Procedure Books—Preserving Your PTA’s Knowledge

Portrait Of Beautiful Young Girl SmilingEvery PTA has that one person, the one who took over an event and turned it into something more than it ever had beenbefore, the event that every parent and child at your school looks forward to all year. Their kids were spaced just right, and they’ve been doing this job for years and years. But now that youngest child is getting ready to leave your school, and now you’re faced with the challenge of finding someone new to fill those big, big shoes being left behind. Your task is a lot less challenging if you have one key item in your possession—a procedure book that explains everything that this special volunteer did over the years to make the event what it was.

Why Have a Procedure Book?

PTAs have volunteer turnover built into them. People rarely stay involved in a local PTA once they no longer have a child at a school. Procedure books play two critical roles for a PTA:

  • Preserving a PTA’s Knowledge: Volunteers may move on, but a procedure book preserves what they did, how they did it, who they contacted, what was spent, and much more. Your PTA has worked hard over the years learning how to meet its goals, how to make programs and events successful, and how to meet all of its legal responsibilities. A procedure book means all that hard work isn’t wasted by being lost when a volunteer moves on.
  • Helping to Recruit New Volunteers: Stepping into a new PTA position, whether as an officer or a chairperson, is a bit like a journey to a new land. A basic procedure book serves as a map of that new land, while a detailed procedure book can be a wonderful guidebook. A procedure book makes it easier to find someone willing to take on a PTA position, knowing that they are not setting off into that new land with nothing more than a flashlight and a hearty wave from their fellow PTA members.

What Should Go In a Procedure Book?

A procedure book should contain all the materials needed to accomplish the work of the office or committee, plus any additional information a new volunteer would find helpful. A three-ring binder makes it easy to add and remove materials to keep the contents up-to-date. A set of tabbed dividers can help keep sections organized. The items listed below are suggestions for a procedure book, but are not necessarily complete. If you feel that a certain document would be helpful to the person following you, be sure to include it in the procedure book.

  • Contact Information
    • Contact information for the chairperson/officer (name, address, e-mail, phone number)
    • Other relevant contacts (e.g., other officers, committee members, etc.)
  • Goals and Responsibilities
    • Job description for the position
    • List of overall goals
    • Plan of work for the year
    • Budget information
    • Reimbursement procedures and forms
    • Tax-Exempt Letter
  • Event Planning
    • Materials from previous year(s), including past budget and how it was spent, previous contacts, promotional materials, etc.
    • Event planning templates, including timelines, volunteer responsibilities during event
    • Correspondence related to the event (e.g., e-mails, notes of phone calls and conversations, etc.)
    • Materials distributed by the committee (e.g., calls for volunteers, flyers, posters, etc.)
    • Post-event committee reports, including how budget was spent, who was contacted, who volunteered to help, what went well, what went wrong, and what you would do differently the next time
  • PTA Administrative Information
    • Bylaws and Standing Rules
    • Agendas and Minutes
    • Financial materials (budgets, financial reports, etc.)
    • Contact information for all officers and chairpersons
    • Calendar of events and responsibilities for each month
    • Records retention schedule

At the end of the year, the PTA president should be sure to collect the procedure books from all of the officers and chairpersons who are not continuing in their current position. They should also collect a copy of each committee report form at a minimum for the PTA’s records so at least a basic procedure book can be recreated if one should not be returned.

Six Keys to a Smooth PTA Leadership Transition

As your school year comes to a close, it’s time to make sure your PTA board provides a smooth transition to next year’s board. Your board has worked hard all year for your PTA’s success, and now is not the time to damage that legacy by having your PTA fall apart over the summer or early next school year. Here are six things you can do as a current officer or board member to help provide for a smooth leadership transition.

  1. Meet with your successor. Provide them with the materials you inherited in your position and what you’ve added. Be sure to include a procedure book. Discuss what worked, what didn’t, and what you’d do differently if you had the job for another year.Team Meeting In Creative Office
  2. Meet with the incoming leadership as a board. The new board will need to build their abilities as a team, even if only a few new board members are joining. The outgoing board can share their experiences of working as a group.
  3. Arrange meetings with contacts. Outgoing officers and committee chairs should take the time to introduce their replacements to key contacts such as teachers, administrators, community partners, and community leaders.
  4. Introduce the new board to your membership. Make sure your members see a smooth succession and know that their PTA and their children are in good hands. Be sure to share the abilities of the new team that led to their nomination.
  5. Update your PTA’s contact information. Make sure that they will get the Illinois PTA Local Unit Packet later this summer by filling out the local unit registration form (or the council registration form for PTA councils).
  6. Plan to step back. You may be moving to another position on the board, not taking a new PTA leadership position, or moving on to another school. In any case, you should plan on stepping back from the position you are turning over. Let your successor know that you are handing them the keys and letting them drive off without you sitting in the back seat (and, yes, this can be as tough as letting your teenager do the same with your car). Make sure they know that you are still there as a resource for them, but that you realize that they will do some things differently and that you will give them the space and support to do so.

Top 10 Ways to Ruin Your Next PTA Year

Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895As a PTA leader, you’re probably busy wrapping up this year of school. However, some things done (or not done) now can really mess up next year’s PTAactivities.

  1.  Don’t bother with a nominating committee.
    Yes, it can be difficult and uncomfortable asking someone to be an officer or committee chair, and it’s certainly easier to take anybody willing to do a job and let them do it. But just because someone is willing to do the job doesn’t mean they are the right person to do it. Taking the time and making the effort to personally ask someone who has the skills to do a job well will make your PTA much more productive next year, so read up on what your nominating committee should be doing.
  2. Don’t use procedure books.
    Every PTA has that one person who really took ownership of an event and made it special year after year. With some well-spaced kids, they may have been running the event for ten or more years. Now their youngest child is moving on, and everyone is busy thanking them for their years of service and wondering how the PTA will fill those big shoes being left behind. A procedure book can help with that transition, covering who was contacted, what the budget was and how it was spent, what was done, and what could be done differently the next year.
  3. Don’t pass on materials.
    It seems so obvious—you’re leaving a position, and you need to pass on all the materials to your successor. Yet this simple, common sense task fails to happen more often than you would guess. Far too often, district and region directors hear from new PTA officers that they didn’t get any materials to help them do their jobs. If you’re an outgoing president, make sure your officers and committee chairs are passing on their procedure books and other materials. If you’re an incoming president, keep in touch with both your new officers and chairs and the outgoing officers to make sure your board has the tools they need to be successful next year.
  4. Don’t update signatures and passwords.
    You’ve got new officers for next year, and while there may be some who are continuing on, the list of those authorized to sign checks has likely changed. Make sure you update your signature list with your bank. If your PTA has a Facebook page, uses online banking, or has other password-protected sites it uses, make sure that the current username and password are passed on to the new person in charge of the site. Once that new person logs in, they should change the password for protection.
  5. Don’t send in dues or unused membership cards.
    Part of being a PTA unit in good standing is having at least 25 members, paying your PTA’s membership dues, and returning any unused membership cards to the Illinois PTA. Not doing those things can result in your PTA being listed as delinquent, which means that new materials like the Local Unit Packet and new membership cards won’t be sent until those items are taken care of. Be sure to use the Dues Remittance Form to make any outstanding dues payments before the end of the year, and use the Membership Card Return Transmittal Form to return any unused membership cards.
  6. Don’t provide any start-up funds.
    A PTA cannot spend any funds unless a budget has been approved. So how do you handle those expenses that occur prior to adopting your PTA budget at your first general membership meeting? By providing start-up funds in your current year budget. Even if you haven’t provided for start-up funds yet, it’s not too late to amend your budget to add a line for start-up funds, and you can probably fill it with some unspent funds from other budget line items. With those start-up funds, next year’s PTA will be able to have those sample spirit wear t-shirts to display at registration or have funds for a kindergarten kickoff event prior to the new budget being adopted.
  7. Don’t do an audit.
    Both your bylaws and the IRS requires your PTA to perform an audit at least annually after the end of your fiscal year. The audit provides your members with the reassurance that the PTA funds were spent as intended and guarantees that your new officers are taking over with a clean set of books. Your bylaws will spell out how your audit committee works, and you can find a sample audit form and sample annual financial report on the Illinois PTA website. The audit is adopted by your general membership at your first meeting of the year prior to adopting the new budget.
  8. Don’t file your 990 with the IRS.
    Once your PTA’s audit is done, you should have all the information needed to file your Form 990 with the IRS. If your PTA has gross income of less than $50,000, you only need to file the online Form 990-N, which only takes a few minutes to fill out. Failure to file a 990 with the IRS for three consecutive years results in your PTA losing its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status, meaning that you have to pay to reapply for the status and pay taxes on your PTA income until the status is regained.
  9. Don’t register your new officers.
    Illinois PTA sends out a Local Unit Packet late in the summer to every PTA that has registered its new officers and makes sure that they are signed up for the Illinois PTA Weekend Updates as well. Without that information, the Illinois PTA can’t share the information that those new officers need to be successful. Be sure to register your new local unit or council officers as soon as they are elected so they can get the materials and information they need. Even if you have the same officers as last year, you still need to register them to confirm their contact information.
  10. Don’t bother with training.
    You wouldn’t babysit your neighbor’s kids without learning what their bedtime was or if there were foods they couldn’t eat, so why would you want to run a PTA with a budget of tens of thousands of dollars (or more) without learning how to follow IRS rules or have a smooth-running meeting? Illinois PTA training courses answer all your basic and not-so-basic how to run a PTA questions. Contact your district or region director to find out when courses are being offered in your area or to find out how your PTA can host a training. Be sure to read the Illinois PTA Weekend Update to find out about online training opportunities, and check out National PTA’s e-learning library as well. All PTA officers should take PTA 101: Your Road to Success. In addition, PTA presidents should take the President’s Course and treasurers should take Money Matters 101.

Arts Education Helps Build 7 Key Leadership Skills

As Illinois cuts its education budget and school districts look to tighten their belts, cuts to arts programs are often near tFamily, holiday and child concept - close up of little girl andhe top of the list of cuts. At the Illinois PTA Spotlight event at Milliken University this past Saturday, both Milliken President Dr. Patrick White and Laura Ledford, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, emphasized how the arts support children’s education in skills employers are looking for. Their thoughts echoed the benefits of arts education covered in an article at Edutopia.

The article focuses on how the arts are a great way for students to develop leadership skills. Leadership opportunities for students in school are often limited to conventional roles such as student government and team captains, but by developing leadership skills through the arts, additional opportunities for students to take on big issues can emerge. Here are seven ways that the arts can help students build leadership skills:

  1.  Creativity: Creativity is not just about expression and aesthetics, but also about problem solving. It is one of the most important skills a leader needs.
  2. Risk Taking: Being truly creative and seeking out new ideas requires a willingness to take risks and to face potential failure. The arts provides students with the opportunity and confidence to try new and unorthodox approaches.
  3. Learning to Be Yourself: Leaders are often out in front of the crowd standing on their own. Doing so requires a leader to know who they are and what they stand for. Artists are often known for their ability to stand alone away from the crowd.
  4. Understanding the Power of Myth and Symbols: In art class, students work with shapes, archetypes, icons, and other cultural keys. Great leaders recognize the power of myth, stories, and symbolism in explaining complex ideas or issues that are often hard to express.
  5. Observational Skills: Great leaders can read the room, sense moods and attitudes, and observe the world around them. In the arts, students are encouraged to be keen observers.
  6. Project Planning: In the arts, students commit to projects that might not be finished for weeks or months later, whether it’s a painting, a musical performance, or a stage play. Bringing such projects to fruition require students to develop planning skills such as goal setting and scheduling and to develop the resilience required to see a project through to the end.
  7. Collaboration and Appropriation: While many arts projects depend on individual performance, many others such as plays, concerts, or marching band require artists to work as a group. Employers consider the ability to collaborate with others one of the key skills that they look for in a potential employee.

For more detail on how the arts build leaderships skills, be sure to check out the full article at Edutopia.