10 Helpful Tips to Keep Your PTA Transparent
It seems like every school year, there are a handful of stories about PTA leaders "mismanaging" funds in various ways. Some of these stories are as simple as improperly tracking purchases or deposits. Others are as egregious as PTA or PTO leaders stealing funds directly from the school group’s bank account. Fortunately, these stories are an outlier and should not take away from the amazing work done by the large number of PTA volunteers supporting their students, teachers, and schools.
How does someone not trained in finance make sure that they don’t inadvertently become a story! To help your school PTA/PTO, we have compiled a list of 10 helpful tips to keep your PTA funds and transactions transparent.
1. Keep accurate and detailed records of all transactions, whether big or small. As they commonly say in the military, "trust but verify." If a question of mismanagement ever arises, having details of every transaction will help clear up any questions. Keep copies of invoices, checks, ledgers, and receipts for up to 6 years. Check with your state PTA to see if they have any additional tracking requirements.
2. Require reimbursement forms for all out-of-pocket transactions, receipts from those purchases, and two leadership signatures for approval. Again, the name of the game is transparency and supporting documentation.
3. Deposit cash quickly. Immediately after an event, have two people count any monies received. Once the funds have been counted, have both members sign a form noting the amount. After, deposit the cash in the PTA's bank account immediately. If it's a weekend or holiday, secure the money in a locked safe and deposit the funds the following day. Don't forget to request a receipt for the deposit and add it to your ledger and accounting records.
4. Review bank statements at board meetings and have an internal audit every few months. Not only will reviewing the books keep everything on the up and up, but it may also reveal opportunities to better spend your money.
5. All in favor, say I. As a collective organization, purchases and expenditures should be voted on and approved by the board. If questioned about expenses in the future, it’s always easier to justify a payment if multiple board members agreed on the cost in the first place.
6. Minimize conflicts of interest. Some PTA leaders also offer local business services that the PTA may need. Limit use of those affiliated companies to instances where the full board votes on using that company (and the vote of the affiliated member should not count). For example, a PTA president who runs a marketing company shouldn't solely or directly approve funds to use his/her/their business services without full board approval. It's always better safe than sorry in cases where self-interest is involved.
7. Two PTA officers should sign all checks issued by the PTA. Also, it's important to note that these two people should not reside in the same household.
8. Avoid using ATM or debit cards. It's not only easy to lose track of funds coming out of the ATM but is also a pain when passing along account access to the incoming PTA leadership.
9. Avoid petty cash. It's hard to track, and almost everything can be purchased with a check or credit card.
10. Consider making your PTA budget and ledger available on your school or PTA website. While you may not have to share every bank statement and transaction on your PTA website, having easy access to account history is helpful for everyone involved.
Last but not least, if you suspect that there is theft taking place within your school PTA, contact your state PTA for recommendations on steps. If you are a PTO, raise it with the board and take action immediately. Hopefully these tips help your organization. If you want to hear more details about the above, check out our Multipurpose Room podcast episode on this topic. If you have other ideas, we would love to hear them. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.