PTO Tips – Importance of Bylaws

Top PTO Tips from Mixed Bag Designs

When it comes to running or being part of a parent group, you’ve probably got your hands full without worrying about bylaws and paperwork. If your school PTO group does have bylaws, there’s a good chance they are stuck in a filing cabinet somewhere and left to collect dust. While some groups do have a set of bylaws, they are less than enthusiastic about them and don’t make use of them. Fortunately, bylaws can be a useful tool that evolve with your parent group. They keep help keep the integrity of the group intact when things get difficult. Since they are standard and impersonal, they can be a powerful decision making tool during dilemmas that remind everyone involved of the so-called guidelines. The good of the whole organization comes first and the group can be stronger as a whole. So, you want to know….how the heck can you use these mysterious bylaws in your school’s parent group?

Using Your Bylaws

The executive board should establish and go over the bylaws upon elections, and every member should get a copy and be able to understand what is in the document. It should include job descriptions for members and officers, and should contain a mission statement. Financial policies may need to be written out so that there is a reference for compliance throughout the year as school fundraisers begin. Keep hard copies in your master files and in each office binder so that if the time comes, they can be used. You might want to post them electronically as well.

Ideally, bylaws should be evaluated each school year to ensure they reflect the dynamic nature of the group and reflect how your parent group conducts business. If your group is a large part of the school’s success, you might consider having a bylaws review committee to assess the document every few years and decide whether it needs any changes.

Key Sections and Language

PTO bylaws are somewhat standard and have some basics that every group should consider having. There should be a section dedicated to explaining the purpose of the PTO group that includes a mission statement to guide the activities of the organization. For example, many PTO groups like to write their purpose statement based on the IRS’s definition of public charity according to the federal tax code. This can be important because the IRS recognizes charitable or educational nonprofit groups as candidates for tax-exempt status. Maybe your group focuses on enhancing the education at the school, or maybe the main focus is to bring financial resources to the school and run school fundraisers. There should be a “policies” section to document who has authority in certain scenarios. Address membership and various officer privileges and responsibilities.

Do Your Cover These Topics?

  • Meeting frequency
  • Procedures if the group is dissolved
  • Filling vacant office positions, term limits
  • Nomination and election procedures
  • Budget cut policy

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