Back in the 1990s, after I was a teacher and before I started PTO Today, I was a fundraising sales rep. Yup—I was one of those guys calling PTO and PTA leaders and stopping by your school and mailing you flyers.

Let me tell you, it was quite the glamorous job: Cold coffee at the back of morning and evening meetings. Folding myself daily into library chairs built for 10-year-olds. Making what I thought were critical sales presentations to my “prospects” while kids climbed on and clamored for their moms.

But through all of that I also gained, basically, a PhD in parent groups. I could tell by the tone, the habits, the activities, the meetings, and the communication materials of a group where that group fell on the spectrum, from struggling badly to thriving.

Reps have been to more PTO meetings than you can imagine; they’ve visited more PTO websites, read more minutes, exhibited at conferences—they’ve earned that same PhD I did, and they have a bunch of valuable insights. If only we as PTO and PTA leaders would take advantage of that know-how.

It’s honestly too bad (and a missed opportunity) that the fundraising rep is often held at arm’s length or distrusted. Maybe it’s from too many experiences with stereotypical car salesmen. And I’m certainly willing to admit that there are fundraising salespeople who earn distrust. But most often, I think our groups would do better to rely on the expertise of the sales rep when it comes to matters of fundraising.

If you take the time to find the right rep from a trustworthy company (check references, ask friends, etc.), you can then save time and energy by leaning on that trusted rep to help guide your fundraiser. We don’t hire a plumber and then have him wait in the hall while we decide how he should fix the pipes. But that’s what we tend to do with fundraising reps.

The funny thing is that unlike the car salesperson, and even unlike the plumber, the fundraising rep has incentives that are in line with yours. Whereas the car dealer makes more if he gets you to spend more, the fundraising rep makes more money if he can help you raise more money. There’s a nice alignment there.

Am I saying that you should outsource every fund-raising decision to your rep? No way. It’s not the sales rep’s job to know how far your school wants to go with integrating your fundraiser into the school day, for example. Whether you’re going to have a kickoff assembly and whether you want to go heavy on incentives are decisions that your group and your school community should make.

But once you’ve made those “school culture” decisions, share them with your representative and then work with her to make your sale as big a success as you can within those confines. Your rep can tell you how and why kickoffs work to raise more dollars, and if you do decide to have incentives, the rep can absolutely help you devise a plan that’s proven to drive profits (for both of you). Sales reps know from experience the marketing plans that work and those that don’t. Use them for that.

My advice in a nutshell is to spend more time finding the right company and representative who you can trust to do a good job for you, and spend less time trying to be professional fundraisers yourselves. And if you already have a great rep who’s treated you well, be loyal! In the end, you’ll raise more money and have more time (and money!) to focus on what the fundraising is all about in the first place: the kids, your school, and creating a great community.