Finance & Budget Archive

Your group can't do its great work without strong financial policies and a sound budget. Whether you're the PTO or PTA treasurer or a member concerned about protecting funds, you'll find tons of ideas and help on money management in the articles below. Yes, we even cover PTO and PTA embezzlement. Find more helpful tools and info on the Finance & Budget resources page.

  • Email Scam Targets PTOs and PTAs

    What you need to know to protect your parent group from a phishing scam targeting volunteer organizations.
  • Forms To Manage Your Group's Cash Flow

  • Get Your Financial House in Order

    Implementing financial controls is a key organizational step. These practices will help your group track income and expenses and keep your assets safe. 
  • Create a PTO Budget

    An important part of the planning process is to create a budget. Here are the nuts and bolts of setting up a good parent group budget.
  • Insurance Checklist for New PTO Leaders

    Lots of PTO leaders reach out to us with questions about insurance. It’s not uncommon for people (especially newer leaders) to get overloaded when it comes to insurance. They aren’t sure whether their group already has it or why they’d even need it.  So we’d like to make it a little less complicated for you with this quick checklist for new leaders:  1. Start with the assumption that your group really should have insurance. (And we aren’t saying this just because we offer it.) You want to go through the school year without worrying that one mishap, bad decision, or injury could cost your group money or land it in a lawsuit. 2. Find out what’s up with your school district. It may require that parent groups have insurance. It may also provide some amount of insurance. You may need to purchase your own policy to cover the gaps.  3. Review the different types of coverage. Typically policies are put together with some combination of coverage, including:  • General liability: This covers your group should someone get hurt at one of your events. Lots of schools won’t even allow the PTO to host an event unless it has this coverage. • Excess accidental medical: This coverage would go beyond the coverage an injured person would have from their own personal medical insurance.  • Crime: We see stories about embezzlement all the time. This coverage would give a group up to $25,000 per year if money is stolen.  • Directors and officers liability: This provides coverage for individual officers should they be targeted in a lawsuit over a claim of misrepresentation or mismanagement of the group. • Property: This insurance protects items your group owns, like computers and popcorn machines, from theft or damage.  We also have a helpful Insurance Info Sheet that you can download to get more information on types of insurance. When you click on the download button, you'll be prompted to input your email and then you can grab the info sheet.  4. By taking a look at the types of events, programs, and activities your group is planning, you should get a pretty good sense of what you may need. For example, you may realize your group doesn’t own any equipment, so property insurance won’t be necessary.  5. Discuss your options with your board members.  6. If you have any questions at all, we’re happy to help review the basics with you. Call our leader support team at 800-644-3561 to chat. Originally published in 2016 and updated regularly.
  • 6 Digital Tools Your PTO Needs

    From social media platforms to financial software to group texting apps, here are technological solutions to consider adding to your PTO toolbox for better communication and efficiency.
  • Spending Survey 2015: Steady Budgets, Similar Challenges

    Use our survey results to take a closer look at how groups like yours raise and spend money.
  • How To Protect Your Cash During the Holidays

    Commonsense financial safeguards for holiday events.
  • How To Close Out Your Financial Year

    A few must-dos to wrap up your finances and close out the PTO or PTA books for the year.
  • 10 Tips for Handling and Protecting Your Assets

    Could your group use some more money smarts? Our 10 tips can help with your budget, record-keeping, and more.
  • Debit Cards Can Make Life Easier for PTO Leaders

  • Could You Be Your PTO's Treasurer?

    Would you make a good treasurer candidate? Ask yourself these 3 key questions to see if you have the basic skills.
  • PTOs and the School Technology Gap

    Parent groups are a major source of technology funding at schools. How can you help without breaking the bank?
  • Spending Survey 2013-14: Rising Expenses, Increasing Demands

    Our survey finds PTOs and PTAs are working to fill a widening gap in school budgets.
  • The PTO Spending Debate

    Don't let short-sighted views on money hold back your parent group.
  • How Much Should PTOs and PTAs Spend on Teacher Appreciation Luncheons?

    Here are 14 helpful hints and tips for doing a teacher appreciation lunch on a budget.
  • Should Your Group Be Paying Taxes?

    Should you be paying taxes? Probably not. Your efforts are most likely tax-exempt. But should you be thinking about taxes and probably filing an annual tax form? Most likely.
  • What Do You Do When Teachers Ask the PTO for Money?

  • The Most Important Financial Protection Your PTO Can Get

  • Reminder: Tax Deadlines Coming in November and December

  • Openness Sends the Right Message

  • IRS Makes It Easier for Parent Groups To Get 501(c)(3) Status

  • Recovering From Embezzlement: One PTO’s Comeback Story

    A PTO shares how it is recovering from an embezzlement incident.
  • Our Five Favorites From the News This Week

    Our news roundup for the week of June 24 includes an idea to improve communications with parents, a reminder to review your financial controls, and a suggestion for your playground.
  • My Tip of the Week: Success Is No Secret

  • Spending Survey 2011-12: PTOs and PTAs Feeling the Strain

    Our look at parent group spending priorities finds that overstretched school budgets are having a broad effect.
  • Preventing Embezzlement in a Few Easy Steps

    There's been another wave of embezzlement stories in the news, but luckily there are simple steps your group can take to prevent it from happening.
  • Spending Survey Shows PTOs, PTAs Under Pressure

    Our PTO Spending Survey shows parents feeling the pressure to help schools even more because of ongoing budget cuts.
  • PTO How To: Best Practices for Money Management

    You might think a fundraising chairman’s job is done once stacks of orders start flowing in. Not quite. It’s important to manage the money throughout the fundraising process.
  • Community Pitches in to Help a Florida PTA After Funds Are Stolen

    Parent group embezzlement stories are back in the news and it’s hard not to get discouraged hearing about school communities—and, specifically, kids—losing out on so much. But check out this story. It is guaranteed to make you smile.
  • Protect Your Parent Group From Embezzlement

    How to keep your PTO from being a victim of theft, and advice from groups that have gone through it.
  • PTO Finances: Midyear Budget Review

    Do you know how much money you’ll be putting away this year? A springtime budget analysis can help PTO and PTA treasurers make plans for any surplus funds.
  • Weekly Q: How Long Should a PTO Keep Financial Records?

    How long should the PTO keep financial records? And which records should be kept? Should all paperwork relating to the budget be stored, such as deposit forms, check/cash requests? or just monthly bank statements, monthly budget reports and annual 990s?
  • PTO How-To: Handling Bad Checks

    Parent groups deal with a lot of checks, and eventually you’re likely to get one that bounces. Follow these steps to handle an insufficient funds check.
  • Weekly Q: Should PTOs Have Their Own Bank Account?

    Do most PTO's have their own independent from the school bank account? Ours is combined with the school's account so we really don't have control of our money.
  • PTO How-To: Keep Cash Safe

    A few simple financial controls can protect your parent group's bank account as well as your volunteers who are handling money.
  • Video Blog: No Group Is Immune to Embezzlement

    No one likes to talk about embezzlement from PTOs or PTAs, but the reality is that no group is immune to theft. The good news is,  it is easily preventable. Watch Tim's video blog this week to learn how to protect your group.
  • Trend Watch: Bailing Out Enrichment Programs

    As school budget cuts go deeper, parent groups work harder to save student programs.
  • School Volunteers Sued. Ouch.

    We live a society that loves drama. Case in point: Reality TV. But I think we could all do without drama in our parent groups. When I came across this article about about a dad suing a PTO group I winced. Sheesh, I hate reading these stories! Here's how this school ended up at odds:
  • Video Blog: Transparency in PTOs & PTAs

  • Mass. Town’s PTOs Face Stronger Financial Controls After Thefts

    Police charged four women in January with embezzling more than $55,000 from four PTOs in New Bedford, Mass. In response, the New Bedford School Committee enacted rules that require more oversight of parent group finances.
  • How Has the Economy Affected Your Group?

    A sampling of responses from PTO Today’s fall 2008 survey of 1,100 parent groups.
  • Economy Blues: Survey Results

    Results from our fall 2008 fundraising survey of 1,125 leaders on how the economy has affected parent groups.
  • CT PTO embezzle (plus some heated comments)

    Embezzle cases  -- like this $10k case in Connecticut-- drive me crazy for many reasons
  • One of those months for Parent Group stealing cases. Ugh.

    Over the ten years, we've been tracking PTO and PTA embezzle stories, two things have been true:  1) they just don't seem to ever go completely away; and 2) there have been several periods where the volume seems to pick up markedly.  Sadly, I think we're in one of those up-cycles now.  (Guess we should call it a down-cycle.
  • Two Fundraising News Updates

    Two quickies that will be of great interest if you're affected and not so much interest if you are not.
  • PTA to PTO switch in Utah

    Quick story from Utah on a PTA-to-PTO switch. The reasons given are fairly standard: feeling that dollars going out don't match value and a bit of a mis-fit with PTA politics.  The non-standard part is the state.  Utah remains the highest % PTA state in the country (by far).
  • Varsity Gold update

    I got a note from the folks from Varsity Gold (there's been a lot of back-and-forth on our message boards about their recent Chapter 11 filing) with an update and some answers from the Varsity Gold perspective.  Will be up to you and your members how you feel about these developments.
  • Varsity Gold Shuts Doors

    Looks like Varsity Gold won't make it out of banruptcy.  We're hearing that their recent Chapter 11 filing (which implies a re-organization) has been switched to a Chapter 7 filing (liquidation). I'm sure there are a lot of good people looking for work today, and I'm hoping that not too many groups are owed $$ from Varsity Gold.  Best wishes to all.
  • Some people... ugh! PTO sued for tricky tray malfunctions.

    There's a special, very warm place for someone who would sue the PTO because the raffle wasn't run to the letter of the law.
  • 10 Years for PTO Embezzle

    Wow -- this is the harshest sentence we've seen yet for a PTO or PTA embezzle case.  This Arkansas treasurer convicted of taking $23,000 (and that's just what they can prove).
  • That's going to be some playground!

    Congrats to this PTA mom from Maryland who's up for a statewide parent involvement honor.  Her achievement?  Securing a $300,000 grant for a new handicapped-accessible playground for her school.  Sounds like it's going to be amazing.
  • Another parent group theft story, big one

    This time the stealing from the PTA was done by a couple! Ugh. When the parents at Erdenheim Elementary School in Erdenheim, PA, decided to switch from a PTA to PTO an audit was done and numbers just weren't adding up... to the tune of $17,000! Ouch. Unfortunately, this group learned the hard way about the importance of fiscal controls in PTOs and PTAs.
  • National PTA Stats Updated

    The annual national PTA convention, which ends today in Florida, is always a good marker for tracking financial performance of the well-known national non-profit for past year.
  • Fun Services Still Kickin'

    On the business side of the PTO world, a couple of us from PTO Today had a great meeting last week with the folks from Rhode Island Novelty and Fun Services.   Nice guys, and very interesting company.  We got a tour of a ha-uge (very huge) warehouse filled with every kind of carnival prize and plastic snake and stuffed animal you can imagine.  My kids = very jealous.
  • What should PTO & PTA Groups Pay for?

    Came across this interesting article about how one school board is saying no to using extra funds to hire teachers. What it boils down to is one school fundraised enough money to offset the costs of cultural events, field trips, technology and more. As a result, the principal was able to use operating expenses to fund a technology teacher.
  • Parent Group Embezzlements

    Every school year we read about new cases of embezzlement from parent groups. Sadly, in this case it's a principal that is at the center of the alleged theft of PTO funds. Ugh.  Hate to hear these stories, especially when they are preventable.
  • Pre-Pay Fundraiser or Post-Pay Fundraiser?

    This is always a big discussion on our message boards and in our PTO Today community, mainly because the differences are so stark.  I recently received an email about this topic from an expert that brought a fundamental new concern into the debate.  I’ll explain below.
  • Recession Busters

    The down economy doesn’t have to keep your group from having a great year. Try these tips for success when money and resources are tight.
  • How PTOs Are Adapting to Hard Economic Times

    PTOs everywhere are bracing for lower fundraising returns and tighter budgets at school and at home. We talked to parent group leaders about how they're getting through it.
  • Higher Fuel Costs Mean Fewer Field Trips

    Rising costs are a problem for most school districts, survey finds.
  • Money Talk: Deciding how to spend parent group funds

    In the January issue of PTO Today magazine we ask how you would handle this situation...
  • Lowe's Grant Winner

    Love the smiling faces on these Mississippi PTO leaders, as they celebrate receipt of dollars to complete their playground pavilion.
  • PTOs Filling Budget Gaps

    Arizona feature looks at just how important parent group efforts have become in providing key resources for cash-strapped schools.
  • Theft Happens

    We won't call it our monthly theft update, but sometimes it seems that way.
  • Joe Rice -- Our Hero

    Let's see a state legislator who understands the value of PTOs and PTAs and proposes legislation making their lives easier???  Yeah, we like that guy.  A lot.
  • Keep Your Money

    In a man-bites-dog story, this Minnesota school is telling the very successful school foundation to keep its money. And it's a big chunk of change, too (hundreds of thousands in past few years).  The issue:  continued disputes over the influence and voice the foundation should have in how school uses the funds.
  • The Theft Report

    The hits keep coming... and the need for putting common-sense financial controls in place remains as well as the need for the smart investment in parent group insurance.  It's part of our leadership job to protect these funds.  C'mon folks... you can do this.  Don't wait.
  • Lowe's Toolbox Grants

    We couldn't be more proud of our affiliation with Lowe's and the Toolbox for Education program or more thankful for Lowe's support of PTOs and PTAs nationwide. It's the only comprehensive grant program focused exclusively on the work of school PTO sand PTAs -- and Lowe's has now given millions to groups through this effort.
  • Fundraisers now Sales Tax Exempt in CO

    More good news on the PTO front this week, this time from Colorado. Seems that a group of enterprising high school students successfully lobbied to have sales tax requirements removed from school support efforts. Book fairs, bake sales, concessions and the like all covered.
  • Big Embezzle in LA

    Wow -- $65k is definitely one of the biggest embezzles we've seen.This one from a middle school PTA treasurer in California.
  • Big California Embezzle

    Few details at this point, but former volunteer under arrest in $40,000 theft. Hope these guys have insurance.
  • Who's Fundraising? PTO or School?

    This Washington Post column brings up an interesting issue -- why are Principals fundraising (especially when they have an active parent group already doing so?
  • Field Trip Fees a No-No in Iowa

    Interesting ruling in Iowa, where state Board of Ed tells schools that they can not charge fees for school-day, curriculum-related field trips. Such fees are akin to tuition, rules the Board.
  • The Economy and Fundraising

    How's your fall fundraiser going?This Lancaster (PA) feature takes a critical look at some early-return fundraising struggles for area schools. My take on the current situation included in the piece.
  • Fundraising Auction Results and the Economy

    Jon Carson over at the cMarket blog shares some interesting early-returns data on school auctions this year. The upshot: no big surpirse -- looks like the big, big donations and the big, big bids are down a bit this fall. But thankfully, broad support for the lower-level items seems to be holding steady.
  • Vegas PTA burned in vendor bankruptcy

    This stinks. This group saved for years for a new school sign, paid a (too) large deposit, and now the sign company is gone. Poof.
  • Another Toolbox for Education Success

    Thanks to Lowe's (and the Toolbox for Education grant program in which PTO Today is proud to play a role), a ton of good work is getting done at schools all across the country.
  • Covering Up a PTO Theft

    Leave it to the local news station to blow this up into some Watergate-level cover-up, but I think this media treatment of a school theft case is great evidence for my argument that groups should address these issues openly (and obviously enact systems changes immediately) if there's a missing money issue.
  • Buyer Beware -- Count Me In

    Looks like a possibly troubled PTA/PTO vendor -- the Washington-based company called Count Me In.  Reports from Connecticut have several schools and PTAs out significant dollars
  • PTOs and PTAs Relied on for Even More

    Wall Street Journal takes a look at how school budget pressures are trickling down to parent groups. Not a completely new story (we've been writing on this for a decade now, at least), but the pressure seems to be increasing with the state of the economy.
  • Just Say No to Dues

    Dropping dues from your budget can pay off in higher involvement and more willing volunteers.
  • Should PTOs Pay Expenses?

    Under certain conditions, it's OK for PTOs to pay travel and training expenses for board members. And if you don't get reimbursed, here's what you need to know about tax deductions.
  • Adversity: After Embezzlement, a Test of Strength

    Discovering that their veteran treasurer had stolen funds from the group, parent leaders opted to stick it out and face up to the underlying causes. Their response made them PTO Today's 2007 Parent Group of the Year for Outstanding Effort To Overcome Adversity.
  • What Every Treasurer Should Know

    Being a good treasurer takes planning and organization. Follow these pointers and you'll be ready for success.
  • Just Your Average PTO

    Nice work.
  • Embezzle Charges

    $8,000 in South Dakota.
  • Maryland PTA Dust-Up

    This messy story just goes on and on, it seems.  You may recall that the Prince George's County (MD)county PTA was disbanded by the Maryland state PTA last spring. County officers (a new slate had been elected just weeks earlier) were less than pleased.
  • New Financial Regs for Alabama PTOs

    This could be the start of a trend. First Tennessee sent down some rules from on-high this past summer. Now the Alabama Department of Ed. is trying to codify some policies across all its many districts.
  • A Tool To Manage Volunteers

    PTO Manager helps you find and track volunteers, and manage your finances more efficiently.
  • Finding and Winning Grants

    Parent groups can and do get grants. Just follow a few simple rules to put together a winning application.
  • Embezzle Overview

    The Texas perspective.
  • Michigan Theft

    Treasurer charged.
  • Should be in Prison

    Egregious embezzle story.
  • Stepping Up

    Aiding a victimized PTO.
  • Embezzle News

    Just keeps on coming. Ugh.
  • Two-Time

    Treasurer investigated again.
  • Another (big) Embezzle

    $50,000 in Colorado.
  • Bad Idea in MO

    Who should control funds?
  • Fundraiser Overview

    Maybe a new idea or two...
  • Healthy Kids Grant

    General Mills steps up.
  • Handling Cash: 6 Simple Steps

    You want to make the money you raise count for the school and the kids. Set up these six checks and balances to reduce errors and the risk of loss.
  • Maryland $$ Regs

    Local Maryland school board continues to explore regulating parent group fundraising. Equity seems to be key concern.
  • Principal Tied to PTA Funds Loss

    Comprehensive audit (all details here) describes just how this group lost big dollars. Two accounts, lax controls, no audit -- recipe for troubles. (Now retired)principal being asked to repay 12k.
  • Missing $$

    Former president facing charges, as more than $5,000 goes missing from this California PTA.
  • More Missing $$

    Get those financial controls in place! This time: tens of thousands from a Galveston (TX) PTA.
  • Bookkeeping Trouble

    New York group looking for audit as books not adding up. Group also contemplating switch from PTA to PTO. Ed. Note: $5,000 for an audit? No way it needs to be that high.
  • Theft Feature

    I wish the theft stories would stop, too. This piece is unusually comprehensive. The theft (35k). The whys and hows. The after-effects (group still trying to comeback). And, today, the sentence.
  • Theft

    $52,000 missing from Texas PTA.
  • Schoolpop Scrip

    Important News!
  • CT Theft

    $11,000 missing from this Nutmeg group.
  • Embezzle Overview

    Whys and Hows of Sticky-Fingers
  • Playground Politics

    PTO's playground plans caught in political crossfire.
  • Big PTO Grant Program

    Millions of $$ for Parent Groups.
  • Whose Money, part 2

    District or PTO Control?
  • Donations over Sales

    Can't I just write a check?
  • Donor Fatigue

    Too much fundraising?
  • PTO Theft

    Former treasurer in jail.
  • Embezzle Redux

    Two more cases.
  • PTO Insurance: What You Should Know

    Are you covered? To make sure your parent group's insurance policy will protect members if a claim is made, there are a few key things you should learn about.
  • Dealing With Bad Checks

    Many problems with check payments can be avoided by having a clear policy in place from the start.
  • Annual Audit: How and Why

    A yearly audit is a key safeguard for your money and a planning tool for the year ahead. Think of it as a "year in review" for your finances.
  • Can I Deduct That?

    The information you need so that your group's supporters can get the full advantage from their tax-deductible donations.
  • Figuring Finances for Events

    How to build a simple cost model and estimate the start-to-finish finances for your group's new events.
  • 5 Smart Financial Controls

    Avoid unnecessary headaches with these practices to keep your assets safe and your records clean and up to date.
  • Should You Charge Membership Dues?

    Charging PTO membership fees might mean more cash, but perhaps fewer volunteers.
  • When To Change Banks

    If the fees are piling up or there's a limit to the number of transactions you can make each month, it might be time to look for a better checking account at a new banking center. Keep a few basics in mind when you do.
  • How To Manage Your Budget

    These basic bookkeeping procedures will help you keep your PTO budget in order.
  • Preventing Theft: Why It's Crucial

    Theft from PTOs and PTAs doesn't happen because there's a criminal in your midst. It happens because need meets opportunity—opportunity you can and should prevent.
  • Budget Basics for PTOs

    Budgeting makes all of your financial decisions easier. Follow these steps to create a budget for your PTO, even if you've never had one before.
  • What Should PTOs Pay For?

    Tighter school budgets mean parent groups are asked to fund more and more items that used to be paid for by the administration.
  • PTO Insurance: Do You Need It?

    Without insurance, your group and your officers may be at risk. Here's what you should know to assess your needs.