PTO Today Q&A

Question: membership

We are forming our PTO currently. I think, because of our size, that I want to do an independent group and function under our school instead of filing for a separate 501. Can we charge a membership fee to our members? If so, I assume we would keep all of the funds from the dues. At one point we had a group and had to send a portion of the dues to a state organization. I didn't manage the organization, so I'm a little confused.


Asked by challam

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Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
Hi challam,
If the earlier group sent a portion of its dues to a state organization, then it was a PTA. PTAs are required to charge membership and send a port of that to the larger PTA organization.

If you are a PTO, or Parent Teacher Organization (and that can go by a number of other names -- PCC, PTS, you name it!) you are an independent group. When you are an independent group, you should be working towards getting 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. The reason is, well, for starters, the IRS wants you to, but also it enables you to function as a true nonprofit meaning folks can do tax-deductible donations to your group and your group can seek more donations and grants. (Many companies will only donate if you are a 501(c)(3)). You mention functioning as part of the school. That's an option. The typical downside to that is you are an arm of the school and it makes the decisions (usually) on how money will be raised and spent and you don't have a whole lot of independence.

So, there are really three different options. Get a sense of what would work best for your school community by talking to some parents and the principal. Then you should be able to figure out what the best approach will be.

Hope this helps!
Rose


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