Question: PTO at a for-profit school?

Is it true that a PTO cannot use its funds to support a for-profit school? Is there a difference between giving funds to the school directly and the group paying for the school’s needs?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Interesting question. Elly says parent groups can always support a school in important ways, even if the school is for-profit. Those ways include building parent involvement and creating the kind of supportive community where teachers and students can do their best work.

Kids do better in school when their parents get involved in their education—period. So sponsoring family nights and doughnuts with dad and grandparents day all make a difference. A bigger one, Elly says, than buying new computers or those fancy interactive whiteboards for the classroom. Lots of groups across the country make substantial contributions to their schools without money (or major purchases) changing hands.

Can you raise money for the school? Yes, but either you or the school—maybe both—will most likely end up paying taxes on whatever you raise or donate. Elly recommends focusing your group on building involvement and forgoing significant fundraising. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish.

If you do decide to go in the other direction, though, please talk to a tax attorney before you start raising money. He can help you with the best way to structure your organization and your donations to the school. He should also help you set up an organizational system to make sure you are keeping the kind of records and doing the kind of reporting the IRS requires. Otherwise, you’re inviting significant legal problems down the road.

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