It’s the middle of the school year. Refreshed from winter break, now is the perfect time to look over the group’s financials, evaluate your events, and touch base with your chairs and volunteers—and start planning ahead. Here are some key midyear check-in points.
Evaluate Fall Activities
Follow up with the chairpeople of your fall events to get their event summary reports. No one will remember the tips and hints that should be documented if they wait six more months to file their report. Capture that information now while it’s still relatively fresh in their minds.
Close out any outstanding issues from your fall fundraising campaign. For example, distribute all remaining incentive prizes and resolve any problems with orders.
Consider how your general PTO meetings have been. Is the format good? Are they starting on time, staying on point, and generally meeting objectives? Are your meetings well-attended, and do members seem pleased that they attended? If you’ve missed the mark on any of these questions, now’s 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 can offer child care so parents aren’t pulled in multiple directions. Don’t be afraid to change things up.
Consider how you’ve been communicating with your school community. Bring your website, Facebook page, newsletter, display case, and any other communication tools up to date. Do a midyear cleanup of your PTO’s storage area so things don’t get out of hand. Relocate or discard dated items such as old T-shirts, expired food items, last year’s student directories, and out-of-date fundraising materials.
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 might close the year with an excess of funds—money that could have been spent now to further your mission.
If fundraising fell short, you might 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
Confirm that your treasurer is pursuing repayment of any bounced checks or refund requests from fall fundraising efforts. If they’re having trouble collecting a debt owed to the PTO, consider asking the principal to assist. The longer the debt goes unpaid, the less likely that the payment will ever be collected.
Make sure any open invoices from 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
Recognition and Follow-up
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 sign-up list from 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 low at midyear, consider a recruitment campaign. Young parents, finally accustomed to their child’s school routine, might be ready to step up with the PTO now 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.
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 previously. Confirm room reservations and setup arrangements with your school custodial staff. If you’re still in holiday mode, bake and freeze several batches of cookies for future meetings.
Make time to meet with the chairpeople of your spring events. For example, make sure your carnival chairs are getting ready to order 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’s made arrangements with your district’s groundskeepers. See that 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.
Meet with the principal a week or two after school resumes to review the first half of the year and discuss plans for spring and beyond. Review the school calendar together to ensure nothing has changed that might conflict with previous PTO plans. (Factors like changes in state-mandated testing, new school board directives, or pressure on the school district’s budget might affect the PTO’s activities.)
It’s not too early to start thinking about leadership candidates for next year’s PTO. Try to get a sense of which elected positions and major committee chairs might need to be filled next year. Make a note of those volunteers who showed special dedication during fall activities, and think about who’d be a good fit for each leadership role. Many people are reluctant to personally volunteer for a leadership position because they feel like self-nominating is somehow boastful or 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. When you start that process now, midyear, you’ll have time to thoughtfully recruit the best members for your group.