May is a busy month for PTAs with Teacher Appreciation Week, end of the school year activities, and electing new officers. As a PTA leader, you’re probably a bit worn out from everything your PTA has done this past year. But making sure your PTA is successful next year begins with wrapping up this year. Here are six important things to do before your PTA year ends.
- Register your new officers. Illinois PTA sends out a Local Unit Packet each year filled with resources to successfully run a PTA. However, that packet can’t be sent if Illinois PTA doesn’t know who the new officers are. 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.
- Prepare for your audit. Your bylaws spell out how your audit should be conducted. Remember, nobody authorized to sign checks can be on the audit committee, though it is helpful for the treasurer to be accessible to the committee when they are conducting the audit. Make sure the committee has all of the financial records, including treasurer’s reports, the checkbook register, the ledger (or spreadsheet or wherever you record income and expenses against your budget lines), deposit and expense vouchers, copies of meeting minutes, and last year’s audit report. Be sure to have the audit committee sign off on the audit report form.
- Thank your volunteers. Most people don’t volunteer for personal recognition, but recognizing and thanking them for their service keeps them coming back and encourages others to step up and start volunteering. Whether it is something simple like a small reception with punch and cookies or supporting the Illinois PTA Scholarship Fund with the purchase of a volunteer award, thanking your volunteers in a public way is essential to keeping your PTA running well.
- Make sure procedure books are up to date. A procedure book helps preserve your PTA’s knowledge and makes it easier for a new volunteer to get up to speed on their position. Make sure your officers and committee chairs have written up what they’ve done, how they did it, and what they would do differently the next time. Be sure to keep a copy in the president’s files in case a procedure book doesn’t return at the end of the year.
- Get your new officers (and anyone else) trained. Nobody would expect to walk into a new job, be shown to their office, and told, “Okay, there you go. Get started. Good luck!” It should be the same way with a volunteer job. Illinois PTA has several free training courses to help PTA leaders (and any interested PTA member) learn how to do their PTA job. Contact your district or region director or Illinois PTA Leadership Development Director Brenda Diehl to find out when training is scheduled in your area or to set up training. Be sure to take a look at National PTA’s E-learning Library of online courses, many of which are available in both English and Spanish.
- 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.
Photo © 2013 by Geneva Vanderzell under Creative Commons license.
As 501(c)3 organizations, PTAs are required to file some type of Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) every year. That form is due on the 15th day of the fifth month after the end of their fiscal year. For PTAs whose fiscal year ends June 30th, the filing deadline is November 15th.
PTAs that have gross receipts (i.e., total income) that are normally less than $50,000 file the online electronic postcard Form 990-N. Those PTAs with gross receipts between $50,000 and $200,000 use the Form 990-EZ. The IRS has issued an updated version of Form 990-EZ to help non-profit organizations file the form correctly. PTAs will use the new form for fiscal years that end after September 30, 2016 (i.e., with a due date of February 15, 2017 or later).
After analyzing where organizations were making mistakes on the Form 990-EZ, the IRS added 29 new “help” icons in specific fields to describe the key information needed and to provide links to additional helpful resources on the IRS website. The new form’s help icons are small blue boxes marked with a question mark (see picture). The icons and links work on any device with Adobe Acrobat Reader and internet access.
The IRS is encouraging non-profit organizations that file the Form 990-EZ to fill it out electronically rather than on paper. In 2016, the error rate for electronically-filed Form 990-EZ returns was 1 percent, while the paper-filed error rate was 33 percent. Once completed, the online Form 990-EZ can be printed out and mailed to the IRS.
The IRS does caution that the new help icons do not replace the Form 990-EZ instructions, but only serve as an aid in filling out the form. PTAs should follow the Form 990-EZ instructions when completing their return.
Illinois PTA offers free training, both in person and online, but realizes that not everyone’s schedule aligns with training opportunities. Today, Illinois PTA launches its PTA Essentials video series with two financial help videos on its YouTube channel:
PTA Essentials is a series of short videos that provide critical information on running a PTA. They are not intended to replace the Illinois PTA’s PTA University training courses. These videos offer a quick refresher for those who have already taken training and cover the basics for those who may be just starting a position and haven’t had the opportunity to take training yet.
The first two videos focus on key financial issues for PTAs. Failing to complete an audit, mishandling PTA funds, and not using deposit and expense vouchers are three of the most common ways PTAs run into financial problems. Future videos in the series will cover topics such as:
- Running a PTA Meeting
- How to Update Your PTA’s Bylaws
- Maintaining Good Standing
- Creating and Using Procedure Books
Click the subscribe button on any video to ensure that you don’t miss these future videos from Illinois PTA.
In addition to the PTA Essentials video series, the Illinois PTA YouTube channel has a recording of the first 2016 Illinois PTA Advocacy Day webinar on Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities for those who were unable to attend. Illinois PTA has also fixed an error in the sign-up form for the webinar series, so if you were unable to sign up to attend the Legislative Priorities webinar or want to sign up for these future webinars:
- How to Meet with Legislators (October 13, 7:30pm)
- Advocate the PTA Way (October 27, 7:30pm)
- Hot Topics Briefing (November 10, 7:30pm)
head over to the revised sign-up form now.
Every PTA that takes in money ends up having a check that was written to the PTA
returned by their bank for non-sufficient funds (NSF). When NSF checks are part of a fundraiser that includes merchandise, the costs can be significant as the PTA is liable for full payment on all of the fundraising products purchased. It’s important to have standing rules about how your PTA will deal with NSF checks.
An Ounce of Prevention
The first step in handling NSF checks is to set up rules that help prevent such checks being written in the first place. Good policies to include are:
- Only accept checks that include the name, address, and telephone number of the person signing the check.
- Do not accept pre-dated or post-dated checks, only those with the current date.
- Require those who write an NSF check to the PTA to pay an additional service fee to the PTA in addition to reimbursing the PTA for any bank fees associated with the NSF check.
- Do not accept checks from people who have written NSF checks in the past and not corrected the situation in a timely manner. That correction should include paying the PTA service fee and the PTA’s bank charges.
Make sure that parents are aware of your PTA’s requirements for accepting checks. Consider including a copy of the policy in fundraising materials. Review all of the checks received prior to ordering fundraising products to ensure that the PTA’s policies are being met.
Handling the NSF Check
Even with good check acceptance policies, your PTA will likely still receive an NSF check every once in a while. In most cases, such checks are simple mistakes that can be handled quietly with a phone call or e-mail. You can contact the check writer’s bank to see if the lack of funds was a temporary problem. Let them know you have a check from the account that was returned for non-sufficient funds and that you want to know if the account now has the funds to cover the check. If so, have your PTA’s bank process the check again, and contact the check writer for payment of service and bank fees.
When the politely quiet approach does not work, your PTA may wish to consider taking legal action. In Illinois, the first step is to send a letter to the check writer by certified mail with return receipt requesting the check be made good. The request should include:
- The check number, the date it was written, the amount of the check, the bank on which the check was drawn, and the person or organization the check was written to.
- Request that payment be made on the NSF check and the additional bank and service fees within 30 days of receipt of the letter. Under Illinois law, failure to meet the 30 day deadline can result in the check writer having to pay triple the amount of the check, but not less than $100 or more than $1,500.
- Cite the Illinois check deception law (Chapter 720—Criminal Offenses, Title III—Specific Offenses, Article 17—Deception).
There are numerous sample NSF check request letters available online. Keep a copy of the letter for your PTA’s records along with an additional copy to file with any legal action. If the check remains unpaid after 30 days, take the check, copy of the notice letter, and any other documentation to your local clerk of court. The staff there should be able to help you in filing a complaint.