10 Questions to Ask Before Volunteering for a School Project

Eliza Clark
October 5, 2016

Sending our children off to their first years of school is a big step.  Whether it's preschool or Kindergarten, we can hardly bear to watch them take those small steps into the classroom, and see the door shut behind them as we stand on the other side.  Little do we know that as soon as that door shuts, we can expect to receive an email from the school asking us to volunteer for some sort of event, project or committee.  And devoted parents that we are, many of us promptly say "yes."

Not so fast!  Before you turn over all of your hard-earned free time to a volunteer project, it's important to ask the right questions.  While we readily acknowledge that parent volunteering is hugely important to the success of schools, and makes a big difference to our children and to the community, it's also true that some parents over-commit themselves to an extent that can be detrimental to family life. What is the balance between helping your child's school and taking care of yourself? At what point does the satisfaction of contributing to the school tip over into exhaustion from having taken on too much?

To avoid frustration down the road, and to maximize the real joys of being involved in your child's school, be sure to ask at least some of these questions before volunteering for a school project.

  1. What is the time commitment? Ask this question, but take the answer with a grain of salt!
  2. How will this project benefit the school, children or community? This is the core question. If you believe in the importance of the project, you're likely to get satisfaction from working on it.
  3. Will this task involve contact mostly with children, staff or other parents? Think about what you are hoping get out of your volunteer experience.
  4. Will volunteering for this event or position then lead to being asked to do further tasks, serve on committees or come to other meetings? This is a good question to ask in two different scenarios: if you are interested in taking on a leadership role at the school; or, conversely, if you clearly want to limit your role to this one thing.
  5. Has this project been done before, and is there a documented road map to follow? Let's spare ourselves reinventing the wheel.
  6. Who worked on this project last year, and can I get his/her contact info? Especially if you are being asked to organize a major event, you really need to get the scoop from someone's who's been there.
  7. Is there room to modify, streamline or tweak the process from the way it has been done in years past? You'll want at least some freedom to do things your way.
  8. Has anyone else committed to helping on this project? Perhaps you'd like to work alone; perhaps you wouldn't. Get the lay of the land before you start.
  9. Can these tasks be accomplished during school hours, and can any of the work be done from home? The underlying question here is: will I need to hire a babysitter in order to meet volunteer commitments?
  10. What are some other volunteer possibilities at the school? Most schools have many different kinds of volunteer positions, with widely varying levels of commitment. If one project doesn't seem like a good fit, there's sure to be another way for you to contribute.

Hooray for all of the wonderful parent volunteers out there! Please share your wisdom in the comments.

From the Parents

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