8 Keys to Getting Business Donations

Business donations can help a PTA offer programs and events and takes some of the financial burden off of your members by avoiding the need for fundraisers. But reaching out to businesses doesn’t come naturally to most people, and it can feel a little awkward when you first start. Here are eight tips to get you going.

  1. Remember Who You Represent.When you approach a business for a donation, you are representing your PTA and the work you do for children. PTA is a nationally-recognized brand. So when you approach a business, you have a lot to offer and are asking on behalf of a good cause. Don’t sell your PTA short by making too small a request—businesses will be interested in being associated with your brand.
  2. Coordinate Your Requests.PTAs run several events and programs over the course of the year, so make sure you’re not asking the same businesses for donations for each one. Have your leaders for the various programs work together at the beginning of the year to divide up the businesses you’ll be approaching for each event. Try and match potential donors with relevant programs, like asking an art supply store to help sponsor your Reflections program.
  3. Find Out Who Your PTA Already Knows.Check past years’ records to see which businesses have donated before. Look at your membership and school population—are any of the families at your school business owners. Don’t just look at parents, but also grandparents, aunts, and uncles as well. They all have a stake in the success of the students at your school.
  4. Know What You Want.Decide in advance what you would like from a potential business donor. Is it a simple financial donation, door prizes to hand out, or materials to help you put on your event. Be specific in what you are asking for.
  5. Offer Them Something in Return.Be sure to offer your business donors a publicly visible recognition of their support. That can be a window cling or certificate citing them as a “Proud Supporter of Lincoln PTA,” signage at your event thanking the sponsors, mentions in your newsletter thanking them for their support, or a small banner spot on your PTA website or newsletter for a certain period of time. Note that when doing the latter, PTA is not endorsing the business, the business is supporting the PTA. Think PBS-style sponsor (This PTA event was brought to you in part by ABC Business, provider of fine art supplies.), not traditional advertisement.
  6. Don’t Burn Your Bridges.A business may say no for a variety of reasons—they may have already filled their planned quota of non-profit donations for the quarter or the year, they may feel that the event doesn’t fit their business, or they may not currently have the resources to spare at that time. Thank them for their time, and ask if they’d be willing to sponsor a different PTA event sometime in the future.
  7. Follow Up After Your Event.Be sure to send a thank you note to every donor with a handwritten signature. Include a receipt if the donation was strictly financial, and note the amount of the donation either directly or as the value of the in-kind donation so they have a record for their tax filing. Consider sharing photos of your event or thank you notes from the kids who participated.
  8. Keep Records of Who Donated.By keeping track of the businesses who have donated in the past, your PTA will know who to approach first in the future. You can also then thank a donor for their past support when asking them to donate again.

 

Is Your PTA Ready with a Budget for This Year?

The budget and finance committee develops a budget to meet the needs of the PTA’s programs and activities. After the PTA has adopted the budget, the budget and finance chairman (usually the treasurer) is responsible for assuring that PTA money is disbursed in accordance with the budget, presenting necessary amendments to the budget at executive board and general meetings, and keeping all expenditures within the line item amounts of the budget. Remember that any changes to the budget must be approved (voted on) by the general membership.

Composition of the Committee

Refer to the bylaws to determine whether the budget and finance committee should be elected or appointed. The committee usually consists of members knowledgeable about the PTA’s needs, proficient in bookkeeping and accounting, and experienced in planning a budget. The treasurer, past treasurer, and standing chairmen should be members of this committee. The president is an ex-officio member.

Budget and Finance Committee Procedures

  1. The budget committee should meet and plan the budget prior to the close of the current fiscal year. If this was not done, do so as soon as possible at the beginning of the school year.
  2. Treasurer’s records and copies of last year’s budget should be available for guidance in planning the new budget. However, do not let past practice limit your planning for the new year’s budget.
  3. The committee should take into consideration the funds needed for approved programs and projects, leadership development, and committee and officers’ expenses.

Adopting the Budget

  1. Present the proposed budget to the executive board meeting for input and approval for presentation to the general membership.
  2. Present the proposed budget at the first general membership meeting (after adoption of audit report) for consideration and adoption by the PTA members. This presentation must be made at a meeting where a quorum is present. A majority vote of the members present and voting is required for adoption. The budget and finance committee chairman says, “I move the adoption of the proposed budget for the _____fiscal year.” [Note: The fiscal year is identified by the calendar year in which it ends, so the budget your PTA adopts this fall is for the 2019 fiscal year.] The chairman then presents the budget line by line for explanation, discussion, and possible amendments. A vote is then taken to adopt the final version of the budget.

Remember, the executive board (officers and chairmen) approve the budget for presentation, but the general membership is the group that adopts and amends the budget. Illinois PTA has created a Local Unit Sample Budget.

 

Photo by Nick Youngsonvia Alpha Stock Imagesunder Creative Commons license.

How to Handle Bad Checks

It happens to almost every PTA every year. A check for membership, spirit wear, or a fundraiser gets returned. Depending on what the check was for, the PTA can be left responsible for full payment on merchandise already received. Here’s how to handle bad checks.

Your PTA’s check handling policies should go in your PTA’s standing rules. Your policy should cover these key points:

  • All checks should have the name, address, and telephone number of the person signing the check so you can contact them if the PTA receives a bad check.
  • Require the check writer to pay a service charge in addition to any bank charges the PTA receives from a bad check.
  • Only accept checks with the current date. Pre- or post-dated checks often indicate that the check writer does not currently have sufficient funds in their account to cover the check, and different date does not necessarily mean that the funds will be there then.
  • If someone has written a bad check to the PTA, do not accept additional checks from them unless they have made a timely repayment of the check amount, bank charges, and PTA service charge. Everyone can make a mistake, and banks have been known to process checks faster than deposits. However, if someone has written a bad check but resolved the situation promptly, they deserve a little forgiveness from the PTA.

When your PTA receives a check back from the bank, contact the check writer by phone or e-mail, asking them to make good on the check and pay the bank charges and PTA service charge promptly. In many cases, this is sufficient to get the check writer to fix the problem. However, if this does not resolve the issue, your PTA may want to consider legal action, particularly if the check amount was significant.

In Illinois, bad checks are covered under the deceptive practice law. A person commits a deceptive practice in Illinois when they write a check that they know they don’t have enough money in the account to cover. As the party to whom the check was written, your PTA may infer that the person writing the check knew this if you attempt to cash the check on two occasions at least seven days apart. It is also a deceptive practice in Illinois if someone writes a bad check for more than $150 that doesn’t correct the situation within seven days of being informed that their check was declined.

If your PTA must pursue the legal approach, make sure you inform the person who wrote the bad check by certified mail and include the following information:

  • The date the check was written, the bank the check was from, the check number, the amount of the check, and who the check was made out to.
  • A request for repayment and additional charges (bank and PTA) within a set time frame.
  • A citation of the deceptive practice law regarding bad checks.

Keep a copy of the letter you sent as well as information regarding the PTA’s attempt to receive the funds through the bank and the check writer. If the issue remains unresolved, you can file a police report with your local department. The police may also direct you on how to file a case in small claims court.

Image © 2014 by hrp_images under Creative Commons license.

Plan Now for PTA Success in the Fall

With the school year coming to a close and summer activities to look forward to, many PTA leaders may be looking to put their feet up for the next few months. But summer provides an excellent time for PTA leaders to make their lives easier once school starts back up. By doing some planning for your upcoming PTA year over the summer, you can set the stage for your PTA’s success in the fall.

Have an Officer’s Retreat

The summer months provide PTA leaders with some time to meet and plan without the extra activities and schedule conflicts of the school year. It’s a chance to have a PTA officers’ retreat relaxed in someone’s back yard with a cool drink. Invite the previous year’s officers as well as the incoming officers to discuss how the past year went and what advice those leaving office have for those just starting. Then let the previous year’s officers go, and have a discussion with your current officers about what you’d like to accomplish during the coming year. Consider what events you’d like to host, what past events you’d like to stop doing, and create your calendar for the year.

Consider taking part in National PTA’s School of Excellence Program. The sign-up period runs from now until October 1, 2017. Implementing the program at your school provides insight into how your PTA can best involve the families at your school in their children’s education. In Illinois, one PTA who successfully completed the program saw their attendance at PTA meetings jump from a handful of parents to nearly 200 at one meeting. The School of Excellence program provides your PTA with ready-to-use tools to help your PTA be successful, and the results from across the country show that those PTAs that participate see increases in membership and greater support from families for the PTA and their school.

Put Your Financial House in Order

Once your calendar is planned, make sure your PTA’s financial situation is in good shape. Conduct your audit once your fiscal year ends. Plan out next year’s budget based on what you want to accomplish. Remember that Illinois PTA events such as Advocacy Day in Springfield (November 14, 2017) and convention (May 4-5, 2018 at Northern Illinois University—Naperville) can be included in your PTA budget. Get the signatures for your PTA’s banking accounts changed to reflect the new officers, and don’t forget to change any passwords for online banking or social media accounts.

Once your audit shows a clean set of books, file your 990 form with the IRS. For PTAs with less than $50,000 in gross receipts, this is a simple electronic postcard that only takes a few minutes to complete online. Plan on sending in a copy of your approved audit and IRS Form 990 with your first membership dues payment on October 1, 2017.

Membership Matters

Members are the life blood of a PTA, and if your PTA is not actively recruiting new members, you can find your PTA in a constant struggle for volunteers, officers, and resources. Plan your membership campaign over the summer so you’re ready to take off with the start of the new school year. Use the ready-to-go membership materials on the Illinois PTA website, or develop a plan tailored to your PTA. Be sure to think beyond the school walls, as school board members, school district administrators, community members, realtors and other businesses, and even grandparents in another state have an interest in supporting your child’s school.

Get Trained

Take advantage of the free training the PTA offers—it is one of the critical things that sets PTA apart from other parent organizations and helps you avoid problems that can hurt your PTA. Your district or region director can tell you when local training will be happening in your area, and Illinois PTA will also be offering online training this fall. Don’t forget to take a look at National PTA’s online training courses as well. These free training courses are provided to help you and your PTA know what to do to be successful. When Illinois PTA steps in to help a local PTA with an issue, whether it is financial problems, IRS troubles, or conflict among board members, in almost every case the PTA’s leaders did not get trained.

Summertime, and the Living is Easy

Take advantage of the slower pace during the summer months to get your PTA ready to go for the fall. By doing so, you’ll save yourself and your fellow PTA officers the trouble of doing it all while school activities, PTA activities, and all the other activities your family is involved in are going on as well.

Photo © 2014 by Cassinam under Creative Commons license.