Parent-teacher groups (PTAs, PTOs, Booster Clubs) allow invested parents – like you – to be more involved in your school’s community and your child’s life. A good organization can positively influence your school, create important changes in the way it teaches students and the quality of your child’s education. However, what if your child’s school doesn’t have a PTO or PTA? Or what if your child’s sports group, band, or choir doesn’t have a booster group? Taking the initiative to create a needed parent-teacher group for your school may seem like a daunting task. But trust us, we work with tens of thousands of groups, it’s not impossible. Here’s how to start a PTA, PTO, or Booster Club at your school.
What’s the Difference Between a PTA, PTO, and Booster Club?
The differences between a PTA and a PTO are (pardon the pun) elementary. If your school has a PTA, it is part of the National PTA, a formal, nationwide membership organization with a 120-year history of working for the needs of American students.
If your group is a PTA, it must pay dues to its affiliate state and national organizations and abide by their rules. In return, PTAs receive support, resources, and member benefits from the state and national groups; and have a voice in their operation. The National PTA maintains a Washington, D.C., office where it pursues a public policy agenda and helps lobby for improvements to our education system. Additionally, many states have PTA groups that do similar work at their respective state capitals. Only dues-paying members of the organizations can call themselves a PTA.
Groups that call themselves PTOs don’t belong to a larger state or national organization. Instead, these independent groups work alone to improve single-school or district-level education, and each operates under its own, self-created bylaws.
PTA and PTO groups work at the district or school level. In contrast, booster clubs hyper-focus their support on an associated club, athletics team, or art curriculum by raising funds and coordinating events. While a school typically only has one PTA or PTO, it may have many booster clubs. Sometimes these booster clubs join forces on larger, mutual benefit projects, like athletic facility improvements.
Speak With Like-Minded Parents
To start one of these groups, you’ll need to gather some parents who are just as invested as you. See if they’d be interested in working together. In the beginning, you should try to keep your group’s membership low and manageable. While your group will grow in time, you’ll want to get your footing at first with a core group. Start by having a small meeting about your new parent-teacher group’s goals and what you hope to accomplish for the school and your children.
Create a Mission Statement
Work together to create a mission statement, which should answer the question of why you’re forming a PTA, PTO, or Booster Club. Your mission statement should also answer questions such as, “What problems do you want to resolve?”, “What sort of opportunities are you trying to create?” and “How will the school and students benefit from your work?”
Here’s an example of a broad Parent-teacher Group mission statement: [Organization name] is an organization to enhance [school name] ’s educational and social environment. Our goal is to complement our school’s curriculum with additional opportunities for parents, teachers, and students to learn, communicate, volunteer, and raise funds to enhance the school’s education capabilities.
Write Down Your Ideas
Once your mission statement is complete, you can start planning how you will accomplish it. Start by documenting your big ideas for the organization and listing activities and fundraisers your group wants to undertake. Some people assume that fundraising is a parent organization’s sole purpose, but that’s untrue. While fundraising should be one of your goals, hosting activities to build your school community and get parents, teachers, and students excited about education involvement is equally as important.
Speak with the Principal
Once you have a rough draft of what you intend for your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club to do, speak with your school’s principal. The principal knows the school inside and out and is essential to your organization’s success. Although your parent-teacher group exists independent of the school, you’ll want to work with leaders like the principal and faculty to ensure the best possible results.
Create Your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club Bylaws
Bylaws provide your new parent-teacher organization structure. Your bylaws should include policies, election methods, processes to amending bylaws, officer duties, standing committees, meeting schedules, and fund handling. Your group should officially adopt new bylaws with at least a two-thirds vote.
Remember that as your association grows and new members join, you should be open to their suggestions on how to amend the bylaws for the better so you may effectively support your school. Most state PTAs have templates to help you start, but if you’re unsure where to start or how to write your bylaws, check our AIM blog on “How to Revise Your PTA/PTO Bylaws.”
Apply for an Employer Identification Number
If your group plans on fundraising, you’ll need a bank account. To open an account for your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club organization, you will need to acquire an 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 your parent-teacher group 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. You want to avoid tying your group’s funds to a member’s personal bank account at all costs.
Elect your Officers
After forming your new parent-teacher, you’ll need a committee to nominate officers. Your PTA/PTO/Booster Club bylaws should clearly outline your election guidelines. Any member should be allowed the opportunity to be nominated and elected as an officer of your group. Be sure to explain the duties this officer will be obligated to adhere to once elected as an officer or standing committee chair.
Candidate nominations should not start until your meeting has reached its quorum. You must treat all candidates fairly and make all decisions by ballot or majority vote. Each nominee should be knowledgeable about the mission and purpose of your organization and possess the highest degrees of ethics and fairness. They should also be aware of the time and effort necessary to succeed in their position.
If this is your first election, take notes on what worked and what you believe could have been better. As a new PTA, PTO, or Booster Club, finding what works best for your group may take time. Remember that your parent-teacher group officials should always be elected fairly and openly and never assigned.
Enrolling Your PTA
While starting a PTA is incredibly similar to starting any other type of parent-teacher group, PTAs must take it a step further. To enjoy the benefits and perks of being a PTA, your group must register with your state and the national PTA organizations.
First, you’ll need to contact your state’s PTA, who will be happy to offer start-up assistance and guidance to get your new chapter started.
Keep in mind that your group will probably be required to become a non-profit organization and carry insurance as a PTA member, depending on your state. Luckily, AIM has created an affordable insurance program specifically tailored to the needs of PTAs, protecting your group from the potentially catastrophic financial losses that can result from claims related to the events organized by your PTA. To get a quote in just minutes, visit the AIM PTA page.
Protecting Your PTO
When your PTO puts on fundraising events, you may not think about insurance – but you should. It’s vital you, and your group are protected against the potential risks associated with your events. That’s why AIM offers an insurance program focused on the specific needs of PTO groups like yours.
As an independent group, your events and fundraisers need to be covered against general liability and accident medical coverage in case of injury. In addition to liability, your property and funds may need protection against theft, embezzlement, or destruction. And finally, consider safeguarding your group’s members from legal action with directors and officers coverage. This coverage helps protect your group and its members against legal action resulting from something you might say or decisions you make.
To learn more, visit the AIM PTO page.
Start Your Recruitment
After all of that hard work, it’s finally time to start actively recruiting other parents and teachers to your group.
Your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club must be representative of the school community. Achieving a group demographic that reflects the diversity of your school is the easiest way to make sure the entire school’s voice is heard. The most important part of any successful organization is to be inclusive. Always be open and welcoming so that all students, parents, and guardians feel seen and heard.
AIM Insurance is Ready to Help
It takes time to learn the ins and outs of running a PTA, PTO, or Booster Club, and no one expects everything to be perfect to start. Every organization, new and old, makes missteps from time to time.
The early stages of your group are when you’re more likely to stumble. 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 parent-teacher group journey, purchasing insurance will help you prepare for the unexpected.
Need more PTA, PTO, or Booster Club help? AIM has plenty of resources to help your organization succeed. Check out these blogs for more tips and guidance:
Revitalize your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club Membership: 3 Tips to Gain New Members Easily: Want to quickly add new members to your group? Here are three simple ways to find quality candidates to revitalize your organization.
Upcoming School Year Prep & To-Dos for Parent-Teacher Groups: As you’re prepping the initial goals and bylaws of your group, this article will help you to establish a plan, build your membership base, and create success all year long.
How to Up Your PTA, PTO, or Booster Club’s Social Media Game: Social media plays an increasingly important role for parent-teacher groups. If your group isn’t using social media to its best so far, it’s time to up your social media game with these tips.
AIM is here to help your organization succeed. We are the national leader and the largest writer of PTAs, PTOs, and Booster Clubs, currently insuring more than 22,000 parent-teacher groups across all 50 states. To see how we can help your group, click here.