As PTAs work to move their mission forward and serve the children in our schools, they often find that dues are not sufficient to accomplish their goals. Fundraising is a necessary component to provide the means, yet it can be challenging.
All funds generated by a PTA, including the local portion of dues, should be predetermined and budgeted for purposes that advance PTA work, such as participating on committees, and undertaking projects and programs. Participation in state and national PTA conventions is an appropriate and important use of PTA funds.
PTAs are often called upon to finance programs and purchase needed equipment that tight school budgets cannot afford. It is the responsibility of each PTA to determine what it will do to address the needs of their schools. PTA funds should always be used to further the mission of PTA.
PTA fundraising should be carried out within the framework of National PTA’s policies. A PTA should never undertake any form of fundraising that may be detrimental to character building.
Once the goal of the fundraising project has been thoroughly considered, the following points can help guide a PTA when deciding on a fundraising event:
- The PTA should check its state PTA to determine whether guidelines exist for working with individual companies or corporations. The anticipation of a successful fundraising event should not cloud the judgment of the PTA or be exploited by those outside the PTA who may have something to gain privately.
- Project organizers must take care not to improperly obligate their PTA when soliciting or accepting commercial contributions to help finance a project.
- Children should not be the primary means of soliciting within fundraising activities.
- When using food for fundraising initiatives, please review Idaho Smart Snacks in School Policy as well as the Smart Snacks Information for Parents and PTAs document.
When planning the year’s activities, PTAs should use the 3-to-1 rule. For every fundraising activity, there should be at least three non-fundraising projects aimed at helping parents or children or others advocating for school improvements.
When considering or selecting fundraising programs and materials worthy of the PTA, the following questions should be used as guides:
- Does the program require children to purchase a product in order to participate?
- Is it expected or implied that children will be required to sell to others?
- If there are classroom materials, are they credible and accurate?
- Has the company produced the materials in partnership with a recognized authority?
- Are the materials complete and not deceiving or misleading by omission?
- Is the language and organization of material age-appropriate? Is the information designed to sell products?
- Do the text and illustrations uphold the PTA’s nondiscrimination policies?
- Is this a win-win situation where the PTA is benefiting financially or otherwise from the relationship?
All PTA bylaws – national, state, region, district, council and local – include the requirement to be noncommercial (the selling of goods or services that does not contribute significantly to education or advocacy for children, even if the revenue raised from the activity is used for education or advocacy). PTA’s noncommercial policy is a policy designed to protect PTAs from exploitation.
- PTAs are prohibited under federal law from engaging in substantial business activities that are unrelated to their tax-exempt purposes, which are legally defined as educational and charitable.
- PTAs should not endorse products, companies or foundations.
- PTAs may accept advertising as long as it stays within postal regulations (no more than 10% of the total document, including any self-advertising, e.g., for conventions and other events) and does not jeopardize the purposes and nonprofit status of PTA.
- PTAs should familiarize themselves with local, state and federal regulations and requirements regarding licensing and liability before sponsoring or conducting public events.
PTAs need to be aware of the risks involved in soliciting or accepting commercial contributions so as not to jeopardize their tax-exempt status. A PTA’s tax-exempt status is one of its most important assets, and if that status is revoked, charges of negligence or mismanagement may be brought against the officers and directors. Therefore, when considering a proposed activity, the PTA should ask, “Will this activity adversely affect our tax-exempt status?”
Strict compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws is extremely important to prevent even the most well-intentioned effort from becoming a serious problem for a PTA.