survey families to gather their ideas for improving the school community. Include questions about: 

  • Ways that families like to celebrate.  

  • Resources that are available in your community. 

  • Cultural assets that are present in your community.  

Be sure to gather feedback from families – a great way to do this is using an online poll! Gathering direct feedback ensures your efforts are meaningful to the community, and not based on assumptions about what students and families might want.  

Get students involved 

There’s nothing more inspiring than hearing a student get fired up about a cause. Make sure students and their interests are represented as you design your plan for improvement. Find ways for students to tap into their knowledge and identify problems that they’d like to solve: 

  • Keep a suggestion box in the front office. 

  • Encourage students to work with their teachers to generate ideas.  

Once you’ve selected your volunteer event, have students design flyers to send home or post on the school website. Encourage teachers to connect the effort to whatever they’re exploring in class. Maybe a lesson on native species will inspire a planting event!  

Build self-efficacy 

Avoid stigma related to receiving help by making opportunities to give and receive care mutual. For example, instead of donating books to go to some families, consider hosting a book swap where all families can come, with or without books, to “shop” for a few books for their students. When raising funds or collecting resources, be sure to include the option of donating time or talent.   

Don’t forget to celebrate 

While structure can help many people get involved, don’t forget the goal of providing a space for families to connect and network. Wrap up your project with a picnic or another get-together so that families who met through the event can socialize and share contact info. Encourage families to sign up for a parent organization or learn about upcoming community events. Ask for their suggestions and feedback for planning future events. 

Stay inspired by new ideas and learn from our catalogue of success stories, tips, and evidenced-based trainings for school staff from Kohl’s Healthy at Home

- By Alexis Lassus, National Advisor, Whole Child Health and Kohleun Adamson, Manager, Culturally Responsive Communications