PTO Today Q&A

Question: Pressured into a fundraiser?

I feel I have been put in a very bad position. At our last PTO meeting, a gym teacher proposed selling new gym uniforms to our students as a fundraiser; the proceeds would go to the PE department to buy some needed equipment. He said the order forms needed to go out immediately, so voting had to take place that night.

All students have to buy the uniforms. We were told they would be sold either way, so why not make money? I was the only one who voted against it. For one thing, local companies were not given an opportunity to bid. Also, we are not a tax-exempt PTO; they did not arrange for sales tax with this company.


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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

You have a right to feel frustrated; it sounds like your group was hurried into helping out. Your parent group’s bylaws should require that proposals of this nature, especially those concerning your group’s dollars, be placed on the agenda prior to the meeting. Elly knows many PTO boards that hold executive meetings prior to general PTO meetings to set the next meeting’s agenda; that way, your leaders have sufficient time to weigh the pros and cons and reach consensus before they vote.

Another advantage of setting and following an agenda: Your meeting will not be overrun by packs of parents from high school booster clubs looking to win your support—and $10,000 of your group’s cash—to help build a new playing field. In short, agendas eliminate surprises and prevent would-be special interest groups from taking over at your meetings.

As for paying sales tax, setting a price above what the retailer is charging muddies the waters. It gets a little sticky when groups sell goods directly (act as the “supplier”) vs. taking orders (act as an “agent”) for a company. Rules differ from state to state, so check with your state’s tax board or treasurer’s office. Chances are you don’t owe any, but if you do it would only be for the state in which you are located.

Going forward, your leaders may want to explore other types of fundraisers to help the PE department, such as a walkathon or other fitness event. Good luck.




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