Parent-Teacher Organizations – A Staple Within Every School

While school expenditures are being trimmed thinner each year, Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTO) are becoming even more important within each school’s community. PTO’s are a lifeline when it comes to ensuring that the students have the supplies and enrichment programs that make for a more complete learning experience. To do this, fundraising is essential and PTO’s have found themselves working harder to balance such an important budget.

But PTO’s do much more than just raise funds to help pay for school supplies and equipment. They raise funds for things that do not fall within the realm of a typical classroom experience. The funds that are raised are returned to the teachers as teacher appreciation gifts and luncheons; they are returned to the students as field trips, enrichment programs, and graduation gifts to help them experience things outside of the classroom curriculum; and they help create a sense of community among school families through family fun events, ice cream socials, and school performances.

PTO’s have become a staple within every school system. Their fundraising efforts help alleviate added costs to parents and bring educational supplies and programs to students for little and, in most cases, no cost. The question for many PTO’s, however, is how do they raise the funds needed to support the school community and what are some of the ways to give these funds back?

This question should actually be answered in reverse. Every business should develop a budget and a PTO is no exception. Prior to the start of the school year, the PTO should make a list of the supplies and programs that they would like to provide to the students, teachers, and the school as a whole. Does the library need new books? What classroom supplies do the teachers need? How many field trip buses will need to be subsidized? What enrichment programs will be provided? The list must be in detail and must include costs.

Diversify what you plan to subsidize. In doing this, everyone will feel as though they’ve been satisfied in some way. Let’s assume the PTO offers a few science and art enrichment programs, purchases some new athletic equipment, and contributes to the cost of field trip buses, but fails to assist with the purchase of some well-needed classroom supplies. The teachers may feel as though they were overlooked and their participation in the PTO may drop off. Similarly, you don’t want parents to feel as though the majority of the PTO budget is going to supplies or not being evenly distributed to students at every grade level.

Remember, every member of the school community is important. They may not be a PTO member this year, but you still hope to recruit them next year. Analyze the needs of the school as a whole and then diversify. The principal or head of school is a great resource who generally has a hand in all of the happenings at the school and can help the PTO ensure that the needs of all are being met.

Once the PTO understands why they are fundraising and the anticipated expenses, they can then come up with a productive solution to raise the funds. This part of the equation is much more complicated, however. You must determine what types of fundraisers will help you achieve your fundraising goal and ensure they are implemented successfully. Do this by creating a list consisting of reliable fundraisers that have worked well in the past. Perhaps these include bake sales, book fairs, pie sales, etc. Do research as to how you can improve upon these old standbys by going online to sites like PTO Ideas where you can find out what other schools are doing and get some fresh ideas.

Also include on your list one or two new fundraisers to try out. Perhaps this year’s goal is to create a school website that runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and potentially earns money through affiliate marketing and advertising. Again, do some research to determine what is a good fit for your organization. For instance a barnyard square dance may be a great event in the country, but it would be difficult to find a barn in a downtown metropolitan area.

Live auctions are another example. An auction can be a enormous undertaking for someone that’s never planned one before. PTO Ideas explains exactly how to implement an auction and what’s needed to make the event successful. The site provides details on how to obtain sponsorships, advertise, what type of hall to reserve, how to develop and decorate around a theme, where to find an auctioneer, how much to charge for tickets, what printed material will be needed, what food and beverages to serve, how to display your auction items, how to incorporate a silent auction, a raffle, and gift baskets, over 50 auction item ideas that you can request from parents, teachers, students, and businesses, and more!

Other things to consider when choosing fundraising events are the needs and spending habits within your own community, where will you hold the event, who will attend the event, and do you need any up-front cash to host the event. Larger events like auctions and golf tournaments will require some cash on-hand during the planning stages to pay for supplies, advertising, caterers, and other items that are not sponsored donations.

Also, when will the event take place? Post a fundraising and event calendar. Evenly distribute fundraising events throughout the school year and ensure that there are no conflicting events taking place at the same time. Try not to overwhelm parents with fundraising requests. Choose a limited number of quality events and make them work for you. And remember, at larger events you can always offer products for sale that complement your fundraiser. For instance, advertise and sell tickets for an Appraisal Event, but then at the event offer beverages, lunch items, and raffle tickets for sale. Parents will feel less inundated with fundraising requests this way than if you sent out a separate flyer to purchase raffle tickets.

Finally, understand how you will implement the event. The answer to this actually stems from the PTO organizational chart itself. A PTO generally consists of board members (Presidents, VP, Secretary, Treasurer). Each of these board members is responsible for overseeing committees. A committee is formed for each fundraising event and consists of a board member, a designated committee chairperson, and a number of volunteer PTO members. The number of volunteers on each committee is based on the planning workload of the fundraising event. For instance, the Auction Committee may have twenty volunteers while the Yard Sale Committee may only require five.

Each committee chair should supply the implementation procedures to their volunteers. Print instructions from the PTO Ideas website or draw them up yourself; but tell them exactly what you’d like them to do and how to do it. Then remember to thank them for helping!

Parent-teacher organizations have become so important to schools across the United States. Research several types of fundraising programs, in-depth, to choose the ones that best suit your school and that best fill the needs of those to whom you’ll be marketing. It’s critical that fundraising organizations understand the needs and the spending habits within their own community and offer affordable programs. In turn, the community will feel as though they are able to help and happily support the school.