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Father Engagement: The Fundraising Gender Gap in School Organizations

While elementary school and high school Parent Teacher Association/Organization membership have traditionally been the realm of moms, the times are changing, and dads are increasing their interest and involvement in school organizations. This shift in father engagement can definitely have a positive impact on volunteer organizations, as well as in fundraising management and donations. 

In fact, research shows that when fathers/father figures (both those who live in the household and separately) are actively involved in the school community that kids have higher grades in school, go further with their education, and have fewer disciplinary issues. With that in mind, there are ways to get dads more involved in school organizations and tap into their unique skill set to help with fundraising efforts. 

Increase father engagement: Include dads in your marketing and communication

Too frequently, dads get left off communication efforts, even as simple as not being included on email lists, because there is an assumption that the moms are the ones handling it. Whether or not the mom in the family might indeed be the involved parent, a good first step is just making sure dads are getting your communications, and are being addressed in some way or another. This kind of family engagement is so important. Consider giving them a special call-out whenever possible, to make them feel included. 

Additionally, it’s important that dads are represented in all of your collateral used for community engagement. From photos and videos on your social media or website that include diverse images of dads with kids to printed invitations or brochures that include positive photos of dads and children, these inclusive efforts will show the dads in your school community that you want them to be involved, and that they as family members are welcome in your organization.

Increase father engagement: Host dad-specific meetings and events

Given the female-led tradition of PTO and PTA organizations, you should consider creating meetings specific for dads. Getting a few active dads involved to help “rally the troops,” might be necessary as many dads might feel hesitant to attend if they think they might be the only dad or two in the room. Whether it’s a separate meeting, or just a part of one that’s dedicated specifically to dads, ensuring that they have time to connect with other dads (just like moms do in the existing PTO and PTA meetings) is important to their continued participation.   

You can also host dad-specific events that might be more enticing than your traditional fundraisers. Taking a look at your current approach to see how you might be able to better involve dads is a good first step. Do you offer activities that would engage the dads in your community? 

Or, think about how you might create something from scratch that is aimed at meeting the needs and interests of the dads in your community. Can you host an event with those in mind that encourages them to come together for your good cause?

Giving them the option to participate in something that was thoughtfully created with them in mind shows that you are excited to get them involved and truly want the presence. 

Provide alternative options for paricipation

Though many families include two working parents, it’s possible that the lack of involvement from dads has to do with scheduling. If you have a fair number of dads in your community who travel for work or work late (or early) hours, then you’ll want to consider that when you plan your fundraising events. 

When working on parent engagement it’s also important to keep in mind the number of divorced families in your community, and knowing that it might be difficult for dads who live outside the school district to attend and participate, even though they might be more than willing to do so. 

In some families, the child/student may have a guardian who is new to parent involvement in your building but those father figures can be invited as well.

That’s why including alternative options for dads, particularly through a hybrid fundraising event, is a smart way to help get them (and other community members) involved in your school or volunteer organization. 

Simply having a communication app, Twitter feed, or Facebook group that you use to update members on events and happenings, outside of your typical emails, allows dads to keep up with what’s going on through a medium they may already be using.

Offering meetings virtually, through Zoom, for example, means that dads who travel or live far away from their families can join in on meetings. And creating virtual components to fundraising events, like an online silent auction or Livestream video, supports the attendance of dads who might not otherwise be able to attend. 

Dads are increasingly engaged in their kids’ school organizations, and with the right approach to membership and fundraising, organizations can leverage their interest to help make their fundraising events more successful. 

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