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Bylaws/Nonprofit PTO vs. PTA

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10 Key Points About Bylaws

What you should know, why you should have them.

by Christy Forhan

6 Things You Should Know About Your PTO’s Bylaws

  1. Whether you have them. If you can’t find a copy, you need to create them.
  2. Where they are. Just saying you have bylaws isn’t enough; you need to get your hands on the actual document.
  3. The content. Read and understand them. If they don’t make sense to the way your PTO actually operates, it’s time for a revision.
  4. The format. If you only have a hard copy, type them up so you can share and revise them electronically.
  5. Their age and the last time they were revised. Look at the end of the document for a revision schedule. If there isn’t one, add the first entry when you type up the document.
  6. Revision rules. If your bylaws need revising, follow the procedure spelled out in the document itself. If there are no revision rules, follow Robert’s Rules.

4 Primary Reasons To Have Bylaws

  • Consistency. Rules and policies that have been documented in the form of bylaws can be applied consistently so that emotion and personalities do not get involved.
  • Efficiency. Your bylaws include procedures for decisionmaking so that your PTO can conduct all its business according to the rules and as efficiently as possible.
  • Protection. Strong bylaws help protect the group from internal conflict, financial risk, and “mission creep.”
  • Legitimacy. A strong set of bylaws is a sign that the PTO takes itself seriously. Bylaws give the members assurance of the mission, structure, and policies of the group. Besides, the IRS requires bylaws if your PTO files for 501(c)(3) status.

Christy Forhan is a veteran PTO leader who has served as president and treasurer, among other roles, at schools in West Bloomfield, Mich.

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Comments

  1. avatar

    Posted by Craig on Oct. 29, 2010

    I don't think it makes sense to try to exclude people from your meetings -- it just doesn't seem practical. Would you check IDs at the door? On the other hand, you can make it clear to this person that she's not a member so she's not allowed to make motions or vote. Beyond that, you need to confront her about the problems she's causing -- don't just roll your eyes and wish she would go away. Someone needs to talk to her individually, and your president needs to be assertive in running the meeting by cutting her off and telling her when her comments are inappropriate.

    Read the article How To Deal With Difficult People for some tips on how to confront her based on her personality:

    http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/409-how-to-deal-with-difficult-people

    Good luck!
  2. Posted by - Concerned Parent on Oct. 29, 2010

    Hello everyone!
    I ahve been involved with my city's PTO's for over 10 years. Now, I have never encountered this issue.. But htere is always a frist. We have an individual who is not a parent (used to be), is not a faculty/staff member of the school, and has no known link to our PTO but chooses to come tot he meetings, stir up all kinds of questions and trouble. What can we do as a group to keep him out of our meetings. I guess my question is, are PTO meetings open to the general public or just the members? In our bylaws it states "This organization shall be limited to paretns and guardiasn of ______ students, staff members, and administrators of _______ School. Can we use this to say he is not allowed to come in to the meeting?
    ANY comments, ideas, words of wisdom, etc. are needed and will be appreciated!

    Thanks...
    A concerned and frustrated parent
  3. Posted by - rebecca on Jan. 20, 2010

    I have a few questions. We was just voted in to our pto board. There have not been any bylaws for 15 years. Before we took over the school decided that the checking account had to be turned over to them and funds had to go threw them because there is no 501(c) (3) for the pto its all ran under the one for the school. Should the pto account stay seperate from the school? From what we can tell there is two accounts one in the pto name the other is in the schools name. Do we need a 501(c) (3) for the pto? Are we required to have a treasurer because they are wanting to drop this position? Does all the members of the board vote because that will only leave three members?
  4. Posted by - Nancy on Dec. 08, 2009

    I am involved with a PTO for a private school which is operated under their "governing" church. Both the school and the PTO operate under the church 501(c)(3). As I understand the rules our PTO is technically a committee of the school which is operated as an arm of the church. All this being said, what do we call the PTO by-laws and standing rules?
  5. avatar

    Posted by Craig on Nov. 10, 2009

    Pam -- If the PTO is an independent organization, the principal doesn't have that right. Of course, he can have a significant affect on how the group is allowed to interact with the school, so it's important to keep open lines of communication with him. -- Craig
  6. Posted by - Pam on Nov. 03, 2009

    Does the principal have the right to disburse the PTO?
  7. avatar

    Posted by Craig on Oct. 05, 2009

    Hi Kaurie,

    Typically, general meetings are public, but board meetings and committee meetings are private. Some states have broad open meeting rules, called "sunshine laws." If your group is organized as separate from the school, they probably don't apply to you. But if you're organized as an extension of a public school, they probably do. Check with the Secretary of State's office to find out what the rules are in your state.

    Craig
  8. Posted by - kaurie on Sep. 06, 2009

    Hi I would like to know if pto can hold executive board meetings-- we also hold openmeetings- but I have a parent telling me we can not have private meetings?
  9. Posted by - Tim Sullivan on Jun. 15, 2009

    Hi Gail -

    I think this page will be a help for you:

    http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/480-pto-vs-pta-faqs

    Tim
  10. Posted by - gail theisen on Jun. 13, 2009

    I am currently in my 3 year as President of Century Jr. High PTA. We want to make the switch to PTO, what do we need to do to make this change as far as the bylaws are concerned? How exactly do you make it official?
    Thanks,
    Gail
  11. Posted by - Christina on Jun. 04, 2009

    Hello to anyone,
    I am the treasurer on our PTO at least till elections next week. We (a few who are out numbered) are having difficulty with the state of our present Bylaws. First, they go against the California codes for non-profits. When we tried to bring this up the President , Principal & the writer of the current Bylaws pretty much said too bad. The only rights they say our members (which they say are supporters not members to justify their twisted agenda) have is to vote at the end of year... The Bylaws only give the board power & non to the members. I have read many other school Bylaws and they say members have the right to vote at all general meetings plus the elections. I am at a crossroads. They wonder why no one wants to volunteer and that is because they have made this a Kingdom not a Parent Teacher Organization. My last fear is that they will try to mess with the elections somehow and then what? What can I do?
  12. Posted by - Lisa from PTO Today on May. 11, 2009

    Here's an article that will help you weigh whether the co-president route is for you.

    http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/355-cochair-survival-skills

    In general, co-presidents can work, but there are challenges -- the main one being how do you make a decision when the co-presidents disagree?One option is to have president and president-elect as positions instead of co-presidents. That way there's a clear delineation of power.

    You could also post this on the message board and see what other PTO leaders say.

    Good Luck,
    Lisa
  13. Posted by - Nicky on May. 11, 2009

    I have a question. I know you can have Co positions if it is stated in your bylaws. But can you have Co President? Or should you not have it? We are in a situation were two people want to position and we don't want to make the other mad. Please help with your advice.
  14. Posted by - concerned on May. 10, 2009

    please help
  15. Posted by - concerned on May. 10, 2009

    our pto runs only executive board meetings. the members are not allowed in any of the meetings and are not involved in any decisions made by the board. the principle was told that they dont have to be informed or invited to the meeting, fund raising decisions are made by 4 people sometimes 3. money is spent out of the pto funds, for different functions and the board takes the extras away. they spend money on other schools, when is the members to voice their concerns and why are they allowed to write checks to themselves for reimbursements. we need our books audit so who do we contact about this matters, we have had 2 meetings, 1 to state what thy have done, the other for elections of officers which cant be done beca use their by-laws prohibit outsiders of the board from running and that keeps them running. what can we do urgent response needed.
  16. Posted by - Vicki on Apr. 03, 2009

    Our bylaws state an elected executive board member must be in good standing. What is a solid definition for "good standing"?
  17. Posted by - Newbie2009 on Mar. 14, 2009

    Have learned that a generic set of bylaws was put in place when our PTO originally filed to be a 501(c)(3) in MA.

    1) we have two school groups working under the same corporate heading, neither of which ever approved the bylaws, so are the bylaws binding?

    2) if one of the directors chooses to use the bylaws to remove another director without cause, does that immediately mean that all the bylaws must be adhered to?

    3) in MA, do PTOs that are 501(c)(3) need to meet under Open Meeting law?

    4) if a director is removed, how does that effect that person's position as a chair within the school group?
  18. avatar

    Posted by plus on Mar. 11, 2009

    Elizabeth from 01/26/09 - You might need to get a new tax id number if you change the name of the organization. I'm not sure,but it's worth a call to the IRS at 1-877-829-5500 to find out. Your bank might balk at changing the name, too, without something official. Patriot Act rules have tightened up some practices at the banks. If you get a new tax id, you have a new organization and will need to incorporate anew and file for 501c3 again. The main reason to chagne is to respect the new mission of the group, but changing your name might not be as easy as just changing the content of your bylaws.
  19. Posted by - Jae Chung on Mar. 09, 2009

    What id the election process for the board members? Should the position be open for anyone who is interested in serving the school?
  20. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Feb. 28, 2009

    From a bylaws perspective, any votes taken at that meeting are invalid. Even if you have a quorum, you can't just hold a meeting without notifying all of the members of the board.

    Beyond that, though, this is a leadership issue. Check out our Leadership page: http://www.ptotoday.com/leadership It has several articles that may help, starting with Dealing With Disagreements http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/184-dealing-with-disagreements and How To Deal With Difficult People http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/409-how-to-deal-with-difficult-people

    You might also post your question on the message boards http://www.ptotoday.com/boards/ There are lots of experienced folks on the boards who can offer advice. They'll want a little more detail, though. For instance, was this a one-time issue? Was the whole thing purposely set up behind your back, or could it have been a misunderstanding by an inexperienced treasurer? etc.

    Good luck! -- Craig
  21. Posted by - PrezWithProbs on Feb. 28, 2009

    I am the president of a PTO at a brand new school. Recently, our treasurer called a meeting of the PTO board without my knowledge to disucss financial matters and budget overages. Becasue I was not called and our bylaws specifically state that the president is reposnsible for calling all meetings, is there something I can do to repremand or deal with tihs violation of our bylaws?
  22. Posted by - Concerned parent on Jan. 30, 2009

    The PTO board at my sons school only consists of 3 "official" officers/parent members. The rest is the principal and 6-8 teachers. The president is new so one of the teachers is basically running the PTO. Doesn't there need to be at least the same amount of parent's? Also, when writing bylaws who should be doing it? Our district has a policy that staff members cannot serve as officers but can be on the board as a teacher representive. Is there somewhere I can find this information to give to the principal?
  23. Posted by - John on Jan. 27, 2009

    Our Private Christian School has a PTO formed 50+ years ago. We're facing closure in June if we can't utilize PTO funds to help offset normal expenses, including salaries. We have every hope that enrollment will grow once again soon, but without PTO money, we're probably closing. Question: Does the PTO have the legal right to refuse the School Board's request for money?
  24. Posted by - Elizabeth on Jan. 26, 2009

    Our middle school (grades 6-7-8) will be splitting off its 6th grade next year (in a separate building), but we plan to keep one PTC for the two schools. In revising the bylaws, I feel we should change the name from "X middle school PTC" to "X / Y middle school PTC". (We have many adjustments to make besides the name.) Once the new bylaws are approved with the new name, do I need to change the name with the IRS and on the bank account? (I'm currently in my 3rd year as Treasurer.)
  25. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Dec. 31, 2008

    Hi Susan -- Sorry to hear about your problem. That sounds like a tough situation. You might check out the article "How To Deal With Difficult People" http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/409 It offers some very good advice on confronting troublemakers. I'd also suggest posting your question on the message boards, maybe with a few more details about what's going on so people can offer more specific responses. http://www.ptotoday.com/boards/ Good luck! -- Craig
  26. Posted by - Susan on Dec. 31, 2008

    I'm hoping you can help. I've served on the PTO board at my childrens school for going on my third year. This year it seems that there is a particular lady also on the board who is making it a point to cause problems throughout our board and our school. We are very close to losing out PTO because of it and I was wondering if you can advise me on how we can resolve such a problem???
  27. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Dec. 15, 2008

    Hi Susan -- Bylaws only need to be approved once. They are then in effect as written until they are modified by a vote of the members. They don't need to be signed to be official. -- Craig
  28. Posted by - Susan Kamieniecki on Dec. 15, 2008

    Hi. I have two questions that I am hoping someone can clear up for me.
    1- Do bylaws need to be approved at the beginning of each year?
    2-Should the bylaws be signed at the end? And who should sign them? Ours are not so what's the next step if they need to be?
    Thanks so much in advance!
    Susan
  29. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Nov. 20, 2008

    Renee -- The disturbing part of your post is that you don't know what's going on with the money. It's crucial to have the bank statements reviewed by someone other than the treasurer every month. Please read "5 Smart Financial Controls" http://www.ptotoday.com/pto-today-articles/article/395 It contains very important information about how to protect your finances. Please don't let this situation linger -- it needs to be addressed head-on immediately. -- Craig
  30. Posted by - Renee Costanza on Nov. 13, 2008

    if a member is not following certain rules, how does the president address it? We have a parent that refused to be sworn in (we don't know why, she was the treasurer, and also wouldn't give any receipts or bank acct. information to the president for last year.) We don't know what she is up to with the money, and we think there is something very wrong with the fact that we got no bank info, and that she refused to be sworn in, yet she is now the secretary. Any thoughts
  31. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Oct. 30, 2008

    Tiffany -- Bylaws always need to be approved by a vote of the PTO. If your group has been in existence for awhile, is it possible that the principal is presenting you with existing bylaws? -- Craig
  32. Posted by - Lisa on Oct. 24, 2008

    Thank You Craig,
    I'm sure we all have the same motivation and thats the children every time so thanks for the site and all of the information right at our fingertips.
  33. Posted by - Tiffany on Oct. 23, 2008

    I am new to PTO and also the PTO vice president. The principal of the school presented us with bylaws she prepared for us to go by, should these bylaws be voted on by the PTO board or should we create our own bylaws?
  34. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Oct. 23, 2008

    Hi Lisa -- Unless a vote was specifically designated as nonbinding or informational only, it typically can only be overturned by another vote at a general meeting. -- Craig
  35. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Oct. 23, 2008

    Hi Cheryl -- There are no "PTO bylaws" per se. Bylaws are meant to fit your specific group and your group's needs. You'll find lots of sample bylaws in the Bylaws and Policies section of the File Exchange: http://www.ptotoday.com/filesharing/category/62-bylawspolicies Also, the PTO Start-up Toolkit has more information on bylaws and getting organized: http://www.ptotoday.com/startup-guide/ -- Craig
  36. Posted by - Lisa on Oct. 21, 2008

    Can a PTO president overturn a no vote by the PTO as a whole, just because she didn't agree with the vote?
  37. Posted by - cheryl perry on Oct. 20, 2008

    could you please send me a copy of the pto today bylaws thank you
  38. Posted by - Lisa on Sep. 10, 2008

    We are a new PTO and are just beginning to write our bylaws. Is it legal to use wording from other organizations's bylaws in our document?
  39. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Aug. 28, 2008

    Hi Lori--Your bylaws should include a section on how to amend them. A typical provision requires that members receive a certain amount of notice about the amendment before voting, and that the amendment pass by a two-thirds vote. While some groups do read the amendment at one meeting and vote on it at the next, your own procedures are up to your group.--Craig
  40. Posted by - Lori Ciesla on Aug. 28, 2008

    Our bylaws were just revised after I believe 10 years with 5 out of 6 PTO members of 2007-2008 revising them before the new board took over. Do these bylaws have to be read at 2 meetings and then voted on-what's the deal with this? I was told that by someone and I would like to know where that's stated. Id that's true it will be done, if not, who knows.
  41. Posted by - Fiona on Aug. 21, 2008

    I have a question. Can a 501 C non profit work together with a non profit charity while having a fund raising event.

    There has been much discussion about this and I can't get a copy of the bylaws.

    We are a special education parent advisory and have agreed to work with another to bring awareness against domestic violence in our community and schools.

    The board has passed this, apart from 2 members-majority rules. So is there any reason why we couldn't do this if the money raised was split?
  42. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Aug. 19, 2008

    Your board members have been elected to lead your group. Certainly you want them to participate in any general vote, and under Robert's Rules they have the right to do so. Craig
  43. Posted by - Yesterdays News on Aug. 19, 2008

    Should the PTO board be allowed to vote if they out number the other members in attendence?
  44. Posted by - Lani Harac, PTO Today on Aug. 17, 2008

    Hi, Veronica -- There's absolutely no need to have bylaws or revisions notarized. Just make sure to include the date each time revisions are approved so your group's leaders will know when the last revision was done.
  45. Posted by - Veronica on Aug. 01, 2008

    I am a new PTO president and there haven't been any bylaws written. Do new bylaws need to be notarized? What about revisions?
  46. Posted by - Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today on Jul. 31, 2008

    Hi Melissa -- This is a bit of a gray area. Yes, you can make decisions for the group, including setting dates or making commitments. But if the decision is likely to be controversial at all or if it involves significant resources, you should really seek the support of your executive board first. If you post this question on the message boards, I bet you will get a lot of response and insight. Just go to www.ptotoday.com/boards. Good luck! -- Craig
  47. Posted by - Melissa Sadorf on Jul. 30, 2008

    I have a question on what a president can decide on for her PTO and what needs a vote by the board. I am a new President and our by-laws are a little vague in this area. I need to know if i can set a date or agree to help out with a function at school without calling an extra meeting. Hope there is someone that can help me. You can post or email me at msadorf@charter.net
  48. Posted by - Kathryn Lagden from PTO Today on May. 27, 2008

    Hi Doretha - Your group's bylaws define who can be a board member. For example, your bylaws may limit membership to people with children in the school and state that officers must be members in good standing. Many groups encourage membership from anyone concerned about the school, which would include staff members. Having a supportive staff member on the board can be a positive in bridging communications with teachers and administration. Or it can be a negative if there's a clash. Best place to get more advice is on our message boards. Lots of experienced folks willing to share. Boards are here - www.ptotoday.com/boards. (If you need help using the boards or posting a question email me directly at klagden@ptotoday.com)
  49. Posted by - Doretha on May. 23, 2008

    Can school personnel serve on board?
  50. Posted by - Kathryn Lagden from PTO Today on May. 12, 2008

    Hi herrera85615 - In most cases, PTOs are structured as independent organizations. They work with the school but aren't governed by them. Therefore, it's not necessary to have a school official attend meetings. However, bylaws differ from group to group. Check your group's to see what language they include about meetings.
  51. Posted by - herrera85615@yahoo.com on May. 12, 2008

    I want to know if a school official should be present at PTA meetings and if there are bylaws that say this??
  52. Posted by - Rae on Apr. 29, 2008

    Hi Chrissy,

    Believe you will find assistance from the National Association of Parliamentarians.org helpful. Members of this organization study parliamentary procedures -- how to preside, write bylaws, responsibilities of officers and the chair of each committee, standing and special committees, etc. etc.
  53. Posted by - Kathryn Lagden from PTO Today on Apr. 11, 2008

    Hi Chrissy - You'll find some examples of bylaws in the Bylaws/Policies section of the File Exchange - www.ptotoday.com/filesharing
  54. Posted by - CHRISSY on Apr. 11, 2008

    COULD YOU PLEASE SEND ME A COPY OF THE BYLAWS FOR PTO

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