Parent Engagement Field Guide


Why should I consider creating or joining a parent group? Can I just go it alone?

Embrace the motto that No one can do everything but everyone can do something.”  

Many parents ask about the benefit of creating a parent group: how can it help, why should I create a group and how difficult is it to create a group?

The main benefit to creating or joining a parent advocacy group is strength in numbers! In addition, the creation of a group…

  • brings together like-minded parents.
  • lightens the load and allows everyone to contribute in a way that plays to their strengths and specific interests. 
  • provides a built-in support network (which is very important because parent advocacy can seem like a daunting, lonely and aimless task.)
  • can provide parents a greater level of anonymity than individual advocacy.
  • helps when interacting with the media (providing quotes, writing op-eds or appearing on tv or radio) This exposure will help grow your membership because it helps interested parents and community members find you! 
  • amplifies the message. By setting up a website and Facebook page for your group is easy and provides a great way to share your message, attract new advocates and post updates – all in one easy to find, easy to use place.  


Note: We have included a lot of information and suggestions—don’t get overwhelmed. Think of it as a menu of options and choose the ones that are doable and work best for the parents in your group. 

The Issues: Big Picture View

  1. Identify like-minded parents and community members. Are there other parents or stakeholders who share your concern about the issue? Join together and work together. 
  2. What is happening? Determine the key players in your school, in the district and on the school board. How is the information about your issue being shared by officials and/or policymakers? 
  3. Establish the timeline. What has happened and what’s on the horizon? Are there any immediate deadlines for your issue? Examples include principal meetings, PTA meetings, school board meetings, Board of Supervisor meetings, state policy decision dates. Are there any scheduled votes for your issue? 
  4. Identify influencers. Can you identify key policymakers and which ones are your allies? What is the position of the Parent Teacher Association (the PTA), or local elected officials or other influential people in the school/district?

Get Established: Create Your Organization

  1. Build your crew. What parents, staff and community members are with you? Find like-minded parents and talk to them via phone, video conferencing or in-person. 
  2. Create a name for your group. Do a trademark search. Choose a name that will attract people to your group with a positive vision, being for a cause, not just being against a problem. Add your local school or school district or regional name to give your organization’s name your local identification. Some possible choices: Coalition for __________. Parents for ___________. Education First in ___________. One ________ (school district or county name). Then send the name of your group to Parents Defending Education so we can add you to our database
  3. Communication is key: Social Media. Social media is a great way to communicate! Choose a social media handle that is the same handle across all platforms: X (Twitter), Facebook, Instagram.
  4. Register the domain name for your group. Don’t share your organization name until you have registered the domain for your group (using both .org and .com addresses, if you can get them both)! It’s usually fairly inexpensive to register a domain name, and you’ll want to hold it so other people can’t use it. You can register the domain through GoDaddy, where you can also buy website services with templates and other useful tools.
  5. Design a logo for your name, profile graphic and header graphics. Register a free account at a platform like and create a logo for your group there. It’s not difficult or time consuming – really! Choose a color palette for your organization and brand all of your content with those colors, including the social media graphics you will later design.

Organize: The Nuts and Bolts

  1. Meet with your core group. Identify your core leadership group. Assign responsibilities to your core group leaders as co-leads. Most folks doing this work are volunteers. Having co-leads makes sure that the responsibilities are shared and the work is done faster–and it’s helpful to have someone else to strategize with! 
  2. Mission Statement. Create a Mission Statement that will help shape your work and the direction of your organization. The Mission Statement will allow people to immediately learn what your group is all about. Keep the statement short and concise – just a few sentences.
  3. Establish an organizational structure. This might include:
    1. Leadership – meeting facilitator; 
    2. Membership – outreach, membership engagement; 
    3. Communications – website, social media, public relations, op-ed and letter writing; 
    4. Legal 
    5. Research – FOIAs and data analysis; 
    6. Fundraising – donor outreach and engagement. 
  4. Document meeting minutes so your group is on the same page and so tasks are clear. You should send these minutes out to your group after the meeting and review them at the start of the next meeting, so anyone who missed the last meeting can quickly get up to speed. 
  5. Set up a central email address where people can communicate with your group. You can use Gmail for this purpose. Share access to this email with key leaders in the core group. 
  6. Sign up like-minded members. Ask them to sign up for your community organizing efforts using a form to collect information in one place. Google Forms inputs the information into a spreadsheet for easy organizing.
  7. Communicate.You can use Google Meet for free. Zoom is also free for calls up to 40 minutes. You will need a professional account to avoid the 40-minute limit. Get an account for the organization so that many members can use the account. 
  8. Organize parents, students and community members through effective internal communication (like Telegram, Signal or WeChat), direct action (protests, both in-person and virtual), and public events (like webinars). Create subgroups for your various working groups. Consider setting up a Leadership group and a full group chat. Telegram allows an unlimited number of members added to a group, whereas WhatsApp has limits. Signal automatically deletes messages. Be sure to vet members before adding to primary communication channels. Some of us have used Google Forms for people who want to sign up for our internal channels and called each prospective member personally.
  9. Organize your content: Share group documents internally. Upload all documents for your organization’s work to a shared Google Drive linked to your official email address. Organize your documents in folders. Suggested folders might include:
    1. Leadership
    2. Membership
    3. Communications
    4. Legal
    5. Research
    6. Fundraising

Investigation/Research is Key: Uncover Truths About Your School

  1. File FOIA requests. Most email communications using public school communication channels are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. There may be a nominal fee for making a FOIA request.
  2. Identify whether there are external actors that are promoting divisive topics in your school. Does your school district have “equity” partners or vendors? If so, research each one of the partners to understand what they are offering and how much the district is paying for it. 
  3. Find out how your school is teaching hot-button topics to students. These might include: white privilege, “whiteness”, privilege, oppression, implicit bias, white supremacy, “decolonization”, social justice, restorative justice, gender affirming care, gender ideology, sexual orientation, ethnic studies, Israel and Palestine, and social emotional learning.
  4. Tell Parents Defending Education! Document your issue so it can be added to our database and map.
  5. Organize your membership. Register your members. Get new members to fill out a form through MailChimp, Google Forms or some other platform where they are automatically organized into one database. Vet prospective members – call them, ask if anyone in the group knows them etc. before adding them to your group. This is especially important when it comes to your Leadership group.

Raise Funds: Expand Your Reach

  1. Advocacy is easier if you raise funds. Rather than reaching into your own pocket everytime you want to print a flyer, create signs or do a mailing, develop your fundraising strategy. There are various platforms available to assist in fundraising like GoFundMe. If you’re so inclined, you might consider applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS as a 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 – but this process is by no means necessary (it can be time-consuming and expensive!)
  2. Consider selling swag like bumper stickers, shirts, and hats to raise funds. It is a fun way to get your name out there and many parents love to promote their groups!

Educate: Inform the Wider Community

  1. Educate the community. The community will need to learn more about your issue to support it and join your cause.
  2. Create a one-page fact sheet stating your issue. Use plain language, and make it simple to understand.
  3. Invite speakers to discuss topics of interest – and consider holding these meetings regularly. Keep them short, because people have busy lives – for example, under one hour via Zoom call on the same day/time each month or every two weeks. That might include:
    • Divisive Ideologies 101: Many people aren’t familiar with terms like Critical Race Theory, Social Justice, Culturally Responsive Education, Restorative Justice, SEL or Ethnic Studies. Break it down and show what these terms really mean.
    • Opposition Research:  How to research using the school provided website and to find materials that can be disseminated to the community to increase awareness and understanding. Importance of identifying who each school board member is and their voting record. Research each school board member on Facebook, Instagram and X/Twitter. Often, you learn more truth about these people (postings, pictures, images, etc.) that way.
    • Public Relations training: How to effectively write op-eds, letters to the editor, and school board speeches. How to effectively do media interviews and use social media platforms.
  4. Meet with community groups. Raise the issue at events held by other organizations where there might be overlap, such as a PTA or Community meeting.

Supersize: Some Ideas to Win in the Court of Public Opinion

  1. Write op-eds and letters, always including your website link in your bio section.
  2. Set up accounts with free content platforms, such as Medium, Substack, and Patch, with your organizational name, so you can publish content regularly. Publish your letters to policymakers, links to your activities, announce your activities, and keep followers informed. 
  3. Create a direct email newsletter, using a free platform like MailChimp.
  4. Develop your social media presence. Create graphics for social media. You can use for free templates. Use the color palette you selected for your logo. Choose one template that you will use for your various platforms, including X/Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to use graphics properly sized for Instagram and X/Twitter. You can use either one. 
  5. Write press releases. Get your message to the media. Send pitches to media outlets. 
  6. Identify parents who will do media interviews. They will need to use their real names for TV interviews. And practice before speaking to reporters!
  7. Promote yourself. Create bumper stickers and lawn signs.

Engage: Direct Action Works! Organize a public event.

  1. There’s no better way to show your community that there’s a groundswell of support than to get together as a group! This might be in front of your school, school administrative building or school board meeting venue.
  2. Publicize the public events through social media, email blasts, local media, and local parent groups! 
  3. Encourage all participants to bring handmade signs with slogans and your logo.
  4. Invite local media to cover your event. Local media includes print journalists, and local television stations. 
  5. Hire a professional videographer to film the event. Hire a professional photographer to take high-resolution photos of the event. Post the videos and photographs on your website with this note: Available for free use. 
  6. Secure a speaker system with a good microphone so all of your speakers can be heard! 
  7. Event Feedback. Create an Event Feedback form to request feedback on your event.

We are in this together. Thank you for advocating for students (and families!) Need help or advice, or have an experience to share? Reach out to us at [email protected]

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