Picture this. You’re working hard to plan an event for families. After weeks of planning the perfect night for students and families, fewer than 5 parents attend the event.
I know the feeling.
After three years of planning and implementing family workshops with Springboard Collaborative at Kelley Elementary in Philadelphia, I’ve learned some ways to increase parent attendance. At Springboard, family workshop materials are already provided to both teachers and families – leaders and teachers just need to get them through the doors.
Here are 8 things I wish I knew before planning my first family event.
1. Embrace the parents already coming.
Recruit a parent or two to work with you! Ask them if they would stand in the schoolyard in the morning or afternoon to hand out flyers and share their great experiences. Who better to give parents a reason to come than other parents? If the parent is willing to help you, thank them with a small gift, like a $5 gift card, breakfast on you, etc.
2. Forget robocalls.
Make it personal with a call or text to show that YOU really want them there. This strategy is another way to increase positive communication between school staff and families. Reaching out to invite families in for a positive experience at school builds trust and stronger relationships.
3. Attach flyers to the students’ homework.
Adult family members will be checking their child’s homework or folder throughout the week so if they come across a reminder or flyer in the weekly packet, they are more likely to engage in conversation about the workshop event.
4. Shout out the parents who have attended in your classroom or school/site weekly newsletters.
Guess what– it’s not just our students that enjoy positive reinforcement! Family members who attended will feel pride from the acknowledgment, while others who didn’t will try to prioritize the event for next time.
5. Give them plenty of notice and frequent reminders!
Parents are busy people – they want to be there for their child as much as they can, but work and other obligations are hard to get out of last minute. Make sure to have the date on a bulletin board, the school or site calendar, and on flyers sent home at least a month in advance.
6. Offer FOOD!
We all seem to be just a little more interested when food is involved! Food can be a nice incentive, especially if a workshop takes place first thing in the morning or after a long day at work. You can even reach out to local grocery stores and coffee and sandwich shops to see if they are willing to donate.
7. Offer incentives to families who come.
Raffling off a $10 gift card or giving them all something small to take home is a nice reminder of your appreciation. A raffle also gets families eager to come back, creating positive, competitive spirit amongst new relationships formed.
8. Ignite their child’s interest by allowing students to choose their books in school or site a couple of days before the workshop.
Your students will go home and tell their family members about the great books they selected, putting a little pressure on them to show up!
At our school, we work hard to increase family attendance at events and workshops to boost engagement. We leverage our literacy-focused workshops to provide families with updates and information to support their children’s reading at home. We use these events to target reading goals to put each child on a path to academic success.
What are some other ways to increase participation at an event or family workshop? What else can we do to help our families understand what their children might be doing? How else can we provide families with information to support their children at home?
This post was contributed by Rachel DiGregorio. Rachel is currently a PBIS Coach for the School District of Philadelphia, and previously a public school teacher for nine years. She has contributed to the Springboard team for over three years. Her goal in her current work is to strengthen family partnerships in the school community through positive behavior supports, as well as support schools by strengthening Tier I and II systems, and build knowledge of trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate practices.