Helpful information and resources to create policies and procedures books for your leaders.

by Christy Forhan

10/14/2021

A little bit of long-term organization can prevent a lot of headaches.

For instance, say you're appointed to chair the fall fundraiser. But the previous chairperson has moved away, and everybody else who worked on it in the past has gone on to a new school. Where do you start?

Or you're the newly elected treasurer. The previous treasurer gave you a stack of bills and the group's checkbook, but no instructions about how to handle reimbursements. The carnival chair is asking for a cash box so she can make change; how much should money should you give her, and in what denominations? And for that matter, what do you need to include in the monthly treasurer's report?

Questions like these would be much easier to answer if previous PTO leaders had simply documented the group's policies, processes, procedures, and practices. It's not hard to create decent procedures manuals, though it does take a little time and thought. The best approach is to create a separate three-ring binder for each major PTO officer or function. That might sound like a big job. The effort is worth it, however, to give your future members the most valuable tools in the PTO archives.

There are many important benefits that come from creating procedures manuals. First of all, the very act of documenting how your group operates will require your leaders to evaluate—and probably improve—the practices of your group. Creating a procedures book means that your PTO doesn't have to reinvent the wheel every time there's a leadership change. It also means all the hard work your leaders did and the knowledge you all gained will benefit the group after you're gone.

When policies are documented, parent group leaders can use logic and precedent to deal with tough situations. Rules can be applied consistently. Decisions can be made without the influence of emotion or personal relationships. A procedures book can also transmit the values and time-honored traditions that are important to your group. Well-crafted procedures books can spare your future members the frustration, anxiety, and inefficiency that come from being tossed into a new situation with no life raft.

The whats, whys, and hows of 501(c)(3) and incorporation, plus all your FAQs

 

Getting Started

So how do you create a procedures book, and who gets one? First of all, each of your major leadership positions should have their own procedures book. There will be some overlap in the information, but each book will also contain information specific to that job title: president, secretary, treasurer, fundraising chair, volunteer coordinator, etc.

Your procedures books don't have to be fancy. They can be compiled in a simple loose-leaf, three-ring binder for ease in amending or copying the contents. As you build your procedures books, remember that these are different from the day-to-day files your officers need to do their jobs. The procedures books are reference books, to be read at the start of the job and then used when questions arise.

Start with a copy of your group's bylaws for each binder. Your bylaws are the foundation from which you grow the policies and procedures that help you carry out your mission. Everyone needs to understand the basic rules by which you govern yourselves.

Each binder should also include a robust description for that job. Even if you don't have all the other parts ready to be assembled right away, build a basic book for each function, and enhance the books over time.

 

Information for your procedures books

What to put in a good job description

  • Title

  • Job summary

  • List of duties

  • Preferred qualifications

  • Major event timeline(s) for this job

For Every Leader

  • Your PTO's bylaws

  • Current list of officers

  • Current list of committee chairs

  • Current school staff list

  • This year's PTO calendar

  • This year's school calendar

 

President

  • Guide to Robert's Rules of Order and Robert's Rules cheat sheet for beginners

  • List of committees with descriptions of each

  • List of budget categories with descriptions of each

  • Outline of all policies, such as:

    • how to memorialize a loss within the school family

    • how to handle unbudgeted requests for financial support

    • how to handle the press

    • criteria for selecting a vendor

    • contract-signing guidelines

    • criteria for bestowing awards or gifts from the PTO

    • other policies applicable to your PTO

President Job Description sample
President's Planning Checklist

For Plus members:
Budget Sample Categories

 

Vice President

Vice President Job Description sample

 

Recording Secretary

Secretary Job Description Sample
Rules for Keeping PTO and PTA Records

For Plus members:
Secretary's Toolkit

 

Communications Secretary

  • Policy on how email will be used to communicate PTO business

  • Guidelines for PTO website content and instructions on how to update the website

  • Policy about confidentiality of student information in PTO communications

  • Guidelines on how to create a good flyer, create a good newsletter, etc.

  • Schedule of distribution of PTO newsletters and other communications

  • Policy on how PTO paperwork is to be duplicated

  • Samples of past flyers, newsletters, and other communication tools

 

Treasurer

Treasurer Job Description sample
How To Close Out Your Financial Year
Rules for Keeping PTO and PTA Records

For Plus members:
Budget Sample Categories
Financial Review Guidelines and Worksheet

 

Fundraising Committee Chair

Which Fundraiser Is Right For You? (includes chart)

For Plus members:
Event Budget Worksheet
Event Timeline Worksheet

 

Creating a procedures manual will pay off by helping your group weather the inevitable changes in leadership to stay strong and healthy. That's not to say procedures can't be adapted and changed as the times change—of course they can. But having a starting place is simply invaluable. In fact, it's the best gift an incoming leader can get.

 

Too Much for You?

Does the idea of compiling a complete procedures book seem too overwhelming for your group? At its most basic, creating a procedures book involves purchasing a binder for each officer and committee chairperson. Each person three-hole punches printed items pertinent to the job, makes a notation about what it is (when necessary), and places it in the binder. At the end of the year, you have at least a basic reference to help the next person who does that job. Compared with starting from scratch, this simple organizational plan can be a godsend for any new officer.

Originally posted in 2005 and updated regularly. Darylen Cote contributed to this article.

Comments   

# Dave Carter 2008-08-06 05:33
Our PTA at Foothill Elementary in Saratoga, CA, has gone a step further, since we found that binders get lost or are sometimes out of date, and almost all families have PCs nowadays.

We are using a template I put together in Microsoft Word to create Foothill Activity Descriptions (or FADs) for each of the 90 or so ongoing or one-time programs and activities that are run by the PTA each year, so that these can be archived and made available (in addition to binders) for incoming volunteers.

As soon as something is printed, it tends to be suspiciously out of date, so our library of FADs will be the most reliable source of info going forward.

Each year outgoing volunteers will submit any FAD updates to our PTA Historian, who serves as the editor and gatekeeper of the archive.
# Rebecca Reddy 2008-08-15 05:50
Dave-- I'm trying to put together a procedures book for our school. I'd love to see the template you created-- would you share?

Rebecca
Horace Mann Dual Language Academy
Wichita, Kansas
# Lee 2008-10-10 01:14
Can you please let me know if there is a "general" age that a member must be inorder to join PTO? I know this sounds a little awkward but, I feel as though if you are not of age to "legally vote" you are not of age to vote and be a member of PTO. Please let me know asap

Thanks!!
LEE
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-10-10 21:07
Hi Lee -- The answer to that is it's up to your group. The National PTA sets a minimum age of 18 to be an officer, I believe. I don't think there's a limit on membership, however. PTOs are independent and can decide what rules make sense for them. We certainly have heard of groups where high school students have made a significant contribution. -- Craig
# Yvonne Garcia 2008-12-17 19:35
Hi ,

This is a terific site! Eventho I am on my cities School Comittee I am working with our parents to better organize their PTO. I came across this site and am deffinately give it to them. Some school districts tend to not welcome parents but I geel that without all of you we would , and do, have a worst time getting what needs to done done. Thank you for this site and keep up the good work. WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT AND INPUT AT ALL TIMES. YOU ELECT US BUT IF THERE IS NO COMMUNICATION AND SUPPORT WE CANNOT REALLY GET WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE DONE RIGHT OR AT ALL. aGAIN THANK YOU FOR ALL THE KIDS YOU FIGHT FOR WHETHER YOUR AND ALL OTHERS.
# Angie 2009-03-04 03:39
I'm looking to finish a book just like this for our group. The group has had the same President for 5 years and Treasurer for 8 years. However, both of them are moving on next year. Thinking a book would help the newcomers. Any suggestions-does anyone have a copy they can send me. alochbaum@roadrunner.com

Thanks
# Frustrated 2009-03-05 15:02
Question, I am, or was President of our school PTO. After a very ugly confortation from one of our teachers, I have resigned. My Vice President does not want to fill my shoes, what do I do now? I don't want ot leave the rest of the year just hanging, and there has not been any volunteers to step forward either. I care about the school and the children, but can no longer take the disrespect from the school staff. Please advise :sad:
# B McKelvey 2009-04-02 18:50
I am trying very hard to be an active member of our PTO but the president (whose child will not be in the school next year) is showing signs of staying on as an officer of the school. I could care less if I have a "title" or not but am being told that the only way you can be a part of the monthly meetings is if you hold a title on the PTO. They claim noone wants to help with anything but the sense I'm getting is that it's a direct result of this mother I referenced above being very overbearing and pushy with everyone including the staff and teachers at the school. Is it true that PTO meetings cannot be attended by anyone other than the officers and what help can you give me to help myself and other parents that want to be involved in the school OUR KIDS are attending next year be more of an active participant in the decision making process at the PTO level?
# Kelly G 2009-05-01 01:20
To B,
PTO meetings should be open to all parents and/or guardians. Executive meetings are usually held for officers alone, but should be held seperately. At our school, if you are a parent and/or guardian, you are automatically a member of the PTO. See if you can get ahold of your PTO By-laws or seek the advice of your principal.
I'm not advising this necessarily, as I think you should exhaust all options, but I have heard of parents forming sub-committes, meaning a secondary PTO. Not sure what it would take to get it off the ground but if nothing else works out for you, you might want to check into it. I wish you luck.
# Betty 2009-12-28 15:27
We are looking to do a procedure book as well. Anyone has a template or a copy of theirs we could look over and modify for our own would be greatly appreciated!!

Betty
Secretary, Welcome PTO
Welcome, NC
welcomepto@yahoo.com
# Becky Hill 2010-10-02 17:41
I am looking for a policy regarding access to the PTO by outside groups. Does anyone have a sample policy that they would be willing to share with my PTO?

Thanks!
# Becky Hill 2010-10-02 17:42
I am looking for a policy regarding access to the PTO meetings by outside groups. Does anyone have a policy that they would like to share?
# Geoff 2012-06-16 16:46
This is a wonderful suggestion. In our area, which is providing school assemblies to schools all over the country, we often see new volunteers coming in who have no idea what programs the school has had before. Hence they have no reference point for knowing which assemblies to look for the following year. Kids get bored seeing the same show every year. Leaving time between visits, even with a well loved show, is a good solution. However, knowledge of when to repeat great shows can be lost. For our clients, we keep careful records of which programs they have had and when, and also how those shows were liked by the school. So even if the PTO loses track we can come to their help. However, not many entertainers are so careful. A well kept record at the school with notations of what was liked and what was not is an invaluable tool to keep from re-ordering bad programs or over using good ones.
Geoff

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