Q: Once we finish our Financial Review, what do we do with it?
A: First, you will present it to your executive board for approval. Once they approve it, you will present it to your general membership for approval. Once it is fully approved and signed, you will upload it to the Compliance section of MemberHub and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: When do we have to vote on our budget?
A: Most PTAs/PTSAs vote on their budget at the first general meeting of the year to approve spending for the school year. Some include summer spending in their school year so they can have programs run over the summer (e.g. Kindergarten Play Dates, and some do back to school activities (e.g. Welcome Back Breakfast for teachers). That said, all PTAs/PTSAs also need to vote on amendments to their budget over $300 at any point in the year. As an example, if you have a fundraiser that nets $1,000 more to your budget and your board decides that they want to pay for an assembly for the school, that would need a vote of the general membership.
Q: Can our PTA have a debit card?
A: Yes, however, the card should not be held by the Treasurer, but another signor on the bank account and there should be a very careful system of checks and balances for its use. As an example, at the FCCPTA the President holds the debit card for the account. Before use, the President notifies the Treasurer of the need to use the card and fills out a Debit Card Expense Form. The Treasurer ensures that the expense is in line with the budget and that the funds are available for the purchase. Once the purchase has occurred, the President gives all invoices and receipts to the Treasurer.
Q: What is the 3:1 rule?
A: For every fundraising activity there should be at least three non-fundraising projects, activities, or events. These projects should be aimed at helping parents and/or children, or advocating for school/education improvements.
Q: Our school hosts All Night Grad Party for our students, sometimes it is really hard to get them to submit invoices, receipts, or check requests. What can we do?
A: Because this particular program receives the benefit of the PTA 501(c)3 status, all of the same rules and regulations apply to this spending. At the beginning of the school year, I would explain this and keep an eye on the developments of this program as you would any other. We can help if issues arise, just involve us early enough that we can work collaboratively on your behalf.
Q: Can PTAs/PTSAs use gift cards? We usually give our principal a handful at the beginning of the year to give out.
A: PTAs/PTSAs can use gift cards in a limited way. Gift cards can be used for prizes or incentives for students in Reflections and other programs, or as thank you gifts for volunteers and teachers/staff.
However, purchasing gift cards for use in PTA programs, while permissible, comes with the potential for fraud. Gift cards, like cash, can be used by anyone. Without adequate documentation of the purchase and distribution of gift cards, no one is accountable for those items; there is no “audit trail.” The policies and procedures in place for control of usual transactions – such as two signatures on checks, prompt reconciliation and detailed documentation – are sometimes nonexistent or easily circumvented with gift cards.
Additionally, when cash, gift cards, or gift items of more than nominal value ($25) are given to PTA volunteers or school staff, the PTA runs the risk of turning the individual into an employee in the eyes of the IRS. An employee is liable for paying taxes on income, and the PTA, as an employer, becomes subject to payroll filings and taxes.
To avoid these pitfalls, if you decide to use gift cards, do the following:
Treat gift cards as cash and institute the use of a log for disbursement of gift cards used for prizes or incentives for students so that there is documentation of who received each award. That log, signed by each prize recipient, would be attached to the check request form used for the purchase of the gift cards.
Limit use of gift cards for PTA purchases to items in the approved budget, and maintain, to the extent possible, the same controls that should be in place for cash purchases; including having two people coordinate gift card use and retaining receipts for purchases made. For teacher supply gift cards, require submission of receipts for purchases made to ensure appropriate use.
Eliminate or reduce the use of gift cards - or cash - for “thank you gifts” to volunteers, teachers and/or staff to avoid potentially creating an employer-employee relationship. Ensure that the total amount of gift cards to any individual does not exceed $25 for each fiscal year.
Q: We want to do something nice for our teachers for the beginning of the school year, can we give them all gift cards for school supplies for their classroom?
A: No. Remember gift cards are treated like cash, so giving out a number of gift cards that you cannot ensure were spent on the item is not appropriate. However, you can purchase the supplies and hand them out, have the teachers purchase supplies and reimburse them if they submit a receipt, or you can have a formal system of teacher requests for the PTA. Just remember that whatever you purchase, you must have proof that the transaction was for what you said it was for and that your membership approved it.
Q: Can we give gift cards to our needy families instead of running a food pantry?
A: Unfortunately no. There is no way to account for these in the long run and gift cards create accountability issues for PTAs. If you want to help in your community without starting a food pantry you can do something as little as purchasing non-perishable snack items for the school social workers to give out, sponsor a food drive, or solicit donations of those items to be given to a local food bank.
Q: We would like to give gift cards for prizes to kids at Bingo Night. Is this okay?
A: Yes. Gift cards for prizes are perfectly acceptable. Just keep a good record of the purchase and who the prize was awarded to and when. If you can get a parent to sign that the child received it, all the better.
GIFTING, GRANTS, AND SCHOLARSHIPS
Q: The PTA wants to give a large gift to the school to honor our 6th Grade class. Can we give a piece of playground equipment
A: PTAs have to be careful about this due to liability issues. This should be a conversation with your insurance company to ensure that you are covered if anything were to happen to a child while paying on the equipment. Also, because this is going on school property, you will more than likely need to use an FCPS approved vendor, so working with your school principal and the FCPS facilities department will be a must. Finally, think about the mission of your PTA. It is not the role of the PTA to supplement what should be provided by the schools budget. If you find yourself being asked to supplement those types of things, it may be time to advocate for more funding for your school. The FCCPTA VP of Advocacy can help you with that.
Q: What is the difference between a grant and a scholarship, and can a PTA be involved with either?
A: Usually grants are needs-based and scholarships are merit-based. PTA Grants generally provide funds for a program, which many include supplies, transportation, speaker fees and so on. PTA Scholarships generally provide funds for a person or persons (which is an exception to the IRS inurement clause).
Yes, a PTA can give or receive grants and/or scholarships. PTAs should only apply for grants that reflect the mission of the PTA, which is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Scholarships can be set up for a variety of purposes that fit with the PTA mission. Some examples are membership scholarships, college scholarships, and training scholarships. But remember, scholarships MUST be equitable, so ensure criteria and expectations are visible to your membership.