school supplies for starting a pto

Ultimate Guide for Starting a School PTO

So your school doesn’t have a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and you’re ready to start one.

Or perhaps you’ve been approached by the Principal to start one and need some help getting things going?

And now you’re wondering what’s involved in forming a PTO?

I’ve got you covered as this post will walk you through the easiest way to start a PTO for your school.

Consider Forming a PTA

So I know you said you were interested in forming a PTO, but have you looked into the benefits of PTA?

I’m not being paid to tell you this, but you should seriously consider it forming as PTA because of the overall better structure and resources the organization provides.

If you’re not familiar with the differences between PTA and PTO, then you should first familiarize yourself with them in order to make an informed decision and not automatically count out PTA based on anything other than first hand knowledge and research for yourself.

Because the difference between starting a PTA and PTO is similar to starting out out a hike on the Appalachian Trail with a GPS and a map versus with nothing at all.

With the GPS and a map, you’ll generally be on the right track. With nothing at all, you’re left to your own knowledge and know-how, which may not be enough to successfully start a group.

I always advise groups to not leave PTA to become an independent PTO, so it makes sense for me to recommend forming a PTA instead of a PTO in the first place.

And even though there are drawbacks to being organized as a PTA instead of a PTO, at the end of the day when all things are considered, the PTA structure still wins out.

You’re really intent on the PTO route?

Ok, so know that this route is not advised for all of the reasons in the linked articles above, plus the fact that you’ll forever have to DIY everything.

And I mean everything, even when trouble arises.

But you can do it and I’ll lay out exactly what you need and how to do it!

Ready? this list is a long!

Here’s exactly what you’ll need to do to form a PTO.

Meet With Your Principal

Any and all school organizations need to work with the approval of, cooperation from, and ideally partnership with the school administration, so you should set up a meeting with the Principal to get their blessing and ideas first.

Getting on the same page as your Principal and keeping up clear communication with them is really the only way to go since they can put a kibosh on your plans otherwise.

Bottom line, having a good relationship with the Principal is one of the core building blocks of a successful parent group.

So definitely don’t skip this opportunity to get on the same page and started on the right foot!

Give this video a watch for more about the right way to partner with your Principal.

Get Volunteers and Leaders

First, don’t forget about the T in PTO.

Getting teachers involved in your group is absolutely essential, but probably not in the way that you think.

Yes, you want the teachers to join as members and perhaps even take on a leadership position, like a teacher liaison or even treasurer (that’s NOT a conflict, contrary to what some say), but don’t ask them to show up at every event and meeting.

Their involvement in the PTO is after all, an extension of their job and they have a life outside of work to balance too, so be mindful of this!

So then how do you handle and encourage teacher involvement?

Read this article on the right way to get teachers involved in your PTO.

Next, PTO is definitely a team sport for parents too, so you’ll need to round up some interested parents to be both volunteers and/or leaders.

Don’t count grandparents out of the running for leadership positions, either.

If they have a kiddo at the school, then they can certainly pitch in to make the PTO wishlist happen.

How many volunteers and leaders will you need?

It depends on how ambitious you want to be with your fledgling PTO. There’s no standard for what your PTO school be planning or doing since each PTO should be custom tailored to the needs and wants of the school, students and parents.

But there is definitely a defined list of leaders every PTO should have, and a list of the initial positions you’ll need to find volunteers for.

As far as recruiting for these positions, there are several things to keep in mind, but most importantly is how you’re getting volunteers.

Primarily, be sure to not voluntell or guilt parents into being a leader.

Some people aren’t up to the task and it’ll not only turn them away from getting involved, but it’ll be a frustrating and disappointing experience for everyone.

Watch this video for tips on getting more volunteers:

How to Get More Volunteers for Your PTO

Once you have leaders lined up, be sure they get up to speed quickly by signing up for one of the free officer quick start guides (look in the top menu under Free Trainings for the sign up links).

Equipping them with resources and empowering them with training is one of the best ways to get your PTO up and running efficiently and with as few headaches as possible, so put this at the top of your to do list.

Draft Bylaws and Standing Rules

Next, you’ll need to get your group’s Bylaws and Standing Rules together and work out what your group will be and how it will function.

This sounds like it’s going to be an overwhelming job, but it really isn’t, once you understand the importance of having them, and how they can make your PTO unlike the stereotypical PTOs portrayed in tv and movies.

You can even check out this kit I’ve put together to help the entire process go smoothly, Bylaws and Standing Rules Made Easy.

Not only is there a step by step guide of the entire process to follow, there’s also editable templates for both the Bylaws and Standing Rules so you can choose what’ll work best for your group!

Plan Out Your Year

Once you have volunteers and leaders, sketch out a plan for the rest of the year and get some events on the calendar.

Having a formal calendar will not only give your volunteers and leaders some initial goals to work towards, but you’ll also pique the interest of parents and community members who aren’t yet involved.

This post walks you through the process of setting up a planning calendar for your PTO and be sure to follow this same process every year for best results.

Need some ideas for events?

Check out this list of over 50 ideas for family fun events that your school families will absolutely love.

Bringing people together is one of the best ways to inspire parents to get involved as a volunteer or leader for your PTO, so don’t discount the powerful effect of great events!

Choose Fundraisers

Your new PTO will need some money to put on family fun and staff appreciation events, so put together a fundraising plan, stat!

This one area that you either need to seek out someone with some experience so your PTO can quickly get some money in the bank.

Follow the advice in this post about how to choose the right fundraisers for your group.

And here are some fundraisers that you should avoid at all costs because bad fundraisers do more than leave a gap in your PTO budget.

Need more specific guidance on school fundraising?

You’ll want to take a look at the Fundraising Success Kit!

colorful resources for PTA PTO fundraising

It’s filled with practical advice to help you raise the most money possible from any fundraiser, no matter your experience or knowledge level.

And the plans can be easily adapted to any PTO and is perfect for new and more established groups, alike.

Set a Budget

Once your group has a loose idea about what events your group will put on, you’ll need to put a budget together.

Having a budget will help you ensure your spending reflects the PTO’s priorities and goals.

How to Set a Budget for PTO PTA Groups | Treasurer and President Advice

Open a Bank Account

The President and Treasurer should open the PTO bank account.

If you have banking options, visit a few branches to see if there are banks with a better understanding if how PTO / PTAs work and the needs and complexities of volunteer-lead organizations.

When I was dealing with a President who misappropriated PTO money, the bank had an employee who was previously involved as a PTO volunteer, so she was able to help us through the process a little more readily than someone without that experience and granted us some leeway to guide us through the unfortunate situation.

When you find a bank with the right fit, you’ll need some documentation (meeting minutes) showing that the President and Treasurer are elected leaders of the PTO.

Usually meeting minutes will do or a letter from the Principal.

There may be more documentation requirements, and the bank will let you know what specific information you’ll need.

Know that whomever opens the account will have to provide their driver’s license information, and possibly Social Security Number as well, due to Federal identity verification requirements.

Some volunteers may be uncomfortable with sharing this information, but it is absolutely required and a normal part of the process.

In fact, any future leaders who are added to the PTO bank account will need to provide their driver’s license, so know that this requirement is on the horizon, so if someone is uncomfortable with this, they should not run for those positions!

Join the Best Community for PTO Leaders

Next, line up more support for you personally as you embark on this mission to establish a parent group for your kid’s school.

You’ll definitely find solace in having a community of likeminded parent leaders, so join the Super Star PTO Leaders Facebook Group and it’ll be like having thousands of new PTO and PTA BFFs, instantly!

Get the Right Resources

You’re anxious to get started with all of the right pieces to get your PTO and your group will really benefit from having guidance every step of the way.

Enter the PTO Success Kit!

colorful binder and planner kits for pto pta leaders on white background

From President to Volunteer Coordinator and everything in between, there’s a resource for everyone in this bundle of 29+ guides, planners and templates and software to manage your group’s money.

The kit acts like a PTO in a Box, where you just add volunteers to bring everything to life with resources in their hands!

So many PTOs are using these resources to quickly bring volunteers up to speed and eliminate the uncertainty that comes with anything you’re doing for the first time.

You will especially love the specific guidance for monthly to dos, running short, effective and well attended meetings, the 6 month strategy for having a wildly successful fundraiser and the done for you, yet fully editable membership guide and new membership packet!

Best of all, you’ll love feeling in control, confident knowing what two do next and leave behind doubts and second guessing.

Have Fun

Finally, don’t forget to have fun!

Being involved in a PTO as a leader can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences, so enjoy it and as long as you keep fun at the core, you’ll be well off!

Remembering to not take PTO stuff too seriously, enjoying the process and setting up a delightful experience is one often forgotten about way to get parents involved.

Watch this video for more on that!

The Secret to Getting Parents Involved

Watch this!

Prefer to watch a video over reading through this post? Give this one a watch:

If I were starting a PTO / PTA in 2023, THIS is What I'd Do [8 Steps]

Summing it all Up

Starting a PTO for your school is a rather involved process, but you can totally do it if you follow these steps:

Over to you!

And now, off you go to form an awesome parent group that does amazing and wonderful things for your school community.

Hope this post has not only inspired you, but provided lots of motivation for you to see the process though!

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