Running Your PTO or PTA: Helpful Online Resources to Get You Started
Updated: May 26
You may be overwhelmed by where to start if you are launching your PTO, PTSA, PTA, or other school organization. You may also be new to 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 well-being, advocating for children, encouraging communication between parents and teachers, supporting children in your community, and/or providing resources to children in your school community. You can check out the National PTA’s mission here and 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, which 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 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 these 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 as 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 others that charge a nominal fee ($20) but provide benefits for joining (e.g., $25 for 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. Membership perks are offered at the National and State level if you are part of the National PTA umbrella. 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 must advertise membership to your community. First District PTA has a great guide to marketing membership. Start with your school community by sending home flyers in backpacks, posting on social media, and emailing. You should also consider a letter-writing campaign for school neighbors (houses in the community) and local businesses. We have seen some organizations partner with local realtors that can promote memberships to their clients who are moving into 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 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