It's the middle of the year. Refreshed from winter break, now is the perfect time to get a handle on financials, evaluate your events, and check in with your chairs and volunteers—and start planning ahead. Some key midyear check-in points include:

Evaluate Fall Activities

Events

Follow up with the chairs of your fall events to get their summary reports turned in. No one will remember the tips and hints that should be documented if they wait six months to file their report. Capture that information now, while it is still relatively fresh in the minds of your committee chairpeople.

Close out any outstanding issues from your fall fundraising campaign. For example, be sure that all incentive prizes have been distributed and that any problems with orders have been resolved.

Don’t stall out! Reenergize involvement for the second half of the year

Operations

Consider how your general PTO meetings have been going. Is the format good? Are they starting on time, staying on point, and generally meeting their objectives? Are your meetings well-attended, and do members seem pleased that they came? If you have missed the mark on any of these assessments, now is a good time to make some changes. Maybe it means restructuring your standard agenda to put more time into group discussion and less time into debating committee minutiae. Or maybe you should relocate your PTO-sponsored child care so parents aren’t distracted by youngsters in the back of the meeting room. Don’t be afraid to change things up.

Consider how you’ve been communicating with your school community. Be sure your website, Facebook page, newsletter, display case, and any other communication tools are up to date. Do a midyear cleanup of your PTO’s storage area so things don’t get out of hand. Relocate or dispose of dated items such as old T-shirts, expired food items, last year’s student directories, and out-of-date fundraising material.

Assess Your Financials

Budget Performance to Date

Hopefully your executive board, with the treasurer’s guidance, is reviewing your budget every month. But now that your fall fundraising has been completed, have a more detailed discussion of the group’s financial performance. Take a careful look: Did your fundraising exceed or fall short of its goals? If you earned more than planned, that’s great, but now you must thoughtfully discuss how to allocate the unexpected surplus. Wait too long and your PTO may close the year with an excess of funds—money that could have been spent to further your mission. If fundraising fell short, you may need to cut future expenses or expand your spring fundraising plans. Either way, your PTO might want to formally amend your budget so members understand any changes in the group’s financial position.

Outstanding Financial Issues

Ensure that your treasurer is pursuing repayment of any bounced checks or refund requests from last fall’s fundraising efforts. If she is having trouble collecting a debt owed to the PTO, consider getting assistance from the principal. The longer the debt goes unpaid, the less likely that the payment will ever be collected.

Make sure any invoices from the fall have been paid by the PTO.

Verify that your treasurer has been balancing the checkbook monthly, including December when PTO business tends to drop in priority. Start the new (calendar) year with a clean set of books.

Nurture Your Volunteers and Potential Volunteers

Send thank-you notes to the lead volunteers of your fall activities and events. Don’t wait until your year-end volunteer appreciation event to acknowledge their contributions.

Go over your volunteer signup list from last fall, and make sure everyone has received at least one call from a PTO leader. Nothing kills involvement like ignoring the enthusiasm of new volunteers.

If your pool of volunteers is lacking, consider a midyear “recruitment” campaign. Young parents, finally accustomed to their child’s school routine, may be ready to commit to the PTO even if they haven’t participated in the past.

Ask the school office for a list of families who enrolled during the first term. Make a special effort to welcome them; they can feel especially lost since all the “welcome back” activities occur before they arrive. Also consider establishing a welcome committee for new families if your school has a high number of midyear enrollments.

Plan Ahead

General PTO Meetings

Look at your schedule of general meetings for the second half of the school year. Confirm any guest speakers that you lined up last fall. Confirm the room reservation and the setup arrangements with your school custodial staff. If you’re still in holiday mode, bake and freeze several batches of cookies for your future meetings.

Events

Connect with the chairpeople of your spring events. For example, make sure your carnival chairs are getting ready to order the prizes, have signed the contract with the games company, and have researched any local restrictions that affect the parade route or overflow parking. Verify that your bingo night chair has filed for any required gaming license. Check with the landscaping coordinator to verify that she has arranged the cooperation of your district’s groundskeepers. Make sure your committee chairs have the information and resources they need to move ahead on their projects. Some decisions have a long lead time, even in today’s world of immediate feedback.

Long-Range Planning

Meet with the principal a week or two after school resumes to review the first half of the year and to discuss the plans for spring and beyond. Review the school calendar together to ensure nothing has changed that might conflict with previous PTO plans. Consider that factors such as changes in state-mandated testing, new directives from the school board, or pressure on the school district’s budget might have some effect on the PTO’s activities.

It’s not too early to start thinking about leadership for next year’s PTO. Try to get a sense of which elected positions and major committee chairs might need to be filled anew next year. Make a note of those volunteers who showed special dedication during fall activities, and think about who would be a good fit for each leadership role. Most people are reluctant to personally volunteer for a leadership position, feeling that to self-nominate is somehow boastful or that they don’t really have “what it takes” to do the job. One of your responsibilities as a PTO leader is to identify and groom the next group of leaders. Start that process now, midyear, and you’ll have time to thoughtfully recruit the best members for your group.