Sending out our annual back-to-school issue means we have more new readers than usual and more readers raring to go than any other time of the school year.

With that in mind, I’m going to take a break from my standard advice-giving and pontificating and try to walk you through how we here at PTO Today can help make this your best PTO year ever. We’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and we’re proud of the wide range of solutions we’ve built for you.

It’s always a killer for me to hear from a group in April or May: “Oh, if we’d only known you guys had that for us, we would’ve had a much better year!” We try mightily to make our services known to as many PTO and PTA leaders as we can, but we always miss a few folks. I hope that doesn’t happen this year. It’s important to note, too, that the vast majority of these tools and services are completely free to everyone. I know we can help your group achieve great things.

If you’re dealing with a PTO challenge, I bet we have an answer, today and throughout the school year. More information on each of these can be found on ptotoday.com.

Focusing on Parent Involvement

We believe that all of your work—even fundraising—has to start with connecting with your parents and growing involvement. That’s why we started our School Family Nights program and why it remains our most popular solution. All of our SFN kits are turnkey tools to help you put on fun, engaging family nights for your school. Think Family Reading Night, Family Movie Night, and the like, and that’s the SFN program.

That parent involvement focus is also why we started our 2 Hour Power program. This is a simple volunteer pledge program that’s especially perfect at the start of the school year. By letting parents know that even just an hour or two of volunteering—any kind that fits their schedule—is valuable, you can transform involvement at your school.

Taking Care of the Details

Most PTO leaders don’t sign up for the job looking forward to filing papers with the IRS or auditing the books or worrying about insurance. Nevertheless, those details are just as much a part of the job as cooking pasta for 400 or giving a committee report. This is where we’ve made perhaps the biggest difference for new leaders. It’s now much easier to get buttoned up.

Is your group insured? Do you think you’re covered by your school district? Most groups should be insured, and way too many aren’t. It’s why we launched an insurance solution specifically for PTOs, customized for your group’s needs and saving you a ton of money.

We’ve also built a really simple solution for tracking your dollars, along the lines of “Quicken for PTOs.” It’s called Finance Manager, and it lives online so that any officer can have secure, password-protected access while also making it easy to maintain financial records as your board changes.

Finally, we’ve taken a lot of the heavy lifting out of getting 501(c)(3) status. That’s the official term for being a real nonprofit, which allows you to apply for many grants and lets your members and others deduct donations to your group. Our Start-Up Toolkit is included in our PTO Today Plus offering (along with about a dozen other great benefits). It will literally walk you through every answer on the application. Couldn’t be easier.

Organizing Your Volunteers

If your volunteer information—who they are, what they’re interested in helping with, their phone numbers and email addresses—is kept on 300 sheets of paper in a file cabinet, you simply have to change your ways. And our Volunteer Manager software is how you do that. It’s like a really simple Rolodex of all your volunteers and their interests and contact info. Your group will be better, and you’ll connect with and involve more parents. Thousands of groups already have.

Making It Through the Year

It would take a book to list all the challenges associated with your PTO leadership role. The meetings that won’t end. The volunteers who do too much or too little. The frustration of working so hard and then getting criticized. And so much more.

And that’s where the last tool comes in: ptotoday.com. If it’s 10 p.m. and you’re fresh out of teacher appreciation ideas, hit the site. If it’s 2 a.m. and you’re ready to quit because no one close to you can relate to your pain, hit the site. If you’re trying to design a “doughnuts with dad” flyer and just can’t get it right, hit the site. (Hint: Check the File Exchange; someone else has already designed and shared that flyer.)

From all of us, please accept our best wishes for an amazing year and our deep appreciation for the work you do. It’s powerful, important stuff that will affect kids for years to come. If we at PTO Today can help even a little bit, it’s our privilege.