How to Start a PTA/PTO in Your School | A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Start a PTA/PTO in Your School | A Step-by-Step Guide

how to start a PTA

PTA or PTO stands for Parent-Teacher Association or Parent Teacher Organization. These groups form to incorporate parents into the school and community. Members of a PTO or PTA are parents of students in a school.

Parents’ involvement in these groups gives them the chance to play a significant role in their children’s education. It also allows schools to alleviate some of the stress that comes with running a school. Generally, PTAs and PTOs develop goals to provide scholarships or educational experiences for their children. But these goals require management and fundraising skills.

This article will give a step-by-step process on how to start a PTO or PTA.


13 Steps to Starting a PTA or PTO in Your School

how to start a PTA

Starting a PTO or PTA benefits parents, students, and the school. Parents who have a stronger impact on their children’s education offer more chances for kids to succeed. PTOs and PTAs must follow specific steps to legally start a group and run it successfully.

  1. Speak with Other Parents
  2. Create a Mission and Vision statement
  3. Write a List of Plans and Goals
  4. Talk to the Principal
  5. Elect Officers
  6. Incorporate with Your State
  7. Apply for an EIN
  8. Create your Group’s Bylaws
  9. Apply for 501c3 Status
  10. Register with the National PTA
  11. Develop PTO/PTA Committees
  12. Recruit More Members
  13. Fundraise for PTA Projects

1. Speak with Other Parents

how to start a PTA in your school

From the beginning, it is essential to speak with other parents about your goal to start a PTA/PTO. Groups of parents that are on the same page and have equal passions to create a PTA or PTO ensure the group’s success.

It is best to start a PTA/PTO with only a few parents at first. This allows each member to play a significant role and further connect to the group and its goals. When you have found a small group of passionate individuals, you are ready to move on to creating a mission and vision for your group.


2. Create a Mission and Vision Statement

The purpose of your PTA or PTO must be included in official documents with the state and federal government. When creating a mission and vision statement for your group, you define the purpose and create a path for the group to follow.

It is best to ask a few members to come together and determine how to lay out the mission. Once a smaller group has decided on the statement, you can take it to the entire membership to vote on its acceptance.

After the mission and vision have been finalized, your group should include the mission on all fundraising and marketing pieces sent out to the public. By sharing your mission with the community, you have a better chance of encouraging participation in your activities and increasing membership in your group. For example, Northwinds PTO includes its mission statement on the online fundraising page.

Starting a PTO


3. Write a List of Plans and Goals

You have spent time creating a mission and vision and have determined the statement you can share with the world. Now what? Now you can write a list of ideas and goals for your group. How will your PTA help students, parents, and the school? This is the step where the mission becomes a path to follow to make it a reality.

As you create your list of plans and goals, remember to focus on how each step will encourage parental involvement and help you achieve your mission.


4. Talk to the Principal

You are ready to meet with the school’s principal. Detailed plans and goals will offer you more information to share with the school and a list of ways you can help the school. Think of your PTA as a partner with the school. When meeting the principal, you should lay out how your group will help the school further its own purpose. By starting on the right foot, you can ensure each member of the partnership is on the same page.


5. Elect Officers

how to start a PTA in your school

During your first official meeting, your group must elect officers and form committees. When electing your group’s officers, you must be aware of your state’s nonprofit requirements. All states have different requirements for the number and titles of an organization’s officers.

Most PTO’s will have a Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer. These members will oversee your group’s activities. Others can remain general members.


6. Incorporate with Your State

PTAs and PTOs can qualify as nonprofit organizations and gain tax-exempt status. This allows them to raise funds from their supporters. To begin the process of filing for this status, your group must follow the rule of your state. As we mentioned earlier, the state will determine the limit of how many officers and their roles, along with the paperwork your organization must file. When filing the Articles of Incorporation with your state, you will need:

  • PTA/PTO’s name
  • address
  • registered agent
  • officers’ names and titles
  • purpose or mission.

7. Apply for an EIN

After filing with the state, your PTA or PTO must register for an Employer Identification Number. An EIN is essential for all organizations to file for tax-exempt status. To apply for this number, you must fill out Form SS-4.


8. Create Your Group’s Bylaws

Starting a PTO

Before applying for 501c3 status, your PTA/PTO must create your group’s bylaws. Bylaws are official documents and policies for your organization and address board and membership structures. When writing your bylaws, you must include:

  • Purpose and mission of your PTA/PTO
  • The election process of the board
  • Board quorum and duties
  • Board meeting and report requirements
  • Membership structure, dues, and responsibilities
  • Role and responsibility of the Chairperson
  • Conflict of Interest policy
  • Amendment of bylaws
  • Dissolution of your PTO/PTA

9. Apply for 501c3 Status

This status means donors’ and members’ gifts are tax-free. Most individuals and corporations will only give to PTAs and PTOs with 501c3 status.

To gain this status, your group must fill out and return Form 1023 or Form 1023EZ. The cost of filing Form 1023EZ is $275 and should take less than a month to receive a letter of determination. Form 1023 costs $600 and will take three to six months.


10. Register with the National PTA

One benefit to starting a PTO or PTA is that you are part of a larger society. Once you have officially registered with your state and gained tax-exempt status with the IRS, you can join your state’s PTA. Visit the PTA website for more information on different PTA types and the rules and regulations all groups must follow.


11. Develop PTO/PTA Committees

The Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer are not the only leaders in your PTA/PTO. As you find more members and develop ways to fulfill your mission, you should create committees to take charge of each program. The following committees can help your group reach its goals:

  • Fundraising and Finance
  • Community Affairs
  • Hospitality and Staff Communication
  • Membership Recruitment
  • Programs and Scholarships
  • Administrative Committees
  • Health and Environmental

12. Recruit More Members

how to start a parent-teacher association

The more parents involved in your PTO or PTA, the better chance you have of making a difference in your child’s school. Parental involvement can determine the effectiveness of the school and the future of your children.

There are several ways to gain more involvement in your organization.

  • Include parental recruitment in your PTO’s plans
  • Share how the PTA benefits children and families
  • Educate potential members on committee options
  • Develop family involvement events to educate other parents
  • Make it easy to volunteer
  • Create a pathway to leadership

13. Fundraise for PTA Projects

Every PTA/PTO needs money to get started. Only PTAs pay national dues, but dues are not the only costs organizations will encounter. PTAs and PTOs will often develop programs and scholarships to fulfill their mission.

There are several ways groups can raise the necessary funds for these projects.


13.1 Ask the school for help

When forming your PTO/PTA, there will be initial costs. Some of these can be alleviated by asking the school for help initially. In some cases, school budgets may include this option.


13.2 Setup membership fees

Many PTA/PTOs charge membership fees. Some may be concerned that it could limit interest, but when parents know the perks and benefits of being a member, they happen to show more interest. Plus, PTO and PTAs will be creating a sense of community by creating membership programs for their organizations. It also ensures a steady flow of income.

Check out this simple online PTO membership page for New Albany High School PTO.

how to start a PTA


13.3 Create an online donation page

Giving people an easy way to donate will increase the amount you collect. When creating an online donation page, you should add different amounts and how each amount can help students and parents. For example, the below online donation page is created by Peck Slip PTA for their Bridge the Gap fundraising campaign.

how to start a PTA


13.4 Hold events

Events have dual purposes of raising funds and introducing your PTA/PTO to the community. Ensure all events your group holds include both goals. Events do not have to be galas or other in-person events. With the inclusion of online fundraising, events and sales can be entirely done online. The below PTO held a jog-a-thon event and used this simple donation page to raise donations for the school, teachers, and its students.

how to start a PTA


Final Thoughts

how to start a parent-teacher association

PTA/PTOs are an excellent way for parents and families to involve themselves in their children’s education and future. After registering with the state and IRS, your PTA/PTO can form committees, projects, and fundraising events that work best for your community.

Fundraising for PTAs and PTOs can feel overwhelming for parents with no experience, but Donorbox can help your organization with ideas, along with tips and resources to make the process easier. Check out our nonprofit blog and subscribe to the newsletter for that.

As your fundraising committee works to find ways to raise money, visit our website to learn more about Donorbox, its features, and the advanced fundraising tools we provide to fuel your efforts.

Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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