Revised June 2015

A little bit of long-term organization can prevent a lot of headaches.

For instance, say you're appointed to chair the fall fundraiser. But the previous chairperson has moved away, and everybody else who worked on it in the past has gone on to a new school. Where do you start?

Or you're the newly elected treasurer. The previous treasurer gave you a stack of bills and the group's checkbook, but no instructions about how to handle reimbursements. The carnival chair is asking for a cash box so she can make change; how much should money should you give her, and in what denominations? And for that matter, what do you need to include in the monthly treasurer's report?

Questions like these would be much easier to answer if previous PTO leaders had simply documented the group's policies, processes, procedures, and practices. It's not hard to create decent procedures manuals, though it does take a little time and thought. The best approach is to create a separate three-ring binder for each major PTO officer or function. That might sound like a big job. The effort is worth it, however, to give your future members the most valuable tools in the PTO archives.

There are many important benefits that come from creating procedures manuals. First of all, the very act of documenting how your group operates will require your leaders to evaluate—and probably improve—the practices of your group. Creating a procedures book means that your PTO doesn't have to reinvent the wheel every time there's a leadership change. It also means all the hard work your leaders did and the knowledge you all gained will benefit the group after you're gone.

When policies are documented, parent group leaders can use logic and precedent to deal with tough situations. Rules can be applied consistently. Decisions can be made without the influence of emotion or personal relationships. A procedures book can also transmit the values and time-honored traditions that are important to your group. Well-crafted procedures books can spare your future members the frustration, anxiety, and inefficiency that come from being tossed into a new situation with no life raft.

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Getting Started

So how do you create a procedures book, and who gets one? First of all, each of your major leadership positions should have their own procedures book. There will be some overlap in the information, but each book will also contain information specific to that job title: president, secretary, treasurer, fundraising chair, volunteer coordinator, etc.

Your procedures books don't have to be fancy. They can be compiled in a simple loose-leaf, three-ring binder for ease in amending or copying the contents. As you build your procedures books, remember that these are different from the day-to-day files your officers need to do their jobs. The procedures books are reference books, to be read at the start of the job and then used when questions arise.

Start with a copy of your group's bylaws for each binder. Your bylaws are the foundation from which you grow the policies and procedures that help you carry out your mission. Everyone needs to understand the basic rules by which you govern yourselves.

Each binder should also include a robust description for that job. Even if you don't have all the other parts ready to be assembled right away, build a basic book for each function, and enhance the books over time.

NEXT PAGE: Information for Your Procedures Books