Should PTAs/PTOs take the summer off?
You know, I think most people would be surprised to find out that many PTA/PTO leaders work well into the summer – even though school is no longer in session.
Okay, so there might be some volunteers who may have opposition to working over the summer. I get it! After all, many of us could really use the summer off. Am I right? Boy, I know I could use a nice long relaxing vacation right about now… I mean, my brain was pretty fried at the end of the school year (and probably still is). My good friend, Kendra, coined May as “Manic May” and she is 100% correct! May was insane for us at school, in our Parent Teacher Group (PTG), and for our family in general.
While a full summer off might not exactly be feasible for many of us, a few weeks off is surely something to consider. 🙂
Have you taken yours yet?
Summer planning = ongoing success
I firmly believe that one of the most important things you can do over the summer to facilitate the overall success of your group is to schedule a few planning sessions BEFORE school starts in the fall. Of course, that is AFTER you take a little time off first!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not proposing you spend the WHOLE summer doing volunteer work for your PTG. NO WAY!
Anyway, where would I even find time? Seriously friends, I spend a good 1/3 of my waking time outside. I’ve been overseeing a major overhaul of our home’s landscaping (since we moved in). When we bought a fixer upper two years, that included fixing up the inside AND outside. Have I ever told you about my poison ivy mishap?!? Even if you are a super busy mom over the summer just like me by working just a little with your PTG you will have a smooth start to the school year for sure.
It isn’t too late to get started!
If your group isn’t already meeting for at least a few planning sessions over the summer, pose the idea to your fellow board members. Ask to see if you all can meet up to develop a solid plan of action for the new school year together!
If you are new to the PTA/PTO game hopefully that means your ideas are fresh and you are super enthusiastic about getting your PTG started on the right foot. Seasoned PTA/PTO veterans rely on your optimism and new ideas! Trust me..we really do. 🙂 So, don’t be shy…share your thoughts with the group!
Where to meet?
Since school may not be a possible meeting place for your planning sessions, based on summer hours, where will you meet?
We have done a mixture of things over the years with our group… homes, school, restaurants, etc. Some years our kids have tagged along while other years our meetings have been a kid-free zone. It changes each year based on the needs and availability of our officers. If board members will have children with them, parks may make a pleasant meeting spot. Just make sure to visit a park that is small enough to easily keep an eye on everyone. Access to bathrooms is also essential (speaking from experience). I am also a fan of hitting up the local coffee joint for an enjoyable planning session.
Summer meeting topics for PTG Success
Okay, so now that we have talked about why summer planning sessions are a key to success, let’s dive in to WHAT your PTG can do this summer so that your group can start the year with a bang!
It is a great practice for everyone to come together and work on a calendar of events for the whole year, even planning July- June. Of course many things remain the same year-to-year, but new board members might not know about these “regulars.” We want to make sure everyone starts the year on the same page and has an opportunity to be a part of the planning process. That’s why starting with planning your calendar makes a lot of sense.
Be sure to get in touch with the principal, or other staff members in-the-know for dates for special programs that you may not have at your fingertips. At our school, many dates are added to the Family Calendar that are accessible from the school’s website. I have used this feature to help our PTG plan around other programs, days off, field trips, etc.
Planning a yearly budget is probably one of the most important pieces you can contribute to your PTG each year. Starting the year with a proposed budget sends a message to everyone that you have a clear understanding of what is going on with the financial make-up of your organization.
In order to know how much money you have to spend, you need to know how much you are starting with. It also is invaluable for your group to be able to plan enough fundraising programs throughout the year so that you can cover your planned expenditures.
Reevaluate your budget every year!
Over the past few years, we have had a declining enrollment at our school. Our whole district has experienced this same problem as well. What we have seen, possibly as a result, is that our fundraisers bring in lower amounts each year. Big Bummer! Many things such as Box Tops Labels and other on-going projects are bringing in lower amounts too, and of course Target ended their Red Card giveback program last year. Double Bummer.
In order to plan our budget, we use the numbers from the year before (and sometimes a few years before that as well) to gauge how much we think we can expect to earn in the next year. We make adjustments as needed, based on how programs are performing.
Who plans the budget?
It can be daunting to create a budget, but remember you do not have to do it alone. It is not the treasurer’s sole responsibility to decide what the budget should look like, nor is it the president’s responsibility. The treasurer may be the one to physically create the budget. That doesn’t mean it is his/her full responsibly to develop it and decide what is or is not included. It is a great idea to create a committee to work on the budget together. It might take more than one meeting depending on how well organized your group is year to year or how new your board members are to the PTG game. Be sure to allow enough time to address your budget appropriately.
If you are a new treasurer or your group has a new treasurer, the best way to get started is to find budgets from previous years. You can use that information to carefully plan out the current proposed budget. If there was no budget the previous year, you may need to look back at old bank statements, meeting minutes, etc. to see what you can piece together about expenses and income.
What do you do once your budget is finished?
Once your budget is developed and you all agree it makes sense, you are ready to present the proposed budget to your membership in the fall. Try to make sure you include as much as you possibly can think of in terms of areas you will be spending money and fundraisers you plan to have.
Once the proposed budget is voted in by your membership, you will have the freedom to make certain purchases throughout the year. Of course items not included in the budget will need to be presented to your membership throughout the year. Any extra expenditures or purchase requests should be approved by the membership before funds can be used. A vote should officially be held for any purchase not agreed upon in the budget. Taking the time to in advance to thoughtfully write an annual budget helps your meetings run more smoothly and effectively.
While you may not need to dive deep into the planning of events that take place in February or March, there are likely a few things that you will need to do over the summer so that your group is ready to be active and fully functioning at the start of the school year.
Plan to have a table/booth at one of the Back-to-school events. Decide on the materials you would like to hand out at the start of the school year regarding membership, calendar of events, contact information, volunteer recruitment, newsletters, etc. over the summer.
The only way you can be sure that you have everything your group needs to start the school year strong is to plan over the summer. Making sure the ball is rolling for all of the things you plan to do in the first 3 months of school is really essential, otherwise a lot can easily fall through the cracks. That first event during the school year is a perfect time to look for volunteers for all of the early activities you have planned in the year.
Look for deals and steals for anything you might need during the school year now. If you have some extra time on your hands, this is a great time to check out the clearance deals at Target, for example!
Just because school isn’t in session that doesn’t mean communication with your support crew has to stop! While you may not have an abundance of announcements to advertise to your membership, don’t forget about the power of social media over the summer. Use this time to remind your supporters about ongoing programs like Box Tops, Amazon Smile, scrip programs, etc.
Consider updating your membership on various administrative tasks that your board is working on. Update your supporters on special projects that you are working on as well.
Mandatory Summer Projects
Of course some things naturally just have to get done this time of year, like the final financial report at the end of the fiscal year (if you run on a July 1 – June 30 fiscal year, that is). If your group is transitioning to a new treasurer, an audit should be completed before the new treasurer takes over. While it might seem like a big pain and a lot of extra work, it is really important to do.
I’m starting a new gig!
I am actually in the process of transitioning from our group’s President to Treasurer. To say that I am not intimidated is an understatement. With that said, I really enjoy learning new things and challenging myself. Wish me luck along the way! I definitely plan to update all of you with my ups and downs on this new journey for sure! Cross your fingers there are many more ups than downs, please! 🙂 HA!
One of the things that my PTG is trying out right now is a financial software program to help make my life easier, MoneyMinder . You see, I don’t have any background in this department. I don’t know how to use excel and didn’t take any business classes in college. This is all new to me folks! That is one of the things that I really responded to with MoneyMinder. It was designed so that people just like me can be successful treasurers with the tools they provide.
We are in the free trial process right now. I do have to say, so far so good! I am not getting paid to say this either. One of the things that impressed me right away is that I was contacted by a customer support representative to check in with me about the system and any questions I had. My questions were answered immediately. And next year this is going to make our Audit and year-end report a breeze, because it does everything for you! Money well spent in my book. I’ll be sure to keep you posted throughout the year.
One last thing…
Did you happen to notice the title graphic I have included in this post? The background is a photo I took at the beach last year. I snapped the pic during a trip a group of my PTG board members took last year to a local beach. We packed up our gear and our kids and hit the beach for a day of fun in the sun! You see, PTG planning sessions and meetings CAN be relaxing too! While we didn’t talk shop the entire day, you can be sure there was loads of PTG conversation taking place. Sometimes we have to think outside the box and include a little whimsy in the planning game. I can’t wait to try it again this summer!
Keep in touch with me!
Do you have any tips to share of things you have done over the summer with your PTG that I haven’t mentioned here? As always, we all would love to hear from you!
I want to thank all of you who have subscribed to my page and followed me on Facebook and Pinterest. If you aren’t already connected with me, please subscribe to my page (look for the sign-up at the top of the page) so that you can stay in the loop with me and not miss one of my updates!