People have asked me if you need to be an accountant to be PTO treasurer. The simple answer is no. Sure, it’s helpful, but it isn’t necessary. I do happen to be an accountant, and over the years I’ve been involved with many parent groups. I have probably reviewed the financial reports prepared by at least two dozen treasurers. I would estimate that about two-thirds of those treasurers had no bookkeeping or accounting training, and almost all of them kept the books just as well as people who did.
So if you’re thinking about becoming your PTO’s treasurer, I’d suggest asking yourself these three questions. If you can answer yes to all three, you could be a great candidate.
1. Are you comfortable with computers?
You don’t have to be highly advanced with Excel spreadsheets, but you do need to be comfortable with computers. Several companies sell software that practically keeps the books for you and issues the reports you need. You just have to enter payments and deposits like you would do with your checkbook at home. A few years ago, I was on an audit committee where we were handed a stack of loose-leaf papers with all the transactions handwritten. The treasurer was frustrated because it took her so long to pull a report together every month—and it took us forever to get the audit done. Using a computer would have saved many hours of unnecessary effort.
2. Are you organized?
Are you the type of person who loses track of things, like receipts? Then the treasurer’s job probably isn’t the best choice for you. As treasurer, people will be coming at you from all sides with all kinds of paperwork—reimbursement requests, bills, tax notices, money to be deposited. It’s very important to get money in the bank right away, pay bills in a timely manner, and keep everything organized for the year-end financial review. I like to use binders—one for receipts and deposits, and one for monthly reports and stuff that gets carried forward from year to year. But I’ve also seen people use file folders—one for each month’s activity. Your system doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. But you do need some kind of system to be able to keep up.
3. Can you balance a checkbook?
Many people don’t even bother balancing a checkbook anymore, but most parent groups still use checks. So if you can balance your own, it shows that you are pretty good with numbers. I know of a situation where someone wrote a pretty large check that did not get cashed for several months. When the group was asked to commit to another large purchase, they thought they had more money than they did. It worked out OK in the end, but they ended the year with much less money than they had hoped.
Those are the three basics to know going in. It really helps when the person who held the job before you will likely give you some good guidance. There are lots of resources in the PTO Today community as well. A willingness to help combined with some common sense goes a long way!
Originally posted in 2014 and updated regularly. Nannette Henderson is a longtime parent group treasurer based in Virginia.