celebrating parents with arms raised

4 Steps to Take Your PTO from Hot Mess to Organized and Flourishing

Today, I want to talk to you all about how to whip your PTO into shape, even if you feel like things are a hot mess.

Even if you think things are out of control and that it’s an impossible task to get everything in order because things have developed to a state where you think scrapping everything and starting over is the only option.

It’s totally possible and not as hard as you might be thinking, to get your PTO’s crap together.

We’re going to talk about three different solutions to make it happen.

Stop Making It Up As You Go Along

The first thing you need to do to get your group into shape is to quit making it up as you go along.

Personally, I hate that, so I’ve turned into a planner. I always feel like I’m really out of control without a plan.

Because the times that I’ve not had a plan, I always look back and see that if I’d only taken some time to plan things out, things would’ve gone much smoother.

I can see how much less stressed I would have been… how others would have been more apt to jump in and help me if I’d had a plan and if I’d clearly communicated that plan.

Too often PTO leaders and volunteers are thrown into these situations where it’s kind of like “make it work,” but it doesn’t always happen.

It doesn’t always work out just fine because we’re not equipped with the tools and the resources that we need.

So solution number one is to get a plan. 

More on that in a bit.

Get Community Support

Next, don’t get overwhelmed thinking that you’re all alone in your journey as a PTO volunteer. 

Whatever issue you’re personally facing or is challenging your PTO right now is not the first time it’s ever popped up for someone.

Literally hundreds and thousands of volunteers have gone through very similar things that you’re going through now and will go through in your time as a volunteer and the problems are somewhat universal.

Sure, the issues are slightly tweaked and have varying levels of complexity, but at the core, they boil down similarly.

And that’s one of the reasons why coming together in community is so powerful.

It’s a great place to realize that you’re not alone, that easy solutions exists and that other people don’t have pretty magazine-worthy groups.

Every PTO has issues, all with lots of room for improvement.

But instead of taking that as a negative thing and thinking that there’s an overwhelming amount of changes to be made, look at it like, “Oh my gosh, what opportunities!”

And ideas, motivation and opportunities are in abundance in the Superstar PTO Leader Facebook Group, so if you haven’t already, join today!

Stop Brain Drain

The last thing I want to talk to you about, and this is a huge, huge problem, a huge problem for all groups, I think.

There’s probably this many that can help me fill up my pinky finger about how many groups actually do this the right way.

And that is combating brain drain.

How many of you in groups have a few volunteers that seem to know everything, but then other people are always like, “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know, go ask Nancy, go ask Stephanie.”

The vast majority of PTO groups are really bad at documenting what we know in a way that can be passed from officer to officer or volunteer to volunteer. 

What usually happens is that experienced volunteers move on from the group and they take all of that institutional knowledge and all of that experience they have with them. 

Because they didn’t have a way to document it all or no one thought to ask them.

And what ends up happening is that that information just moves right along with Nancy or Stephanie to the next school, and your school is now has a big hole to make up because Nancy or Stephanie isn’t there to answer those questions.

And so people have to come up, either they have to recreate the whole process or reinvent the process or just gain that knowledge again, and that takes time and that puts you all behind.

And this is one aspect of PTO life that is so frustrating.  Because it can take over your life.

So the solution is to have a system to capture all of this knowledge.  That’s what we’ll cover next.

Get Your PTO Organized (with Systems)

Finally, the keystone to getting your PTO’s crap together is to get organized and implement some systems to help maintain, if not improve upon any existing organization. 

This ultimate solution goes hand in hand with both not making it up as you go along and stopping brain drain.

Because it’s far better (and easier!) to just execute rather than figure out and execute at the same time.

The worst is when you’re trying to figure out what to do and then execute the plan at the same time. A friend calls that building the plane while flying in it.

Instead of doing anything so awkward, it’s far better to know what the plan is and what comes next and have an overarching plan to follow.

Listen, PTA and PTOs have been around for decades, so there are methods out there that others are using that are working, and there are ways to make the entire process of running a PTO dramatically easier.

But until now, few if any have turned it into systems into programs or templates that’ll work for all PTO / PTA groups.

I remember when I first started out as President as a 1st Grade parent.

I knew nothing about the school, and that was a really scary place to start to begin with and then was the fact that there weren’t very many processes or systems in place. 

A lot was left up to the individual volunteers, meaning there was as much structure as the individual volunteer chose to provide.

It was all a lot to handle, and honestly, I was on the edge of defeat

Having that overwhelming experience is really why I advocate for implementing systems whenever and where ever you can for your PTO. 

It’s going to save you so much time and hassle and make your group stronger and better in the process too.

So what types of systems does your PTA/PTO need?

Processes that lay out the process clearly.

A plan that save everyone time.

A design that cut down on time wasted emailing back and forth getting all of the details.

Let’s go over some specific examples of systems all PTO/PTAs should be implementing.

Systems for Treasurers

One role that particularly demonstrates the power of being organized and using clearly defined systems and processes, is the PTO Treasurer position. 

The Treasurer’s job responsibilities are really clear and are primed to be templated and systemized, making it easy for just about anyone to jump into the role and find success. 

For example, take the issue of chasing down receipts for purchases made with the PTO debit card.

This is a super common problem facing Treasurers since without a receipt you can’t be sure if the money was spent on a proper purchase or not. 

And this will cause a red flag to pop up during the annual audit and is a huge issue since all officers, particularly the Treasurer and President, are responsible for ensuring funds are properly spent.

So instead of the hassle, implement a reimbursement process where the reimbursement check isn’t handed over until the receipt is turned in with the reimbursement form, which has all of the details the Treasurer needs to properly record the expense in the PTO’s financial management program.

This is just one example of where having a system in place can save the Treasurer and PTO a ton of time and headache.

treasurer tools

The Treasurer’s Success Kit, has dozens of similar systems baked in, along with a printable binder kit designed to get the Treasurer organized in minutes. 

Systems for Fundraising Chairs

Fundraising Chairs also greatly benefit from having a system to streamline their responsibilities and help ensure a profitable outcome.

From the many times I’ve served as the Fundraising Chair, as well as the times I watched others in the role, I’ve come to realize that successful fundraising is directly tied to organization, communication and planning.

Not having a communication and publicity plan will ultimately spell trouble for any fundraiser.

Just like not having a strategy for what fundraiser you’re choosing in the first place impacts the outcome and profit level.

colorful resources for PTA PTO fundraising

Fundraising plans and strategies, plus a binder kit offering immediate order and organization, are all waiting for customization are waiting in the Fundraising Success Kit.

Systems for Membership and Parent Involvement

Another kind of system that’s essential for PTO / PTA groups is a framework for parent involvement and membership.

Just like fundraising, it’s not something you can let happen on it’s own. 

You really need to be actively cultivating to get parents to join and become involved.

If you’re approaching membership each year by just sending out one flyer and calling it a day, your membership numbers are probably much lower than they’d otherwise be.

What you need instead is a strategy for getting new members with everything timed, and planned to go out on schedule to maximize visibility, along with a plan for hosting membership tables so parents can learn more about your group and join. 

When you have a plan laid out like that, you can see opportunities to invite parents to get involved and make adjustments along the way to boost the changes for involvement

If you don’t have that overarching kind of plan ahead of time,  things will get missed and your volunteer pool will be small for the year.

colorful guides and template for PTO and PTAs on blue background

Enter the Parent Involvement Success Kit

This kit also has everything the Membership  and Parent Involvement Chairs need to be organized with a printable binder kit, and also comes packed with dozens of flyer and parent letter templates, ready to be customized for your exact group’s needs. 

Systems for Presidents

Of course, PTO/PTA Presidents need systems too!  As the primary leader of the group, others will look to the leader volunteer for guidance for how they should be handling themselves in their respective roles.

Beyond systems for running meetings more smoothly, and having a monthly to do list of what to do each month is so helpful so nothing is forgotten about.

Presidents have so much to be keeping track of, so it makes sense to track all the things in a binder system designed especially for their needs.

rainbow themed resources for PTA PTO Presidents

Tons of systems to keep Presidents running smoothly are found in the President’s Success Kit, but the systems are actually designed for the entire group, not just the President!

Presidents are mostly feeling the pain of disorganization and not having their group together, and that they need to have resources right at their fingertips to share with other volunteers to make everyone’s lives easier.

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

Systems for All

If you’re looking for systems for everyone in your group, then you’re already headed in the right direction, since all positions within your group really deserve resources to make their volunteer jobs easier!

And not only will the systems improve your group right now, but it’ll make your organization much more attractive for new parents to get involved going forward too.

Wouldn’t you much rather get involved with a group that is organized and already has some system in place rather than a group that’s disorganized and dysfunctional?  Not even a difficult choice!

Pretty much all the systems any PTO/PTA needs are available in the Success Kit for PTO/PTAs.  All of the previously mentioned Success Kits are bundled up along with dozens of other resources for every volunteer role in your group.

You’ll also find:

  • Tried and true guidance and advice
  • Timeless templates
  • Printable forms
  • Instant systems
  • Prompts to combat brain drain

All of this makes it easier to run your newly made over PTO and transitions for new volunteers easier too!

Learn more about the kit here.

Watch this!

4 Steps to Take Your PTO from Hot Mess to Organized and Flourishing: PTA President and Board Advice

Over to you!

Getting your crap together as a PTO doesn’t have to be hard when you follow the steps outlined in this post:

  1. Quit making things up as you go along.   Be intentional about having a plan and using it.
  2. Get some support.  Ideally in the Super Star PTO Leaders Group so you can have access to the ideas and experiences of thousands of volunteers and leaders just like you.
  3. Stop the brain drain by capturing the knowledge and experience of your volunteers.    Design a method to record this valuable information.
  4. Get some systems.  Make a plan or grab my plans in the form of the Success Kits and then start using them to get organized and together in a snap.

Hope this post has given you a good idea of what’s involved to get your group organized. 

And also the confidence to know that changing things quickly is possible, no matter your starting point.

Scroll to top