Parent Teacher Groups allow parents to be involved and present in their school community and their children’s lives. A good organization can influence their school and create important change. However, what if there is not a PTO or PTA to join? Taking matters into your own hands may seem like a daunting task, but it is not an impossible one.
Speak With Like-Minded Parents
To start a group, you’ll need a group. Start talking to other parents and find a few that would also be interested in starting a Parent Teacher Group. Keep this number low and manageable in the beginning. Your group will grow in time, but first, you’ll want to get your footing. Gather your new “members” and have a small meeting about what you all hope this group will be able to accomplish for the school and the kids.
Create a Mission Statement
Let this conversation guide you to creating a mission statement together. Your mission statement should answer the question of why you’re forming this PTO or PTA. Your mission statement should also answer questions such as, “What problems are you hoping to work on,” “What sorts of opportunities are you trying to create,” and “How will your school benefit from your work?”
Here’s an example of a broad Parent Teacher Group mission statement: [Organization name] is an organization whose purpose is to enhance the educational and social environment of[School name]. Our goals are to complement our school curriculum with additional opportunities for parents, teachers, and students to learn, communicate, volunteer, and fundraise.
Write Down Your Ideas
Once your mission statement is complete you can start planning on how you will accomplish it. Document your big ideas for the organization. Begin listing activities and fundraisers your group wants to take on. Many people might assume fundraising is a parent organization’s sole purpose, but that is untrue. While fundraising should be one of your goals, hosting other activities to build up your school community and to get parents, teachers, and students excited about participating is equally as important.
Talk to the Principal
Once you have a rough draft of what you intend your PTO or PTA to do, speak with your principal. Your principal knows the school inside and out and may become an essential asset to your organization. Although your Parent Teacher Group has been created independently of the school, you’ll want to work with your principal and vice versa to ensure the best possible results.
Create Your PTO or PTA Bylaws
Bylaws provide your new school organization with structure. They should include policies, election methods, processes to amending bylaws, officer duties, committees, meeting schedules, and fund handling. Your new PTO/PTA bylaws must be officially adopted by your group with at least a 2/3 vote. Remember that as your association grows and new members join, you should be open to their suggestions so that you may properly represent your school.
Most state PTA’s have templates to help you find your start, but if you’re unsure where to start or how to write your bylaws, try Rocket Lawyer. Rocket Lawyer has a free “Nonprofit Bylaws” setup. Answer a few simple questions and you can have your bylaws written in less than 5 minutes.
Apply for an EIN
If your group plans on fundraising, you’ll need a bank account. To open an account for your PTO or PTA you will first need to acquire your EIN, or Employer Identification Number, from the IRS. You can find more information and the EIN application on the IRS website.
Applying for an EIN does not mean you will be recognized as a business, but an EIN will allow you to obtain a bank account for your organization, apply for permits, and apply for tax-exemption status when the time comes.
Think about AIM Insurance
It takes time to learn the ins and outs of running a PTO or PTA, and no one expects everything to be perfect the first time. However, an organization, new or old, will likely make mistakes from time to time. Especially in the early stages of your group, people are bound to have missteps; it’s a good idea to protect your directors, events, property and funds with insurance before accidents occur. No matter where you are in your journey, prepare for the unexpected and purchase insurance.
Elect your Officers
As your organization is forming, you’ll need a committee to nominate officials. Election guidelines should be clearly outlined in your PTO, PTA, or Booster Club bylaws. Any member of your organization should be allowed to be nominated and/or elected. Be sure to explain the duties this official will be obligated to adhere to if/when they are elected as an officer or committee chair.
The nominations can begin when the majority of the committee is present. You must treat all candidates fairly and make all decisions by ballot or majority vote. The nominee should be knowledgeable about the mission and purpose of your organization, ethical and fair, and be willing to put in the time that is necessary to succeed at this position.
If this is your first election, take notes on what worked and what you believe could have been done better. As a new PTO, PTA, or Booster Club, it may take time to find what works best for your group. Remember that officials are elected and never simply assigned.
While starting a PTA is incredibly similar to starting a PTO, PTA’s must take it a step further. To enjoy the benefits and perks of being part of a national association, your group will have to register with the state and national PTA. First you’ll need to contact your state’s PTA. With start-up assistance and guidance, PTA’s are happy to help a new chapter get started. As a PTA, you will be required to become a non-profit organization and carry insurance. Visit the PTA website for more information.
Start Your Recruitment
Congratulations! It is finally time to start actively recruiting other parents and teachers to your group. A good PTO or PTA will be representative of the school community; diversity is the easiest way to make sure the entire school’s voice is heard. The most important part of an organization is to always be open and welcoming so no one will ever feel as if they aren’t allowed to be present or heard.
AIM is here to help your organization succeed. Check out our other blogs for fundraising inspiration, tips, PTO, PTA, and Booster Club guidance, and more!