The end of the school year can be fun, but it’s also super busy–you’re simultaneously managing teacher appreciation, holding elections, planning field day, and working on next year’s budget. With so much happening all at once, it’s only natural that you might have a few questions.
Parent group leaders often ask us for guidance about year-end finances, elections, and leadership transitions. We’re sharing answers to some commonly asked questions to help your group successfully wrap up this school year and prepare for the next.
Can we carry money over to the next school year?
We hear this question a lot when parent groups finalize their books for the year. A common misconception is that a group must spend all its money by the end of the year and carry a zero balance. There’s no need to spend all the cash just to spend it. Not only is it legal to carry money over from one fiscal year to the next; it’s also the financially responsible way to operate.
Keep these considerations in mind when deciding how much to carry over:
Keep enough cash in the bank account to cover late reimbursement requests, vendor invoices, and back-to-school startup costs so you don’t need to hold a fundraiser at the beginning of the new school year.
Your state may limit how much money you can carry over, so check your incorporation guidelines or ask an accountant for advice. If your group sets funds aside for a large project such as a new playground, you must show that the planned expense is aligned with your group’s nonprofit purpose to avoid owing taxes.
If your group has 501(c)(3) status and disbands or your school closes, the IRS will require that any leftover money be given to another nonprofit group.
Think about your long-term goals as you review the current year’s spending to identify any gaps in projects or events. Can you plan for enrichment programs? Is it time for a computer lab upgrade? Earmark your savings with goals in mind.
Who audits the books—the outgoing board or the incoming board?
A year-end financial review, also known as an audit, can be done by either board unless your bylaws specify. It’s helpful if the current board gets the process going by organizing the bank statements, treasurer reports, the check register, receipts, and other paperwork.
Before summer break, reach out to your school community to find an accountant who would donate their time to review your financials, or create a three-person volunteer review committee. You can hire an outside professional if necessary. It’s important to keep in mind that the treasurer and anyone with check-signing authority cannot conduct the review.
Schedule the financial review to take place after you receive the final bank statement of your fiscal year and reconcile the statement. Most groups’ fiscal year end is June 30.
Find more details about what you need to do to wrap up your finances in our Year-End Financial Checklist.
When should we hold elections?
Because elections are so important, election timing and processes are usually specified in a group’s bylaws and the date is set early in the school year. If your group’s bylaws don’t address elections, we suggest you follow the procedure in Robert’s Rules of Order.
Traditionally, groups hold elections at the same time each year, usually the last or next-to-last monthly meeting. Bylaws should lay out when new officers officially take over. Late spring elections typically give the current board time to complete its goals and close the books for the year, while allowing incoming board members to shadow current leaders and plan for the next school year.
What do we do if we have a vacant position?
First of all, don’t lose hope! It’s not unusual for groups, especially in smaller schools, to have open seats. Wait until back-to-school when you can approach parents who are energized about a new year. Incoming kindergarten parents are often very active and interested in getting involved.
Ask board members to colead and share responsibilities or try rotating officers into the open seat every month. Think outside normal leadership recruiting channels—grandparents and retired teachers can bring experience when time-strapped parents aren’t available, or school staff may be able to help.
Find more about nomination and election processes in PTO Officer Elections FAQs.
My group wants to poll parents, but I don’t want to hear criticism. What’s a good way to get feedback from parents and teachers?
Done right, year-end surveys are an excellent way to learn what your group is doing well, where you can improve, and what school families want from your group.
Think about what you want to know from parents or teachers—why is meeting attendance low? What did people think about the spring fundraiser? Then write questions that invite feedback. If you’re not sure just how to do that, check out our tips in Create an Effective Survey and our sample surveys and templates.
One way to get more survey responses is to offer a small incentive. It could be a cup of coffee, a raffle ticket, or free entry into an event for every survey completed.
Finally, don’t be afraid of less-than-helpful comments. Instead, keep a positive attitude about the survey’s purpose. One leader in our social community says she chooses to ignore any complaints and instead puts her “energy into making improvements and focusing on what the school needs for the next year.”
How do we change our bylaws? We haven’t added anything in years, and they’re outdated.
Your bylaws lay out how your group operates, and ideally, your board should review them every year and update at least every three years to keep them current.
You may want to add teachers as board members, or decide you need to implement term limits. The process to make amendments should already be in your bylaws, but if it isn’t, a good resource is How To Write PTO Bylaws.
To make an amendment, first notify members about it ahead of time. Then the change can be proposed and voted on at the next meeting.
Motivation (and Inspiration)
How do you stay excited and positive at the end of the year?
By the end of the school year, your once upbeat and enthusiastic board might need an extra iced latte to get through meetings. After a year spent managing fundraisers, running events, and showing up at school every week, everyone’s ready for a vacation. Leaders in our Facebook community offer these tips to staying energized at the end of the year:
Positive attitude is the key–practice preemptive positivity
Keep your chin up and keep going!
Foster a happy school atmosphere and remember that getting new members is a year-long process
Promote your group–put your name and logo under “sponsored by” on every poster and every event
Post photos on social media of everything you do
Be drama free, smile, and make personal connections
Communicate with and appreciate teachers
Don’t buy into negativity
Get rid of any negative perceptions by being transparent
Tell your board and volunteers how much they’re appreciated to boost their spirits
What’s the best way to show parents and teachers all the great things our PTO did for the school this year?
Unless they attended every meeting, most parents and teachers won’t know how much money the PTO fundraisers brought in or what types of field trips your group funded. A year-end wrap-up flyer that highlights your group’s accomplishments is a simple and eye-catching way to tell your story.
Many groups create colorful flyers that call out their big accomplishments such as the total funds raised, number of field trips funded, types of events, how many lunches were served during Teacher Appreciation Week, who created the new sensory hallway, and more. We’ve seen pie charts, graphs shaped like pinwheels, and even a chart laid out like squares in a popular children’s board game.
Templates are available in most presentation software programs, and leaders in our social community are always willing to share examples; you can also download our “About Our PTO” templates. Share your flyer on your social media channels, website, newsletter, and school bulletin boards. Display it at end of the school year events and with any volunteer recruiting you do for the next school year.
Get more guidance about wrapping up the end of your school year by reading the End-of-School-Year Guide, our resource full of tips, advice, checklists, and more ideas for organizing your files, finalizing your finances, running your elections, thanking your teachers and volunteers, and planning for next year.