Depending on your parent group’s financial picture, budgeting could mean two different things. If you’re strapped for cash, budgeting means making tough decisions on programs to cut. On the other hand, if you’ve just completed a lot of fundraising activities and have good cash flow, you may have lots of programs to fund.
Regardless of which camp you’re in, how do you determine which new programs to support while ensuring you have enough allocated for your “must-have” programs? The answer is to create a budget.
Budgets are critical to the success of a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) or Parent Teacher Association (PTA). They provide a framework for deciding which projects to fund, helping you maintain focus on what’s most important. How do they do this?
It starts with expectations.
Let’s say we have a school called Sunset Lane Elementary. They hold two annual fundraisers each school year:
- A partnership with a local restaurant that donated 10% of proceeds for one special day. This year, the fundraiser garnered them $975.
- Online sales of school spirit wear using their MoneyMinder Mystore. This fundraiser made $600 for the group this year.
Which fundraiser was the most successful? You might think the restaurant partnership, but it all comes down to expectations.
You see, typically, the restaurant partnership brings in $1,500. They have a lovely outdoor dining area that seats a lot of people. But this year, on fundraising day, Mother Nature was not cooperating. Rain put a damper on the fundraiser, and many folks did not make it out for dinner.
The previously set PTA budget had allocated for a certain amount out of the restaurant partnership. They had big plans to use that money to paint the school library. Now, it was looking like they would fall short.
However, the expectation for the spirit wear sales were exceeded. They typically only bring in $400, so there was an additional $200 to allocate there.
And ends with adaptations.
Having a formal budget in place is not only about expectations, it’s about adapting to reality when it is different than expected. The beauty is, that when you’re using the right tools and have the right minds in the room, you can amend your budget and still ensure great things are happening at your school.
PTO/PTA Budgeting Do’s & Don’ts
- DO use a tool to help. Yes, budgeting is possible with spreadsheets or (gasp) pen and paper. But why go old school when MoneyMinder FREE edition includes budgeting tools to make your life easier?
- DO leave some wiggle room. It’s not possible to foresee a rainy day that would put a damper on your restaurant fundraiser. Make sure your initial budget isn’t so tight that you can’t make adjustments as needed.
- DON’T change an approved budget without first looking at revenue forecasting for the next 90 days and seeing where costs can be minimized. With good planning, your PTA should still be able to proceed as originally intended.
- DO amend the budget if the shortfall is considerable enough.
- DO review your bylaws for processes around amending your budget.
- DO consider other options before amending a budget. You could seek other sources of funding to make up for shortfalls, for example.
- DO keep good notes. With any budget work, documentation is the key.
- DO have some quick fundraising ideas up your sleeve in case your budget is too low to fund your flagship projects.
- DO remember to get clear on your organization’s goals, values and priorities so that your activities further those goals and are in alignment with your values.
- DON’T operate on assumptions. Make sure your numbers are researched and based on quotes from potential vendors or partners.