Q: We had a planned meeting today with parents about volunteering at our recital. Over the last couple of weeks, 12–15 parents had expressed interest in helping, but only two people actually showed up to the meeting. We had even sent an e-mail reminder, but to no avail. What are we doing wrong? Do you have any ideas for recruiting parent volunteers
A: Since parents pay a great deal of money to dance studios, they might not necessarily want to commit to being a volunteer. Therefore, we encourage you to shift your focus from finding volunteers to recruiting parent helpers.
Instead of trying to get a group of parents to fit a meeting into their busy schedules, try offering everything they need to know about being a parent helper in writing, including the time commitment, tasks and duties to be performed and what they will get in return. Send an e-mail, post fliers and make announcements in class. State, for example, “We need parent helpers to assist with bathroom visits, keep the class together backstage and reapply lipstick. You will also escort the class to and from the stage. You can watch the class dance from the audience but will return backstage to pick them up after they’ve performed.” Generate excitement by sharing that it is a delight to be backstage with the children, and that there is another kind of show happening behind the scenes.
Find at least one reliable and organized parent, and invite them to be the team leader responsible for coordination and communication between you and the other parent helpers. We recommend offering team leaders monetary credit at the studio in exchange for their fairness and professionalism. You could give backstage helpers a small gift as a token of thanks, such as one complimentary ticket to the performance, a recital T-shirt or 10 percent off all purchases in your dance shop. The key to success is to make your expectations clear and to be sure that parents know how much you appreciate their help.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the
co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.