Question: Options for playground fund money if the playground isn’t allowed?

Our parent group collected funds for a playground remodel four or five years ago. After we collected the money, we discovered that the school district doesn’t own the building or land the school is on, and they cannot do any renovations without the owner (a university) approving it and essentially doing the work. Now we’re not sure whether we’re even going to have the school anymore because the state legislature has to approve funding for the university to renovate its heating and air conditioning system. At our most recent meeting, one of the teachers suggested that there might be a time limit on the funds, as well. What are our options for using this money, which was designated as a playground fund but now seems can’t be used in that way?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

Elly is sorry to hear that your playground project has become so complicated. Your group can still keep the funds you raised through traditional fundraising avenues provided they’re used to further your mission. Also, there’s no time limit to spend the money. The one exception is grants, which typically come with their own rules about how and when they can be spent.

If it does happen that the original playground site becomes unusable, your group can go in any of a few directions. One is to explore options for another site. The plus to building a new playground from the ground up is that it can revitalize a community and bring in new stakeholders. A new location can mean new businesses, financial backers, and parent volunteers who otherwise might not have participated. The downside, of course, is that it’s a far bigger project than a renovation, which means more time and money spent on your group’s part. Perhaps there are other PTOs in the district that want to collaborate? (You might also think about the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education program, which makes grants for projects that build parent and community involvement.)

A second option is to donate the funds to another charitable organization. This is a fairly common solution when you don’t feel right about keeping the money and it’s impossible, because of complexity, to give the money back. Ideally, you’d find a charity that was looking to carry out a project similar to the one you had planned.

Or your group could decide to spend the money on a different project altogether. Again, as long as it’s for a charitable purpose that supports your mission, you’re good to go.

Whatever you decide, make sure that everyone who made donations (parents, local businesses, etc.) is aware of what’s going on, then try to build consensus about how the money should be spent.

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