6 Ways to Volunteer at School (Even if You Don’t Have Time)

Like most of us, I often receive notices from our kids’ school that they’re looking for a parent volunteer on a regular basis. Usually, the requests are for things like lunchroom or playground helpers. Or field trip chaperones. And, of course, there’s the occasional holiday party that needs a volunteer. If you’re like me, your heart really wants to help. But it’s challenging when other duty calls. Sometimes it seems like volunteerism is only for retirees.

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Admittedly, it's tough to volunteer nowadays. There are a lot of demands on our time, no matter where you’re at in life or how many kids you might have. If you spend time at a traditional job, it can be difficult to get involved for obvious reasons (as in, you have to be at work). And if you’re a stay-at- or work-from-home parent, you may have a little more flexibility in your routine but there are still a lot of mandates on your time that make it difficult to volunteer.

However, you don’t have to think about volunteerism in terms of simply being physically present. There are ways you can lend a hand to the fantastic people who spend nearly as many waking hours with your children as you.

Let’s consider a few nontraditional ways you can still offer school support year round.

Bring ‘em to work. You could consider giving tours of your workplace. Or you can offer an hour of industry-related learning activities, present career talks, or even offer job mentoring. You might be surprised at what your own place of employment can offer to school children. The best part is, you’ll still get paid! And you’ll get to spend a little time with your child, who will love bragging to the world about his/her cool parent.

Donate your talents. Perhaps you’re a talented graphic design artist who can create the program for the upcoming play. You might be a fixer-upper, handy person able to build small projects or repair things for the classroom. Maybe you’re an outgoing emcee-type who can lend your voice for an event you’ll end up attending anyway. Or it could be something as simple as stuffing envelopes at night while you’re watching Netflix. Think beyond chaperoning and donate your abilities.

Win over their stomachs. Sure, it’s easy to drop off some bakery-made goods for a party (been there, done that). But doesn’t it really put a personal stamp on it when you provide some sweet-looking, homemade cookies? The way I see it, as long as you’re going through the trouble baking for your own family at home, you might as well whip up a double batch and donate them to the upcoming class party. 

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Start spreading the news. Use your social media accounts to spread the word about the need for volunteers, or simply to let others know about all the good things the school is doing. You could also develop a Twitter page that allows parents to act as a focus group or share new ideas. We all know how viral things get started, and it often takes the kindly act of just one.

Shop ‘til you drop. Schools are always happy to receive drop-offs of tissues, hand sanitizer, plates, snacks, and more. So the next time you’re at Costco, try to remember your friendly neighborhood teacher who would be ecstatic to have some classroom-style swag.

Follow the leader. Be that parent who organizes the end-of-the-year present for the teacher by sending an email to fellow parents and collecting the cash. The present can be as simple and effortless as a gift card, and you can’t get much easier than that.

A lot of parents are like you – they want to help but can’t figure out how. If so, now might be time to take the initiative and create a beginner’s manual for your school that outlines the ways busy can help. You could even start by sharing this story!

What do you think?

6 Ways to Volunteer at School (Even if You Don’t Have Time)

Tom Konecny is a dad of four children and husband to wife, Erika. Tom currently serves as a private consultant in writing, communications and marketing. In 2013, Tom founded Dad Marketing, a site dedicated to exploring the world of marketing to dads. He previously worked in sports marketing, served as an associate editor and writer for several publications, and directed an award-winning corporate marketing department. His first book, "DADLY Dollar$" will be published this summer, and he is c ... More

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