Back to School 2018: Organizing and Volunteer Trends

From giving teachers a lunch duty break to stocking school supply closets with donations, school volunteers are invaluable. 

At SignUpGenius, the leading platform for school volunteer sign ups, we know how important having an organized start to the school year is, so we surveyed our users to measure 2018 back-to-school trends. 

One of our top observations: It’s a group of dedicated parents who make the school year go round. While most parents only volunteer once or twice a year (40.1%) or never (21.1%), about 20% of parents volunteer several times a month or weekly, according to survey results. 

That knowledge can help schools, teachers, PTAs and PTOs tailor their volunteer recruitment efforts throughout the year. The more genius helpers, the better! The survey also revealed:

  • People feel most connected to their schools by either personal communications from a teacher or regular email updates from school administrators or PTA/PTO officials.
  • Younger parents and parents with younger children are more likely to buy school supplies early. Most people pick things up throughout the summer (44.5%), but 33.5% purchase supplies “within days of supply lists being issued.”
  • Field trips are by far the most popular option for parent volunteers — 51.1% of survey respondents said they typically try to participate in one during the school year. Fundraisers like festivals and book fairs followed at 37.6%.
  • Parents don’t like capital campaigns. In fact, it was the preferred giving option by only 3.2% of survey participants. People are more likely to give money by purchasing items such as raffle tickets or cookie dough or by responding to specific requests from the school or teacher for needed items.
Browse this infographic for more insights, and find full results and demographic breakdowns below. 


Full Results 

When do you typically collect and organize the majority of back-to-school items your child needs each year?
I pick up things throughout the summer: 44.5%
Within days of the supply lists being issued: 33.5%
Just in time for back-to-school night: 11.2%
Sometime after the first day of school: 7.2%
The night before the first day of school: 3.6% 

What makes you feel most connected with your child's school?
Regular email updates from school administration/PTA: 31.9%
Personal email/phone communication from teacher: 28.9%
Volunteering at the school: 20.9%
Parent-teacher conferences: 13.3%
Open house or curriculum night: 5.1% 

What events do you typically volunteer/participate in during the school year? (Multiple responses allowed.)
Field trips: 51.1%
Fundraisers like book fairs, festivals, etc.: 37.6%
Class parties: 34.2%
Teacher appreciation events: 28.1%
Regular classroom volunteering: 23.4%
I don’t typically volunteer in these areas: 23.2% 

How are you most likely to give money to your child's school?
Fundraising sales like raffle tickets, cookie dough, wrapping paper, etc.: 36.5%
Specific requests for one-time supply/wish list needs: 27.6%
Fundraising events like festivals, 5K races, school dance, etc.: 23.8%
I don’t give money: 8.9%Capital campaign: 3.2% 

How often do you volunteer at school?
1-2 times a year: 40.1%
Never: 21.1%
Once a month: 18.6%
2-3 times a month: 11.2%
Weekly: 9.1% 

What grade level(s) is your child? (Select all that apply)
Preschool: 12.1%
Elementary: 49.5%
Middle School: 24%
High School: 32.4%
College: 16.6% 

How many school-age children do you have?
1: 40.6%
2: 37.5%
3: 13.5%
4: 4.9%
5 or more: 3.5% 

What age group are you in?
18-24: 4.5%
25-34: 16.3%
35-44: 34%
45-54: 26.8%
55-64: 14.3%
65+: 4.1% 

Demographic Insights 

25-34: This age group tends to buy school supplies early — more than 43 percent bought supplies within days of the list being posted. They prefer personal communications from teachers about their children and are most likely to volunteer with field trips, class parties and event fundraisers. They’re slightly more likely than average to volunteer regularly. 

35-44: These parents are busy. They are more likely than average to pick up supplies “just in time for back to school night” and like to donate to specific giving requests. While they volunteer, it’s most likely once or twice a year. 

45-54: As parents age (and their children do as well), they’re more likely to procrastinate buying school supplies. These parents prefer email updates from school administrators or the PTA and to give money via fundraising events. They’re also the age group most likely to be “power volunteers,” with more than 27% volunteering either weekly or several times a month (compared to about 20% of all survey participants).  

55-64: This group is the most likely to buy school supplies the night before (nearly 12% compared to an average of just 3.6%). They’re less likely to volunteer for field trips or class parties and prefer giving through fundraising sales over specific requests for items. More than 31% never volunteer — higher than the average of about 21%. 

65+: This group is twice as likely as the average to buy school supplies after the year starts, and they greatly prefer personal calls and emails from teachers to stay connected with school. More than 52% never volunteer. 

Pre-school Parents: They like to volunteer for field trips, class parties and fundraising events. They give money more than average, but they prefer specific requests. They are also very likely to volunteer. 

Elementary Parents: This group is most like the average. Like preschool parents, they prefer volunteering at field trips and class parties but don’t like fundraising events as much. 

Middle School Parents: Keep these parents updated with regular emails from the school PTA/PTO or administrators. They still like volunteering for field trips, but prefer to give at fundraising events over fundraising sales. They’re still very likely to volunteer. 

High School Parents: These parents are more likely to procrastinate buying school supplies — more than 15% buy supplies after the first day of school, and that is more than double the average. They’re average volunteers and less likely to say they volunteer in the classroom regularly, but they do like to help with fundraising events like 5K races or festivals.  

Survey results are thanks to the participation of 474 respondents.