How to Resign from a Volunteer Group Gracefully

Updated on February 06, 2018
T.M. asks from Tampa, FL
15 answers

I am part of the PTA at my daughter’s school and have been involved for the last 6 years. Quite frankly, I am done and burned out with the entire concept. My husband is actually part of the group too.

We got two new administrators this year. They alternate with each other attending our meetings. One spends most of her time walking around the room rather than actually paying attention to the meeting...we literally have to call across the room to get her attention. The other is very close-mouthed about what’s going on at the school.

Our meetings are a joke with everyone talking over each other. My husband is the President running the meeting and any attempt to bring the conversation to one meeting is received negatively. We have one member who will argue until she gets her way...there is absolutely no reasoning with her.

I’ve weighed this out in my mind and this group brings me no joy whatsoever. I used to feel good about the great things we were doing and felt that we were positively impacting the school. We were struggling for new volunteers to help when I started and we still are today. There are only about 4 of us that consistently show up to help with anything. At any rate...I’ve had it and so has my husband.

We’ve decided that we are going to fulfill our commitment this year and not do it next year. Our daughter has one more year in this school. Given the small group, it’s not like we can just back away quietly. We will have to be removed from the bank account. It could also mean that they will not be able to have a PTA. At this point, I don’t care...I just need to be done. There will be hard feelings regardless. How do I navigate this situation for next year?

ETA: This is the Assistant Principal that doesn't pay attention to the meetings. We have tried calling across the room for her to join the meeting. She does, but doesn't get the point and change her behavior on forward. The Principal doesn't seem to think that the PTA needs to know anything about what is going on at the school. They seem to only believe that PTA is an open checkbook...and typically come to every meeting with a request to fund something.

Elections are also a pretty big joke. We send out nomination forms to the entire school and rarely get anybody to bite and send one back. We typically have a discussion each year on who is going to take what position the next year. So, really and truly, we never ran for a position in the first place.

The group is truly dysfunctional. I used to think that I had to leave it better than I found it, but this has just worn me down. It's not even the time anymore...it's the aggravation. Any new members that we get want to show up to 1 out of every 4 meetings and try to criticize everything. It's great to get new members, but if they have no interest in actually helping with anything and actually only want to criticize, then I really don't care much about their opinions. At any rate, I truly feel done and so burned out that I cannot be effective anyway.

What can I do next?

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

So this is a PTA group?

You realize that you can just not run for re-election, right? Instead of making drama? Don't run again.

If people ask why? Simply state that it's her last year and you will be busy with all of the things she needs to do.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

it can be as 'graceful', ie drama-free, as you make it.

it's nice that you're going to finish out the year. given the circumstances it's more than i'd want to do. but since you are, you're making the 'graceful' exit easy. you just don't run again, right?

if anyone asks if you're going to manage or even just volunteer any more you keep it super-simple. 'no, we've contributed and now we're stepping back.' no excuses, no explanations. you don't owe anybody anything.

i'm not sure why you think the bank account means you're hopelessly entangled. PTA and other groups move people on and off bank accounts all the time. it's very easy.

it's not on you to assuage or sidestep the hard feelings. so long as you leave quietly and without drama, it's on them to react however they want to react. not yours to manage.

khairete
S.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Well - they don't seem to care about upsetting you.
So don't worry so much about upsetting them.
You've done what you can for as long as you could.

A month or two before the vote comes up for the PTA officers for next year - state that you (and Hubby) will not be returning to serve next year.
Giving them some time gives them a chance to duke it out among themselves to figure out what they are going to do next, who is going to run, recruit new officers - what ever - but what ever they do - it has nothing to do with you.
You just take the steps you need to take to disengage yourselves - hand the reins over to someone else.

The general statement for resigning is 'for personal reasons' - you don't have to elaborate beyond that.
They might pry for details - just 'no comment' them as often as you have to.
I'm sure your daughter wants to enjoy her last year at this school - and you want to enjoy it too - and that means not dealing with this situation anymore.
When this school year is done - have a nice family vacation lined up so you can all get away and de-stress.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

Is your term up at the end of the school year? If so, just don't run for re-election.

If it's not up, look at the by-laws and see what's required - perhaps just a brief, simple letter saying, "I am not able to complete my term of office and will resign as of ____ date" will be enough.

Taking people off the bank account and putting new people on is what organizations do every year. It's not a big deal. I've been active in non-profits for 20 years, and it's very routine to have changes.

You say you can't back away quietly - but I think you can. The less said, the better. Your true friends will know your reasons. You can say, or not say, what you want privately. Just do it publicly with class and decorum. Let the chips fall where they may. My overriding philosophy in leaving non-profit situations was, "Leave a big hole and let them worry about how to fill it."

They've gone low. You go high.

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A.D.

answers from Minneapolis on

It's a lot. I feel for you and your husband. In a few months, PTA discussion will turn to planning for next year. This is a good time, in the spring, to give notice that you will you have decided not to return to PTA next year, as you have decided to focus on other pursuits (no need to explain further, your "other pursuits" could simply be relaxing at home) As long as you are giving plenty of notice, and you're not going out saying a bunch of negative things (even if you're feeling them) or behaving in a rude way, hard feelings are uncalled for. Smile and just keep saying, "I've already decided to make some changes that are best for me, my family, and my own life at this time, I wish you all the best going forward"

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D..

answers from Miami on

Write your job descriptions and send them as an attachment to everyone on the board and committee. Tell them that you are transitioning out, and putting the job description is the first thing they need. Tell them that if they would like to take the positions, to let you know and you'll start the handover at any point this spring.

If they tell you that you just cannot step down, say "Oh, I'm sorry you feel that way, but we will not be returning to the PTA in the fall, and we are giving plenty of notice." And that's all you have to do. When the time comes, you just stop showing up.

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T.D.

answers from New York on

Our PTO just went thru this. The presidents child moved up to the next building, the vice president said that she had too much on her plate and felt the need to step out of the PTO to open up time for her own family. We learned of this all at the last meeting of last school year so starting this year the treasurer had to put it out there that the PTO was in serious need of volunteers. There were no hard feelings. No one was upset. We just rebuilt the PTO with new moms and dads most of which are experiencing their first year in the school. So things are different. And it happens often enough that No one is mad about it. Just announce your leaving with enough time for other parents to figure things out and find new PTO members.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

If the group is at all functional, there will be planning for next year that will come up soon. If that doesn't normally happen, then add it to the agenda at the next meeting. You don't have to explain anything, just say that after six years of service, you and your husband have decided to take a step back and that you won't be on the board next year, so they will need to communicate that there will be leadership positions open next year and at the end of the year, the future board will have to decide who will replace you on the bank account and you'll go to the bank and get that done.

There doesn't need to be drama about it...people's appetite for commitment to a volunteer organization changes over time. The nice thing about a school is that there is a new crop of students and families every year. Someone will step up.

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P.K.

answers from New York on

Tell them point blank. Not doing it next year.

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J.C.

answers from Philadelphia on

If there are hard feelings it is only because they like that you and your husband do most of the work and now someone else will have to step up to fill your shoes.

Tell them you will not be returning and offer to start the transition process this year so someone can get up to speed for next year. Remain professional. As I tell my kids, if their mad, they’ll be glad again.

Volunteering is often a thankless job. Sleep easy knowing you did all you could do and enjoy your daughter’s last year in the school.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

I think there's awesome examples below on how to exit gracefully, and I'm going to tuck away some bits of advice for later use. Thanks moms. This was also a great question. Thanks for asking it.

Where you wrote "they have no interest in actually helping with anything and actually only want to criticize' it just sounds very toxic at this point. So very draining.

If I'm reading this correctly, the problem is 2 part - how to leave, and how to keep your feelings of frustration in check until you leave.

It's hard. I've left a dysfunctional workplace after years of loving it. I was able to move on to something I loved (a new work challenge). If you have something positive to go to - it makes it so much easier. Maybe focus on that, and use the examples below to exit gracefully. Best to you :)

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K.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

So, I am also heavily involved with the PTA at my school. I'm not burned out yet, but I can totally understand where you are coming from. We are also losing a few of our key board members and volunteers to burnout this year. I am just wrapping up the process of nominating next year's board and I will say it was hard - we had to find five brand new people that have never done anything - no board, no committee chairs - to serve as officers.

You have given 6 years of your life, hard work, and dedication to this organization. If you are done, be done. It is NOT your fault if no one else steps up to take over. It is NOT your fault if there isn't a PTA next year. I'm not sure how big your school is, but mine has about 500 families - if NONE of them are willing to do more work, that's not my fault and it certainly isn't your fault at your school.

Now is the time to tell them you won't be returning next year so they have time to find a replacement. If they find someone new, meet with him/her and fill them in on what they need to know next year. Tell them what you do, how you do it, pass along your notes, etc. Assist with the transition, but step back and be done.

I should add - we got a new principal last year that no one likes, as she is very difficult to work with and not supportive of us at all. That is the key reason for much of the burnout. So I truly understand how you're feeling right now.

Don't give too many reasons for why you're leaving - don't mention the new adminstrators, the lack of other volunteers, etc. Just say you have served for six years and are ready to pass the baton, but that you'll help with the transition.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

When I left a group I had volunteered with for many years (15+), including many years as the chair, I put it on a meeting agenda as future planning and said it this way:

"I believe that it's not good for the same group of people to lead an organization for too long, because if something unexpected happens, no one else knows how to run the organization. It is better for knowledge to be spread among many people. In addition, people seem to assume that I'm always going to volunteer for things which I think actually prevents new people from getting involved. So, for the good of this organization, which I love, I am leaving this organization at the end of this term. After that, if the new leaders have questions, they can feel free to call me. I wish you all the best."

Then, you have to mean those words. If they call you to ask a question, I hope that of course you would answer the question and share your knowledge (don't volunteer to run an event again, but you can share how it's run - for example, "sure, I can write down the vendors that we used and email that list to you so that you can contact them").

After that, the biggest things that you can do to avoid hard feelings is to not gossip about the things you didn't like about the organization. To anyone, ever. When people ask why you REALLY stepped down, just keep saying a version of the statement above. Those things are all true and they don't throw anyone under the bus.

On a side note with respect to PTOs specifically, to address this kind of issue and prevent burnout, my kids' school PTO recently set up a chair system. People were elected to the position of Secretary-Treasurer, VP, and Pres of the PTO in the first year that they set it up. The second year and for all subsequent years, we elect a new Secretary-Treasurer only. The previous year VP automatically becomes President, the previous year Secretary automatically becomes VP, and the person who was President is required to be off of the board for at least 1 year (previous Pres can be a general member of the PTO, but can't immediately rotate back into the Sec-Treas position). I think it's a great idea. There are always 2 people learning how to run the organization, and you know that when you are President, it will be for 1 year only with a mandated break afterwards - so it helps prevent burnout among the volunteers. If your husband (because he is currently President) wants to consider a long term fix to the problem before he steps down, maybe he could suggest this type of organizational structure to be voted on this spring, with the new 3 officers taking their positions at the start of the fall semester. Good luck.

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N.K.

answers from Miami on

Let them know that this will be your last year with the PTA, and leave it at that. If they keep pressing for an explanation, if you'd like, just let them know you and your husband both no longer have time to participate in the meetings or in an administrative capacity, and that's that. I wouldn't get into a full-on explanation about the dysfunction and aggravation.

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N.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

I'd confront the one lady in front of the group and tell her that she needs to pay attention. I would talk to her in a loud voice or consider her gone from the meeting.

As for the bossy mom ask the other parents what they want. If this mom starts talking you might have a podium where only that person is allowed to speak or something you pass from person to person.

Then as soon as you see that others don't want the same thing call for a motion and second. Then vote. Get it done and don't let her keep discussing it. Be done.

If the other parents are on board with her then end the discussion, call for a vote. One way or the other the parents have to stand up for what they want. Just put an end to the discussion, set a timer or something.

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