PTA to PTO: Why the Switch?

January 8, 2018 at 9:18 AM Amy Newell

A trend has begun to emerge in the world of parent organizations: many PTAs are transitioning to PTOs. In just the past year, four percent of Membership Toolkit customers made the switch from PTAs to PTOs and many more are considering it. While that might not seem like a lot, it indicates that parent organizations are beginning to shift away from the traditional PTA model. So, what is the difference between PTAs and PTOs, and what are the reasons behind this trend? Membership Toolkit is here to bring you expert insight on the ins and outs of PTAs and PTOs.

PTAs are local organizations that are affiliated with the National PTA. PTAs are typically governed by their state PTAs and receive support from their state PTA.  A PTO (or Home School Association, PTF, etc), on the other hand, is a parent organization that is independent of the National PTA. Membership to a PTO may include dues but the dues are to support only the local organization. 

4 Reasons Why PTAs are Switching to PTOs


1. The Evolution of Leadership Training

Gone are the days when in-person training with the PTA was an essential component to learning the ropes of leading an organization. Technological advancements are now allowing leaders from all over the country to connect easily in order to share insight and training tips. The majority of state PTAs and the National PTA still offer programs and resources to assist volunteers at the local level.

For example, here at Membership Toolkit, we offer Treasurer Training. Many organizations are switching to PTOs because they no longer rely on the State or National PTA to provide training to new leaders. There are other online sources that provide assistance on how to create a new non-profit. 

Several of our customers are finding support and training from their local school boards and school district staff.

2. PTA Public Policy Disagreements

The National PTA’s and state PTA's adopt legislative agendas which guide their legistative activties. This agenda is a compilation of the critical features and issues that the National PTA will focus advocacy efforts on in a given year. While most PTA members support all of the legislative agendas at their state and national level, there have been members who expressed concern on one or more topics and the parent organization opted to dissolve their local unit and form a new parent organization.

3. Freedom from Fundraising Restrictions

Many local PTAs have bylaws that are governed by their State PTAs and have guidelines on how funds can be spent. It is important for all nonprofits to review their bylaws to understand what their organization is allowed to purchase or financially support. For example, we have heard from several parent organizations that wanted to help support or pay for teacher salaries so that their schools will continue to have fine arts instructors or librarians but their PTA bylaws prohibited them from using their funds on faculty or teacher salaries. This prompted them to dissolve their PTA and create a new parent organization.

4. Keeping More of Their Money

When you join a local PTA a portion of the dues you pay are sent to the appropriate state PTA and the National PTA to support programs and staff at the state and national level. Dues vary by state, but can add up quickly depending on how many members and volunteers are in your organization. Some PTAs are switching to PTOs because they feel that their money will be better used supporting the programs at their local school. 

At the end of the day, it’s important to keep in mind that both PTAs and PTOs share one common goal: supporting the education of children by fostering positive relationships among the school, teachers and parents. Statistics show that the number one indicator of student success is parent involvement. So, whether you’re a member of a PTA or PTO, your efforts and support are truly making an impact on your local children’s educational success. 


Ready to kick start your organization’s success? Membership Toolkit offers an all-in-one solution to ensure your parent organization is able to achieve its goals. Have just 15 minutes? Schedule a demo today to discover the perfect custom solution for your organization’s needs so you can spend less time on paperwork and more time on what matters most.