Ultimate Guide on How to Start a PTO for Your School

school supplies for starting a 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?

Or 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.

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.

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.

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

Here’s 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.

Because 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

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

Here’s 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.

First, 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 overall.

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

Getting teachers involved in your group is an 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, but don’t ask them to show up at every event and meeting.

Here’s more on the right way to get teachers involved in your PTO.

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 officer training checklists (look in the top menu for sign up links).

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.

Need some ideas for events?

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

Choose Fundraisers

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

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.

Need more specific guidance on school fundraising?

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

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

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 PTOs

Join the Best Community for PTO Leaders

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

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 Complete PTA/PTO Organizing and Planning Collection.

From President to Volunteer Coordinator and everything in between, there’s a resource for everyone in this bundle of 30+ guides, planners and templates.

The Complete Collection acts like a PTO in a Box, where you just add volunteers to bring it to life!

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!

And remembering to not take PTO stuff too seriously and have fun is one often forgotten about way to get parents involved.

Watch this video for more on that!

The Secret to Getting Parents Involved

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:

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