9 Tips for Managing Your Elementary School Yearbook Committee Volunteers

manage yearbook committee volunteers

When you get a bunch of parents willing to help you make your elementary school’s yearbook the best it’s ever been, you’re bound to run into some … err … hiccups. After all, your volunteers will have their own ideas of what will make the yearbook great.

To harness all those great ideas (and, let’s face it, all those not-so-great ideas), you need to do one thing really, really well: Follow the Golden Rule. Do that and you’ll have your elementary school yearbook committee running like a well-oiled machine.

9 Handy Reference Tips for Building Management Skills

OK, so “Follow the Golden Rule” might be oversimplifying things a little bit. To be more specific, here are nine tips you can use when you’re managing a yearbook committee composed of adults:

    1. Be transparent. Explain to parents the reasoning behind your decisions–understanding where you’re coming from will help them be satisfied with your arrangements.
    2. Actively listen. Don’t just hear what people are telling you–actively listen to what they’re saying. Empathize with them, and try to understand their perspective. Truly relating to someone else will take you a long way.
    3. Be accountable. Everyone messes up. Everyone. It’s OK if that happens, so long as the person who made the mistake takes responsibility for his or her actions. And the best way to have that happen is to act the same way. If you make a mistake, own it.
    4. Learn from your mistakes. As noted above, taking responsibility for those mistakes is important, but it’s even more important to learn from them.
    5. Build relationships. Connect with everyone involved, including your staff, parents, teachers, administrators, and even the publishing company. Doing so will ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to the yearbook and the committee’s plans for it.
    6. Have patience. Yes, you have deadlines. The layout isn’t finished, the photos are blurry, and three members aren’t able to make it to the next meeting. Understand that things come up, and if you feel pressured, don’t be afraid to ask for help as needed. Also, building a bit of a buffer into your calendar can keep minor setbacks from becoming major holdups.
    7. Trust your staff. While you might have a vision of the perfect yearbook and are trying to micromanage everything to create this vision, step back and let your staff do their jobs. Make yourself available for questions and concerns, and only step in if someone asks for assistance or if you are truly needed.
    8. Use good judgment. If you’re approached with a staff request that doesn’t fit the book’s vision, it’s okay to say, “No.” While it’s important to hear any and all requests and keep an open mind, don’t be afraid to toss out any ideas with which you’re not comfortable.
    9. Be proactive when solving problems. Don’t wait until the last minute to tackle issues. In many cases, issues left unresolved will snowball, and you will find yourself facing an even more complex problem than before.

If you were to put this into a real-world example, it might look something like this:

Say you have a bunch of parents who want to take pictures at sporting events, but no one has volunteered to edit photos or lay out the sports pages in the yearbook.

You could tell some of those volunteers that you simply have too many people who want to take pictures and that they need to do something else. But that wouldn’t really be following the Golden Rule, would it?

Remember, these are parents who are eager to help, so it might be better to approach the situation a little different. If you do, you’re far more likely to get all the help you need. (You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, right?)

A better approach might be to tell all of your volunteers that you simply have too many people who want to take pictures, so you’re going to divide the role into specific sports or times of the year, but that it’d be really awesome if they could also help you with other aspects of the yearbook’s sports coverage, like editing the photos or laying out the pages, because you have no one to help with that.

Another approach might be to talk with people who volunteered for similar positions, explain the situation to them, and ask if they’d shift over, instead.

In essence, help everyone do what they’re wanting to do, but also be clear about why you need the other help. It’s the best way to make sure everyone is involved in the way they’ve requested, while also having all your roles evenly distributed across the committee.

Go With the Flow

Any committee comes with a diverse group of people, each with their own creative juices, ideas, and dynamic personalities. Interacting with and managing these personalities is an integral part of being the yearbook advisor, but keeping them on track to create a successful elementary school yearbook doesn’t have to be stressful—especially if you follow our handy tips.