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How to Start a PTA: Easy Steps to Establish a PTA or PTO at Your School

How to Start a PTA: Easy Steps to Establish a PTA or PTO at Your School

Starting a PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) or PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) at your school is an excellent way for parents to have a direct impact on their children’s education. These nonprofit organizations enable parents to generate ideas for student success. They help organize resources and create stronger ties with the school, parents, and the larger community. And they give the school needed allies to help create, run, and fund their education programs.

But before you can start enjoying a PTA’s benefits, you first need to build an effective organization that fulfills all the legal requirements and regulations of this parent group. You’ll need to generate interest among parents and show how a PTA or school PTO can help all families. And you’ll need effective fundraising ideas to ensure your group has all the financial resources to fulfill its mission.

This article will provide a detailed breakdown of all the steps necessary to start a PTA or PTO. We’ll also provide links to resources like PayBee that can support your efforts as you develop this nonprofit organization.     

What is a PTA or PTO?

Before we get started, let’s establish the difference between a PTA and PTO so you know what type of group you want to create.

PTAs, or Parent-Teacher Associations, are affiliated with the National PTA, a formal membership organization in Alexandria, Virginia that provides advocacy for all students in the U.S. This gives PTAs a large support base that includes resources from state and nation representatives. To get access to this network and resources, a school-based PTA must pay dues every year to both state and national organizations.

PTOs, or Parent-Teacher Organizations, on the other hand, are more independent organizations. A PTO is usually a single-school or district-level group that operates under its own bylaws. Instead of advocating for all children, a PTO focuses its efforts on its school or local community. While a PTO doesn’t have the same resources as a PTA, a PTO also doesn’t have to pay the same dues each year.

Nevertheless, PTOs do have access to outside support and useful resources. For instance, the media and services company PTO Today offers a support network of school parent groups as well as access to PTO insurance, trade shows, startup toolkits and more.

According to Kristen Barton, an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report (fortworthreport.org), both PTAs and PTOs help identify what a community prioritizes about a school and student education. Individual complaints about a campus pothole or lack of teacher resources may go unheard, but having a team explain that hundreds of members care about these issues can help get things done.

Interested in having such advocacy for your school? The process of starting a Parent Teacher Association or PTO is very similar and begins by:

  1. Finding a Group of Parents 

You can’t have a PTA or PTO without parents, so reaching out to family groups in your area is a good place to start forming the center of your parent teacher group. Finding parents who are passionate about their students’ success and have ideas for effective programs is a must.

Start small. Limiting yourself to a core group of only a few people is a good way to keep things organized and ensure everyone knows their responsibilities. As you move forward with your mission, you can begin adding more group members with needed skills. It’s also a good idea to recruit parents with strong community ties and established networks to gain support for your group. 

  1. Establishing a Mission Statement, Plans, and Goals

Get your core group to start generating ideas for what your team must accomplish. What education goals do you have for your students? What improvements can you make to the campus? What programs are you interested in starting or staining? How will you help your school accomplish its fundraising goals?

Keep in mind that a PTA or PTO’s plans and goals need to focus on family involvement by offering opportunities for parents and other family group members to support the school and their children’s education. By establishing a mission statement and your PTA’s path early on, the easier it will be for you to make your plans a reality.

  1. Creating Your School Organization’s Bylaws

Bylaws are official policies created by your organization that determine how your board and group membership are structured. Having these documents is necessary to apply for 501c3 status. Bylaws should include:

  • The mission of your nonprofit
  • How your board is elected
  • The minimum number of members (quorum) at a meeting required to make the proceedings of that meeting valid.
  • Requirements for boarding meeting and reporting
  • Membership structure, including all responsibilities and any dues
  • Responsibilities of your Chairperson
  • Conflict of interest policy
  • Amendment of bylaws
  • How your parent organization can be dissolved

The National PTA has its own set of bylaws that outlines the purpose of an association, lists the basic policies of the association, and offers a structure for how a PTA association is set up. The state PTA also has its set of local PTA bylaws. Any questions regarding these bylaws should be directed to the proper organizations.

  1. Electing Your Officers

Once you’ve established your bylaws, it’s time to formally elect your officers and establish committees. While you may have already unofficially created leadership positions, it’s a good idea to officially establish who’s in charge of what. Most PTOs have titles for different officers, including Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer.

Be aware that your state may have specific requirements for the number of officers your organization needs as well as the titles of your officers. You should research all this before holding elections in order to make establishing your PTA or PTO as a nonprofit easier.  

  1. Sharing Your Plans with the School

The more prepared you are with your mission statement, plans, and goals, the more support you can expect when you meet with the principal to discuss your PTA or PTO. Make sure to focus on how your organization will benefit the school and increase education opportunities. How will your group improve communication between parents and teachers? What programs will you develop to improve student success, increase college opportunities, and make school employee jobs easier?

It’s also important to be very clear about the responsibilities each group member will undertake in this partnership. Make sure everyone has all the information they need about your team’s mission and can ask questions. This will make things much easier to get your team approved.

  1. Establishing Your PTA or PTO as a Nonprofit Organization

Now we’re getting into the legalities of forming a PTA or PTO.  

By showing your team qualifies as a nonprofit organization, you can gain tax-exempt status, making it easier to raise funds and gain resources from community supporters. Keep in mind that each state has its own rules for filing as a nonprofit organization that you’ll need to become familiar with. Nonprofits also need to file Articles of Incorporation that include:

  • The name of your group
  • Your mission statement
  • The names and titles of your officers
  • A registered agent
  • Your address

After filing, you must register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to gain your tax-exempt status for your PTO or association. Fill out Form SS-4 to get your EIN.

  1. Applying for 501c3 Status

Once you establish your PTA or PTO as a nonprofit, be sure to apply for 501c3 status which will make your donor and member gifts tax-free when you fundraise. As many individual and business donors will only give to PTAs and PTOs if they have this status, be sure to indicate your 501c3 status (and the tax-free benefits to your donors) on your website.

Filing for 501c3 status requires you to fill out and submit either a Form 1023 or Form1023EZ. Be aware that there are fees associated with these forms as well as waiting periods (usually anywhere from one to six months), so be sure to allow for enough time.

  1. Registering with the National PTA

If you decide to form a PTA, you’ll want to register your organization with the National PTA. You should also join your state’s PTA in order to gain access to the network and resources this PTA organization provides. Remember: joining this group means following all of its rules and regulations as well as paying dues each year, so be sure to visit the PTA website and understand the type of commitments you’ll need to make to get all your benefits. Even after joining, you should keep up with the national organization’s activities to see if you’re affected by any of their approved resolutions.

  1. Starting Committees for Your PTAs or PTOs

Once you establish your PTA or PTO and start building up your group membership, you’ll want to create committees to help your team accomplish its goals. These PTO committees may include:

  • Administrative Committees
  • Membership Recruitment Committees
  • Community Affairs
  • Fundraising Committees
  • Finance Committees
  • Program and Scholarship Committees
  • Health and Environmental Committees
  • Hospitality and Staff Communication

Enabling your committees to communicate effectively and keep the Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer informed of all their activities is essential to running an efficient PTA or PTO. Take advantage of online communication tools like video chats and messaging apps to keep everyone in the loop.

  1. Getting Liability Insurance

Your team will likely be running events like carnivals or picnics. When you do, it’s very important that your PTO be protected against any potential risks with general liability insurance for events held on and off the school campus. You may also need embezzlement insurance, directors and officers protection, and property protection insurance.

Work with your school to see if any of your PTO activities are covered under their policy and can protect your members. Be very specific about the types of events and activities you plan to host and make sure that you’re covered by the right insurance for all possible risks.

  1. Building Appreciation for Your Organization

Now it’s time to expand your PTA or PTO and bring in more members. This can mean hosting family involvement events at your middle school, high school, or academy campus to build advocacy for your team’s mission. Show other parents and families how joining your team will help their children’s education. Make volunteer opportunities available to parents and show how parents can become presidents of your committees or take on support roles in your mission.

  1. Creating Fundraising Campaigns to Start Raising Money for Programs

Raising money is a vital part of any nonprofit organization, but is especially important for PTAs and PTOs. After all, you’ll want to have a reliable revenue stream coming in to fund your college scholarships and other PTO school education programs.

Plus, PTO or association fundraising events are useful for promoting your brand image. Many of your donors and supporters will likely be other parents, students, and family members, so you’ll want to take advantage of this by showing them how they can volunteer and take on support roles to support your mission and their children’s education. The more enjoyable and professional your fundraisers are, the more incentive students, parents, and community group members have to participate in them, as guests or staff.

PayBee offers an online fundraising platform that’s ideal for school fundraisers. Not only is our software perfect for hosting virtual fundraisers and hybrid galas, it can also make traditional in-person events on your school campus or meeting place easy to build and manage (look under our “Products” dropdown menu for more information on each event).

This is evident in our PayBee Mobile App which makes it simple for event staff to not only coordinate tasks via their smart phones but also perform event activities like check-in, check-out, accepting donations etc.  You’ll also be able to generate and print QR codes for your web pages and flyers, which allow guests to easily visit your donation pages or silent auction sites and make contributions.

When it comes to building campaigns, PayBee’s online fundraising platform automates much of the more difficult tasks. You’ll be able to setup your ticketing and raffle campaigns in minutes. We also support all live streaming platforms that allow embedding, making it easy to host a virtual gala, hybrid fundraiser, or online live auction. 

There’s more. PayBee’s social sharing features lets your group quickly spread the word about your PTO events across popular social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. And after your event, our automatic event follow-up and reporting features help collect donations from guests with outstanding pledges while creating a report to let your PTA know what worked and what didn’t in your fundraiser. All these tools not only make it simpler to host a winning fundraiser but help you build better school fundraisers in the future.

Moving Forward

Creating a PTA or PTO may seem like a complex undertaking, but the benefits of such an organization cannot be denied. Not only will a PTA or PTO give parents and families a way to directly impact their students’ education, it will also help administrators and teachers by establishing a partnership with the school, parents, and overall community.

Of course, it helps to have the proper online tools and resources to build your PTA or PTO. Not only is PayBee great for hosting school fundraisers, our online platform is an effective communication tool for event teams to coordinate their activities. Moreover, we make it easy to promote events and even offer ideas for school fundraising activities on our blog.

But don’t take our word for it. Sign up for a free demo of our platform and see how our online tools can be used in planning and fundraising activities. By participating in our demonstration, you’ll experience first-hand how intuitive our platform is, not only for your committees but also your fundraising guests. We also provide opportunities for you to ask any technical questions about our software to our team of experts, revealing how PayBee can help your PTA or PTO achieve its goals. Sign up for a free demo today and take the first step toward building a winning partnership!

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