pto budget tips

The Easier Way to Create a PTO Budget

The thought of figuring out how to make a budget for a PTO can be super intimidating.

It’s such a big responsibility, after all and money talk can be uncomfortable in and of itself!

Fear not, today’s post is going to walk you through the entire process of putting a PTO budget together!

With the tips included in this post, you’ll have all you need to map out a budget that’ll work for your PTO in no time!

And I’ll show you an easier way to set up a PTO budget!

In fact, an alternative title for this post could be What You Really Need to Know About Setting Up a PTO Budget!

And here’s why…

The main reason why creating a PTO budget can be overwhelming or intimidating is because you’ve not done it before and you’re probably afraid of missing something big.

Let me ease your mind by saying that creating a budget isn’t a huge thing!

Yes, it has to be done, but in reality, it is merely a jumping off point and can be updated or changed at any point in the future.

So let that ease the stress and overwhelm a bit.

Nothing’s being etched in stone.

A budget is a spreadsheet that can be easily updated, as your group needs.

What a Budget Isn’t

Let me start off with a super important misconception about PTO budgets.

Your PTO Budget is not a static document that can never change.

Now hear me loud and clear on this point!

That why I’ve bolded it to get your attention.

On the contrary, it should be a living, breathing document that changes to suit the needs of the PTO.

Similarly, the PTO Budget isn’t a pipe dream.

In fact, it’s just the opposite.

As much as possible, you need to base your budget on what the actual numbers will be.

The PTO officers should be taking a look at the budget a few times throughout the year to see where things stand, and making adjustments as needed.

For example, this year we rocked out fundraising at one school so we were able to bump up budgeted amount for staff appreciation and for the end of the year celebrations the school has planned.

But last year, our fundraising at another school absolutely tanked, so we had to make cuts across the board.

As with your personal finances, the PTO budget needs to be revisited and re-evaluated after the budget is first approved because things will inevitably change.

Inflation might cause a price spike or a fundraiser could go gangbusters and your PTO is now flush with cash.

Ok, so what IS a budget then?

A PTO Budget is no special unicorn.

Just like your household budget, which ebbs and flows with the reality of bonuses from work or unexpected car repair bills, the PTO budget is a working estimate of the monetary ins and outs for your group.

Without a budget, you could very easily find that come the end of the school year, your plans have to abruptly change because there’s simply no money in the bank account to fund events that were previously scheduled.

That would be a huge bummer and feel like a failure to everyone involved, so don’t make that mistake!

So sticking to the budget is necessary.

Another benefit to having a PTO budget is that it gets all leaders and volunteers on the same page.

Everyone knows what expected.

When Becky goes to get dance decorations and food for the Daddy Daughter Dance, she’ll know that there’s only $500 allocated for the dance, so she can’t spend more than that.

Similarly, Steph knows as Fundraising Chair that her goal is to earn $4,500 from the Concessions Stand this year, so she needs to meet or beat that number.

It’s all made clear by the budget!

A PTO Budget should reflect the priorities of your PTO

Your PTO budget is an absolute mirror reflection of your PTO goals and priorities.

For example, if your PTO plans to add an addition to the school playground, then you’ll probably want to decrease spending for programs and events while increasing savings until that goal is met.

How much you attribute for one category or another depends on where your focus should be as a group.

And that may change from year to year…

A few parents may feel really passionate about starting a school garden, for example.

To get the garden started will require more money than to maintain it, so your budget will need to account for that.

And similarly, once the garden is up and running, it won’t take as much money to sustain it, so your PTO budget will reflect that change too.

Who Should Make the Budget?

Ideally, the President and Treasurer should sit down together and map out the budget.

If the Principal wishes to be involved, invite her into the process as well since she’ll have insight into upcoming needs and possible programs to be funded.

Before the budget meeting, talk with the outgoing President and Treasurer to get an idea of any budget changes that should be made.

They’ll have a good idea of where things were tight or loose, money-wise.

And they’ll be able to give you information ahead of time so that you can make the adjustments at the onset of the budgeting process, and hopefully avoid having to make major changes during the school year.

Creating a Proposed Budget

The most important thing to know about making a budget is that your income and expenses should net out with money left to roll over into the new school year.

So let’s start there!

Estimate Income

There’s two ways to create a budget- starting either with the expenses or the income.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s start with taking a look at how to estimate your income when putting together an annual PTO budget.

Open up the Categories sheet inside the Treasurer’s Finance Manager and begin filling in information.

Add the names of the fundraisers and other income sources you anticipate having in the upcoming year.

Make sure to include every income source you have, including school grants, community grants, passive income fundraisers and major fundraisers as well.

Consider whether there were any special circumstances with the income source.

Was it is one time grant?

Don’t include it in the upcoming year’s forecasted income.

Was this the fourth time offering the same fundraiser and the amount raised each year has decreased?

Adjust your expected income amount and enter accordingly in the Budget Tracking sheet.

Using the income earned from the past few years, fill in an amount for each income source listed.

When in doubt, estimate low.

With that all filled in, you now have a ballpark figure for income goal for your PTO.

Now comes the fun part- figuring out how you’ll spend it!

Enter Expenses

Similar to how you estimated income, take a look at the last few year’s of information on what things actually cost.

A lot of times, you’ll be able to get a really good idea of what things will cost in the near future, just looking at this information.

If you’re starting up a new program, and don’t have an idea about the true cost, have the officer or committee chair do some research and report back.

Costs to put on an event should never be determined in a vacuum because that’s just not reality.

Make some calls to vendors like DJs or the local ice cream truck, or hop online and check prices for things you think you’d use for different family event programs.

Get actual prices so you’re not planning in a vacuum.

Then take this real world information, and head to the In the Category worksheet in the Treasurer’s Finance Manager, and tally up everything you’ll spend money on.

For fundraisers, don’t forget to include fundraiser expenses since it takes money to make money.

Yes, they will be offset by the income, but it’s necessary to track to get a true financial picture.

Do Some Math

Once the Income and Expenses have been filled in, take a look at your overall numbers.

Are you spending what you want to spend in different areas?

For example, if your goal for the year is to get more parent involvement, is $250 for family programming really enough?

Also, do you income and expenses at least net out to a surplus, even a small one?

Ideally, you’ll want to leave some money as start up cash for the next school year too.

If you run the account down to zero, it’ll be putting next year’s officer’s into a super uncomfortable spot since they won’t be able to do anything until a fundraiser is held and the proceeds come in.

And that’s not a fun way to begin the school year!

Plus remember that going into the negative for your PTO bank account isn’t a possibility.

Leave some breathing room!

Many groups list out a certain number to be rolled over each year to ensure the new school year isn’t held hostage by the decisions of the previous year in their Bylaws and Standing Rules.

Put it to a Vote

Now that you have a proposed budget, you’ll want to present it for a vote at your next PTO meeting, after you’ve circulated it to officers and committee chairs and incorporated their feedback.

It’s easy to overlook a new program or include an unnecessary expense, so extra eyes can be helpful in spotting those oversights.

Once it’s approved, everyone will know the expectations and spending limits for their position and committee!

Pro Budget Tip:

Add into your Bylaws and Standing Rules where appropriate that spending overages 10% or less are automatically approved.

This’ll save the headache of having to vote to make budget adjustments throughout the year for a common overage due to rising prices of goods and services.

Just make sure your budgeted income amount exceeds your budgeted expenses by more than 10% for this trick to work!

A Special Note for PTOs Just Starting Up

If you’re just starting a PTO and you think you have absolutely no information to work with, fear not.

You’re not actually starting with nothing.

Here’s what to do:

Ask your Principal for fundraisers that the school has done before.

Familiarize yourself with the type of fundraiser and the amount of money typically earned, along with associated expenses.

That way you’ll have a ballpark idea of what’s possible when first starting out.

If this information is not available, then you’re going to have to guess estimate or ask other PTOs for their experience.

And with that in mind, you should be aim to be conservative with your estimates of income and generous with your estimates of expenses.

In all of my experience, I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to earn more than you think is possible from a fundraiser than it is to come under budget for an event!

Groups that are brand stinking new should consider having a fundraiser early in the school year and then put together a budget for the rest of the year after the net income after fundraiser expenses comes are received.

This will eliminate pure guessing and will mean that the budget is based on reality.

Plus it avoids the double work of having to make adjustments in every category based on the fundraising results.

Until the fundraising proceeds come in, your PTO will have to be creative with putting on low cost events!

Watch this!

For a video walk through of setting up a budget, give this video a watch:

Creating a Budget with the Treasurer's Finance Manager for PTO PTA Financial Management Accounting

Over to you!

In conclusion, creating a budget for your PTO can be done quickly and easily using the Treasurer’s Finance Manager.

With real world costs and anticipated income in hand, you’ll be able to pull together a money plan for your PTO in no time!

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