Yes, it's true, you no longer have to wait to start your PTO career -- you might be able to begin when your child is only a preschooler. And if your child's preschool doesn't have a PTO yet, you can start one. A group of involved parents can make a difference at almost any level, and preschool is no exception. Gather a bunch of like-minded folks, coordinate with the school's staff and start doing awesome things for your child's school.
Schedule a meeting with the preschool administrator and offer to set up a PTO at the school. Talk with her to identify specific programs or activities a PTO could provide for the school, such as book fairs, festivals or fundraising events. Reassure her that starting a PTO at the school will not cost money or take a lot of her time, both things that are probably at a premium. With her approval, prepare a short pitch about the purpose, structure and function of the proposed PTO and an agenda for a kick-off meeting.
Notify all parents and staff members at the school of your intention to establish a PTO and invite them to a kick-off meeting. At the start of the meeting, pass around a sign-up sheet so you'll have a record of attendees. Give a short pitch about how the PTO will function and what types of things the group might do for the school. Ask those present who is interested in participating and what ideas they have for activities. Want to maximize attendance at this first meeting? Promise attendees you'll provide snacks -- food is pretty much guaranteed to attract more folks.
Ask for volunteers from the group to participate on a committee to set up the organization. Their tasks include writing by-laws for the PTO, soliciting nominees for officers and scheduling the first official meeting and elections. Decide on the new group's primary focus. Common objectives for preschool-level PTOs include fundraising, sponsoring fun events and helping out in the school. Publicize elections for your first PTO officers. Unless you're extremely fortunate -- and a major exception to the rule -- you'll likely have just enough volunteers to fill the major positions, so elections may be pro forma affairs. The officers should establish and publicize a meeting schedule and membership policies.
Send home membership forms to all preschool families and staff members, soliciting them to join the group and requesting a nominal fee for the group's start-off funds. You can't make families or individuals join, but if you present it as a fun way to play a role in their child's school that doesn't require tons of money or time, you should attract a solid core of interested parents. At the first general membership meeting, schedule a few basic events, identify people to be in charge of them and discuss future options.
Set up a bank account for the PTO with a local bank or credit union. At least two officers of the PTO should be signatories to the account. Ensure one person -- typically the PTO treasurer -- oversees all approved expenses and reimbursements and provides monthly financial reports to the group. Talk to the school's financial personnel about setting up the PTO as a non-profit group for tax purposes. Don't panic: this isn't a requirement for setting up a PTO. But it's the best way to protect the group from potential tax burdens. Get professional help to file the paperwork with federal and state tax authorities to get the 501(3)(c) status for your group, along with a tax ID number.
Nationwide groups such as PTO Today offer start-up kits for new PTOs, sample forms for various PTO uses and an extensive body of advice and ideas to help you get your PTO started.