What Can PTO Funds Be Used For?

Have some money burning a hole in your PTO pocket that you’d like to spend?

But you’ve heard that there are some big no-nos about what your groups can pay for in terms of keeping your 501c3 non-profit status?

This post is going to give you clarity on this topic and you’ll walk away knowing what you should (and should not be) laying out funds for!

Items highlighted in this post are a general, non-inclusive, guide.

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Items Your PTO Should Fund

PTO Operations

There are many things that are needed to run the PTO, and they’re at the top of the okay to pay for list:

It’s even ok to cover the cost of printer ink if an officer (think: PTO President) is making a lot of copies at home.

Reimbursement for one black cartridge is sufficient, even if the printing’s being done in color as well.

Sometimes volunteers may have access to a stash of supplies to save the PTO from needing to pay for items.

If not, it’s ok for the PTO to cover these types of costs.

Membership dues (if you’re a PTA) also falls under an operational need since you’d lose your unit membership in the PTA if you didn’t remit dues to the Council and State PTAs.

Leadership Development and Conferences

Your PTO should feel comfortable paying for leadership training for volunteers, especially since the materials can be shared with other volunteers.

Likewise, paying for PTO volunteers to attend leadership training get the green light.

It’s also ok for the PTO to send interested volunteers and staff to the State or National PTA Convention.

And it’s okay to pay for related registration, parking, travel, meals and lodging.

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Student / Family Events and Programs

Anything for the benefit of students and families pretty much goes!

Freely fund events like:

School / Family Enrichment Programs

Bring in a traveling planetarium, museum or dance troupe to expose students to something new to enhance students’ education.

Or subsidize a school field trip or transportation to make the program happen.

Costs for parent education programs on topics relating to parenting or education (bullying, social media safety, testing updates, and more) are also ok to pay.

Family Nights

Costs for supplies, rental of equipment, performer fees, etc. for events and programs for family involvement and participation can be covered with no problem.

Meetings

Paying for the honorarium of a speaker at a PTO meeting is a legitimate use of PTO funds, as is providing refreshments for meetings.

Fundraisers

It takes money to raise money, so don’t hesitate to lay out some money to make it happen!

Need additional help learning how to run an effective fundraiser?

That’s ok to pay for too!

Costs Associated with Getting or Retaining Members

Designing, printing and shipping of PTO promotional materials, fliers is an acceptable PTO expense.

So are cookies to draw parents over to the membership table!

Legislative Activities

Participating in and supporting Local, State, and National PTA-related legislative activity. is encourage and funds may be used.

Also okay is to pay for for volunteers to attend meetings, hearings and conferences on the topic of:

  • School budget and funding changes (levies);
  • Health / welfare of children and youth;
  • State and federal levels, legislation dealing with health and/or welfare of children and youth; and
  • Legislation changes on the local, state and federal level dealing with education, among others.

Any legislative activity associated fee, transportation cost, parking fees, and meals is okay to pay with PTO funds.

Memorials

Memorializing students, staff, teachers, administrators and volunteers by planting of trees, shrubs, or perennial flower beds, establishing a buddy bench, etc., is something your PTO should not be afraid to pay for.

Teacher and Volunteer Appreciation and Awards

Don’t worry about costs relating to recognizing deserving students, teachers, parents, volunteers, school administrators and staff or members of of the community.

Costs associated with the giving a physical award, such as the frame, certificates, pins, etc. are fine to pay for with PTO money.

Same with decorations, food and beverages to put on a lovely appreciation event for staff and PTO volunteers.

Student Scholarships

Providing monetary scholarships for graduating students who have ties to the school is a fabulous use of PTO funds!

Zip Up the PTO Wallet for…

There are quite a few things your PTO should not pay for, ever.

And the reason is this: PTOs are not a support organization for the school where PTO meetings are held.

PTO and PTAs exist for the betterment of students and families.

There are many things that fall squarely under the purview of the school, such as:

Teacher and Staff Salaries or Continuing Education

Did the school district cut Art in an effort to balance the budget?

Parents might be upset, but the place of the PTO isn’t to step up when the school can’t.

A better response form the PTO would be to advocate for the reinstatement of the Art program, then plan special Art nights to give students exposure to art until that happens.

Likewise, the PTO should not be paying for programs to educate the educators.

That’s simply not the place of the PTO.

Training funding needs to come from the school, with no help from the PTO.

Basic School, Maintenance, and Office Supplies

The very basic items required for the students and school (think in terms of books, smart boards, computers, janitorial supplies and copiers) are the responsibility of the school and aren’t items that PTOs should pay for.

Donations to Other Associations

Your tax exempt non-profit status is at risk with any donation to non-charitable organizations, no matter how worthy the cause.

Don’t do it!

Over to you!

Is there something else you’re not quite sure is kosher for your PTO to pay for?

Let’s chat about it in the comments!

More Financial Organizing Resources

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Posted in Finances and Money Management, PTO Officers and Leaders.