Question: How to prove our new group is “official”?

We have just recently set up our PTO. How do you prove to people you are official? We wanted to display a certificate or something to let our parents know we are legit. Open for Business

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Congratulations! Elly wishes you years of success; she hopes the customers—eager parent volunteers, that is—come knocking down your doors! There’s no official PTO license to frame and hang, but nonetheless, your PTO can still be an effective working force at school.

Creating a PTO logo and slogan can help your leaders establish more of a “corporate” identity among parents and help your PTO gain some legitimacy, too. You can then expand upon that by publishing brochures and pamphlets that describe your PTO and its goals. (Feel free to borrow any of the PTO pamphlets that you like from the File Exchange.) Be sure to make these materials readily available at open houses, kindergarten registration, parent-teacher conferences, and other school events. (Hint: Elly says set up a booth where your leaders can answer parents’ questions.)

Having a presence online can also add a higher level of sophistication to your new PTO’s image. Consider asking a parent to help you set up a website for your group, or ask the principal whether your group can piggyback on the school’s.

As your group gets more settled, your leaders may want to think about applying to become an official tax-exempt organization with the IRS. There are a few benefits, a primary one being that supporters who donate to your group can, for the most part, deduct those donations from their taxes. For that reason, many businesses will only donate to official 501(c)(3) organizations. In addition, many grants are open only to 501(c)(3) groups. (For help filing form 1023 to become a federally recognized nonprofit, check out PTO Today’s Start-Up Toolkit. You can also get more information from the Internal Revenue Service website or by calling the IRS at 877-829-5500.)

Just one more note: While it’s important to be seen as “legit,” Elly thinks it’s just as important for your group to be seen as welcoming, inclusive, and enthusiastic. So wear a smile when you talk to parents, and above all, make getting involved at school sound like fun!

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