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You want to make the money you raise count for the school and the kids. Set up these six checks and balances to reduce errors and the risk of loss.

by Craig Bystrynski


1. Set Up One Cash Point

For any event, take cash at one place only. The fewer hands that touch it, the better. For the spring carnival, don't have people pay a quarter at each booth. Have them purchase tickets from a cashier. It's great to have volunteers help children at the holiday shop. But have the kids walk up to the cashier to pay; don't have them pay the helpers.

2. Create a Paper Trail

Always use paper receipts for cash transactions. This information is key in creating a budget, you should have it for the IRS, and it's smart policy to keep records to control your finances. You may make an exception for the carnival, where you are taking in a small amount of money many times over. But in this case you should tally each sale. At the end of the day, the number of tallies should match your cash receipts and it should match the number of tickets taken at each booth.

3. It Takes Two

Always have two people present whenever cash is around. Make it a rule that two people tend the cash box at all times, even if it's only a one-person job. Likewise, always have a least two people on hand when cash receipts are counted. After the cash is counted, have the counters each initial a form certifying how much money is being turned over to the treasurer.

Check out Finance Manager—accounting software built just for PTO leaders

4. Make Deposits Immediately

Never let cash—or any receipts—sit for a few days. Receipts should be deposited as soon as they're counted, certified, and turned over to the treasurer. If your event is at night, lock the money in the school safe and deposit it in the morning.

5. Keep It Simple

Never take IOUs. Tell people who say they'll pay later that you can't let them—PTO rules. Never mingle parent group money with your own. Don't ever, for example, deposit PTO money in your account, then write a check to the group for the same amount. Among other things, this is a good way to get in trouble with the IRS. And never float a loan to the group, then take the money out of cash receipts as repayment.

6. Cover Yourself

Get bonding insurance for your treasurer and anyone else who handles a significant amount of money. It's well worth the cost. Whether you see it this way or not, your group is a small business. Money should be handled in a businesslike manner. Doing anything else shortchanges the group and puts your finances at risk. Check out PTO Today's affordable parent group insurance packages.

Originally posted in 2005 and updated regularly.


# Marita 2008-09-04 02:14
I am wondering if anyone has any policy or guidelines for the leader of a fundraiser. What rules would be good to protect the group and that person from mismanagement or unapproved "perks"?
# Riobin 2008-09-11 13:08
I was wondering if any other PTO's used any computer accounting systems like Quickbooks, etc...?
# Kim 2008-09-12 20:44
Our PTO uses quickbooks... from past experciences if the person does not have PC knowledge and some accounting experience it made it very difficult... especially the next treasurer who had to follow. I am personally looking for something easier that can be passed from one treasurer to the other and not have to have an accounting degree to do it. I personally like quickbooks, but I also have an accounting background.
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-09-22 15:21
Hi Riobin -- A little plug here. PTO Today has a system called Finance Manager that was created specifically for PTOs. You can find information on it here: http://www.ptotoday.com/manager/financeManager.html -- Craig
# Busy Bee 2009-01-02 23:29
We had an huge cash theft at our club and were doing most of these things but when you're dealing with thousands in cash, night after night and don't have the time to write up duplicate receipts, you have problems (ever try to hand write a cash receipt for a candy bar?).

I did a cash flow chart and found numerous points where cash could be siphoned especially when you have five or six people making sales at any one time. You may know money is missing but trying to figure out who took it is the challenge. The money is long gone before the club's treasurer ever gets to see it.
# Jen 2009-01-13 02:32
Does anyone know if there is a law on how long a treasurer can hold onto money from an event?
# Pam 2009-09-09 15:32
I am the treasurer of our PTO and I use Quicken. I also used it at the last school my kids attended and it was very easy to pass off to the incoming treasurer.
I can enter the budget for the year and can produce reports directly from the app. to show where we are on spending. It is also very easy to reconcile each month and produce a reconciliation report.
# Dru 2009-12-12 05:13
I am the new treasurer for our fledgling PTO and in the past we've had "accounts" for each of our 25 teachers as well as the PTO account. the previous treasurer set it up in QuickBooks, however I'm wondering if anyone else uses this software and how they do it??
# Bertha Shorty 2010-01-15 22:46
send me newsletters
# sharon medina 2011-04-20 16:08
I was wondering how many people should be on the account for the pto, Should it just be the treasurer for the pto should they be the only signer on the account for the schools PTO? Thank you
# Craig Bystrynski 2011-04-22 12:55
Sharon -- As a practical matter, you should have more than one signer. It will happen that you need a check at times when the treasurer isn't around. In most groups, the president is also a signer. Some groups require two signatures on each check as a financial control and so have three people who are able to sign them.
# Jean 2011-06-15 22:25
I was wondering if anyone has any policy/guidelines regarding out of pocket expenses. For example, our committee chair for the fair paid approx $300 out of pocket (eventually got reimbursed). However, in this economy, even paying a few dollars out of pocket is expenseive. There must be a better way.Any PTOs use credit cards or something else? Looking for any suggestions! Thanks!
# M. Smith 2011-10-09 02:20
I am (or was) the Treasurer for our home & school association. The President and I had a disagreement about counting cash. She likes to take the cash box home after every event and count the cash by herself. I want the cash to be counted at the event and the cash box placed in the school safe. She went behind my back and found a "new" treasurer, so I'm out. Should I just let this go? I did not have this problem last year, when she was not the President. Everyone put the cash in the safe after events. She was President for 3 years previously, took a year off, and now wants to be President for 4 more years. I think I should let this go, but it makes me mad.
# Craig Bystrynski 2011-10-09 19:12
Who fires the treasurer because she's being careful about handling cash? This isn't good, and you definitely shouldn't drop it. Under no circumstances should anyone take the cash home from an event, ESPECIALLY before the amount has been verified. Can you enlist the help of the principal? How do the other officers feel? Also, does the group have other financial controls in place, like having more than one person review the bank statements, etc.?

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