Running Your PTO or PTA: Helpful Online Resources to Get You Started
If you are just launching your PTO, PTSA, PTA or other school organization, you may be overwhelmed on where to start. You may also be new to the world of parent teacher groups and want some background information. There are a lot of resources out there so we wanted to compile a list of the most helpful ones.
Launching a New PTO, PTA, or PTSA
First, it is important to create your organization’s mission. Look at your school’s mission and think of how you can support that. Most parent teacher association statements include some variation of promoting children’s wellbeing, advocating for children, encouraging communication between parents and teachers, supporting children in your community and/or to provide resources to children in your school community. You can check out the National PTA’s mission here, as well as a few other samples here (public school PTO) and here (private school PTO).
Second, you should determine whether to incorporate your organization. There are several steps to do this and you can find a guide on how to do so here.
The key positions are President, Secretary and Treasurer as those positions are necessary to provide leadership, documentation, and manage finances. Most parent teacher organizations or associations also have other roles. There are several great resources on positions and what they entail via the National PTA, PTOToday Officer Descriptions, and PTO Answers.
Think of by-laws as the rules that govern how your organization operates. It creates a structure within which to make decisions including voting on leaders, managing finances, meetings, and membership. It is the backbone of any PTO or PTA and a critical document. By-laws in changed infrequently so they should be carefully thought through. You may also create policies that can be changed more frequently. For an explanation of how by-laws work and what they are, PTO Answers has a good description. If you’re ready to write your by-laws, you should check out this great guide from a Houston school district as well as some sample by-laws from PTOToday.
Membership: Types and How to Get Members
As part of your formation, you should determine the different tiers of membership you may have as well the fee and benefits for each. For example, will there be a teacher membership and how much will it cost? We have seen some schools that offer free teacher membership, others that ask parents to sponsor teacher memberships, and yet other schools who charge a nominal fee ($20) but provide benefits for joining (e.g. $25 of school supplies). You may also want to consider individual memberships, as well as business memberships. As far as benefits, typically PTA members receive discounts at local businesses for being a member. If you are part of the National PTA umbrella, there are membership perks offered at the National and State level. If you are not part of that umbrella, you can work with businesses in your community to form partnerships and offer discounts. There is a great overview of membership types provided by the California PTA.
Once you have your membership types, you have to advertise membership to your community. First District PTA has a great guide to marketing membership. Be sure to start with your school community by sending home flyers in backpacks, posting on social media, and sending an email. You should also consider a letter writing campaign to school neighbors (houses in the community) as well as local businesses. We have seen some organizations partner with local realtors that can promote memberships to their clients who are moving in to the area. You can check out ways to energize membership drives here.
We hope that these resources are helpful to you whether you are just starting, auditing to make sure you have the basics covered, or just want some background info on school groups. If you have some great resources to share, we would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org