Fundraising for PTAs

Fundraising is the method of raising money to finance PTA programs and projects. The fund-raising project must support the goals of PTA and be related to the educational, charitable, and philanthropic purposes as a tax-exempt organization. When planning the year’s activities, PTAs should use the 3-to-1 rule. For every one fund-raising activity, there should be at least three non-fund-raising programs aimed at helping parents or children or advocating for school improvements.

It should involve as many members as possible and be fun. It should not be a burden to the school staff or parent volunteers, compete with or detract from school lunch and nutrition programs, or conflict with other PTA, school, or community events. Children should never be used to sell door-to-door or exploited to raise funds. It cannot involve commercial or advertising obligations. See National PTA Annual Resources for PTAs, Money Matters which prescribes the ethics of fundraising.

The fundraising project must have the approval of the membership in advance of the event and the vote must be recorded in the minutes. Projects must have a specific purpose. The project, if it is an on going activity or program , must be approved each year by the association membership.

Protecting PTA Tax Exemption

PTAs are exempt from taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. To retain the tax-exempt status, PTAs must pay attention that fundraising does not become its primary focus. All PTAs function under the exempt status of the California State PTA and the National PTA. An individual unit can have an affect on the entire organization. Disregarding the prohibition against substantial commercial activities could result in having to pay tax or a tax penalty and/or loss of tax-exempt status by the IRS.

Most PTA fundraising activities are exempt from federal income taxes, because a majority of the work performed at the unit level is conducted by volunteers and they sell donated merchandise.

Local Requirements for Fundraising

Become familiar with state and local requirements for fundraising. These include the school district policy for use of school grounds, equipment, food services, the local permits for solicitation, municipal regulations for public gatherings fire, curfew, traffic, food sales, health and safety; and regulations governing tax-reporting requirements.

Standards for PTA Fundraising


PTA fundraising activities are carried out by a committee whose chairman is an appointed or elected member of the executive board.

The major responsibility of the fund-raising committee is to raise the amount needed to meet the proposed unit budget and to work cooperatively with the PTA president and treasurer in accounting for receipts and disbursements for the activity. The committee may also plan specific fundraising events and activities.


Fundraising events must be approved in advance by the executive board and association. Approval should be recorded in the minutes. Recruit enough volunteers to conduct the project. Assign each volunteer specific tasks and develop a work schedule. Solicit donated goods and services. Clear the dates with the school and reserve needed facilities and equipment.

Make firm arrangements with vendors. Obtain all necessary permits. Be sure vendor is fully covered by his own liability insurance and Workers' Compensation. Have vendor sign a Hold Harmless Agreement (Forms) and obtain a copy of the vendor's certificate of insurance.

Noncommercial Policy

The noncommercial policy requires that the name "PTA" or the names of PTA officers not be used in conjunction with the commercial activities of other organizations, including, but not limited to, the promotion of their goods and services.

Continuing or repeat projects produced in cooperation with a commercial business may be seen as PTA endorsement of that business, as may the use of the name of PTA along with the business name in promotions. The organization or members in their official capacities shall not be used to endorse or promote a commercial entity or engage in activities not related to the promotion of the Purposes of the PTA.

Do not make a qualitative judgment of the sponsors products or services. Do not include comparative language or language that implies good quality in the acknowledgment. Do not permit the sponsor to write the acknowledgment of thanks. Do not ask members or the public to buy the products or services of the sponsor. Do not advertise a product or service. Do not endorse a product or service.


The law permits a nonprofit organization to receive corporate sponsorship income tax free if the sponsorship is linked to a specific event that is held once per year. It is acceptable for PTA to receive payments structured as royalties or to enter into sponsorship agreements with businesses, including e-commerce businesses.

For the payment to qualify, there must be no arrangement or expectation that the business will receive any substantial return benefit for its payment. The PTA may not enter into a partnership with a business. Partnership implies sharing in the profit and loss of the business and would result in unrelated business income and tax liability. (Unrelated Business Income Tax 5.7.6, 225)

The PTA should acknowledge publicly the royalties or sponsorship. The acknowledgement of thanks can list the corporate sponsor's name, logo, address, telephone number, and products.


Hang a banner on the school campus with permission of the school principal per district policy.

Hang a banner where the event is being held after a Facilities Use Permit (1.3.4a, 18) is approved.

Place an acknowledgement in the event program book.

Announce to the audience the event sponsors.

Acknowledge the sponsorship of the particular event in the PTA newsletter or school newsletter, if school district policy permits.

Distribute samples of the sponsors products at the sponsored event (if school district policy permits) or if a Facilities Use Permit (1.3.4a, 18) allows sponsored product distribution.

The PTA may provide a hypertext link from the PTAs website to the sponsors website. PTA must be cautious in how this link is established. It is possible that the existence of a link might cause the sponsorship payment to be considered as unrelated business income, particularly if the link is in the form of a moving banner. A link would more than likely be seen by the IRS as retaining the passive character associated with corporate sponsorship, while a moving banner is more likely to be considered advertising. The duration of the link should correspond to the terms of the contract with the sponsor.

If PTA provides a Web link to an e-commerce business, a disclaimer must be included on the PTA website. For example:

"PTA does not endorse, warrant or recommend any of these products. PTA will receive a small percentage of every sale. If you decide to purchase any products, we thank you."

An e-commerce business should be seen as a fundraising company acting as an intermediary or buffer between retailers and consumers.

While the PTA obviously would put some effort into promoting the use of electronic shopping, in order to do so without risk, the following conditions must apply:

  • Use of the program must be entirely at the discretion of the user;
  • Unit cannot have control whether or not anyone will use the site;
  • Unit cannot have control whether or not they are entitled to any of the proceeds; and
  • Unit cannot release member information to a third party.

A variety of e-commerce retailers, also known as charity malls, are donating a portion of purchases made through their sites in exchange for the goodwill the charity can generate. The charity mall allows customers to use the charity mall's home page as a portal for shopping at any num-ber of participating stores. For each online purchase, the PTA would receive a percentage of the sale. Working with the e-commerce business in this way, the PTA is less likely to be characterized as conducting a business, and instead, is simply receiving royalties.

Each fundraising opportunity must be evaluated individually.

Businesses Should

Understand PTA policies and procedures, especially in relation to the noncommercial, nonsectarian, and nonpartisan policies;

Not violate PTA policies, positions, and goals;

Exclude all websites that sell or feature firearms, tobacco, liquor, or adult content material;

Have a written policy that supports education opportunities;

Offer benefits to PTA;

Encourage participation in PTA;

Protect the privacy and security of users:

  • Prohibits framing, the possibility that a third party is monitoring the transaction, when users are interacting with merchants;
  • Has privacy seals from the Better Business Bureau and trust; and
  • Requires individuals to provide only minimal information such as name and e-mail address;

Not require mandatory registration or membership in order to participate in the program;

Ensure that program interface is clear, functional, and easy to use;

Structure payments to the PTA as royalties;

Specifically identify the PTA unit as the separate and distinct entity receiving the royalties, rather than just listing the school site;

Provide a complete accounting for determining share of royalties on a monthly basis;

Require a minimal amount of effort from the PTA in promotional activities;

Be seen as a fundraising company acting as an intermediary between retailers and consumers.

Note: made through e-commerce generally will not result in tax-deductible charitable contributions, unless the purchaser can demonstrate that the amount paid for the item exceeded its fair market value and that the excess payment was intended to be a gift to the PTA.

Selecting Appropriate Fundraising Activities

When considering and carrying out large fundraisers, keep the following concerns in mind:

  • Is the fund-raising project related to PTAs educational, charitable and philanthropic purposes as a tax-exempt organization?
  • Does the project violate PTAs noncommercial policy?


To protect the PTA and its volunteers against loss, theft and mismanagement of funds, the following procedures must be followed:

1. Ensure that the proceeds of the project are designated for a specific purpose that meets the Purposes of the PTA.

2. Read all contracts carefully.

3. Ensure that the contract is signed by two elected officers of the PTA, one of whom must be the president, after the membership has voted to conduct the project.

4. Follow the financial procedures required by the California State PTA bonding insurance program.

5. Ensure that money is always counted by at least two PTA board members in a secure location.

6. Plan for the safe-keeping of money until it is deposited in the bank.

7. Follow correct financial procedures:

  • Deposit receipts promptly.
  • Keep accurate, current records.
  • Provide treasurer with a written report.
  • Use the Payment Authorization Form (Forms 411).
  • Pay bills by check (not cash) after a vote of the association.
  • File IRS Form 990/990EZ when gross receipts for all PTA income for the year are over $25,000.

Alcohol and PTA Events

Selling Alcohol according to the California Education Code, Chapter 8, ARticle 2, Section 82580, "It is unlawful to offer or sell any controlled substance, alcoholic beverage or intoxicant on school premises." PTAs may not sell alcoholic beverages under any circumstance.

In accordance with the California State PTA insurance program, PTAs may not engage in the sale of alcoholic beverages.Many PTAs hold annual silent auctions and dinners as fundraisers, at which bottles and/or cases of wine are donated for use as auction items. These donated bottles and/or cases of wine may be used as auction items provided the auction is held at a nonschool- site location and the contents are not decanted during the event or on the premises. PTAs may auction donated alcoholic beverages but may not sell alcoholic beverages under any circumstance.

Serving of Alcohol at PTA Events The California State PTA strongly urges its unit, council, and district PTAs to refrain from serving alcoholic beverages at PTA functions. If alcoholic beverages are served at a PTA function, the PTA may not serve them. Any alcoholic beverages must be provided and served by a licensed establishment or catering company that has the appropriate permits and insurance.When a PTA is planning an event that will include alcoholic beverages, the PTA may not collect for the cost of the alcoholic beverages through ticket sales. This cost must be paid separately to the licensed establishment or catering company with the valid permits and insurance.

Under no circumstances may PTA funds be used to purchase alcoholic beverages or bottles of alcohol. Remember, the purpose of the PTA is to work on behalf of all children and speak for "everychild.onevoice."PTA funds and efforts should be used to further their purpose.

If the unit has any further questions regarding this subject, please do not hesitate to contact the California State PTA insurance broker, Armstrong/Robitaille Insurance Services, telephone 800.733.3036.


Evaluate and research several fundraising companies. Determine the best value for the PTA in working with a specific fundraising company. Invite several companies to give presentations in order to compare several aspects of each program. Do not select a company based on one criterion, such as percentage of profit.

Determine the quality of the product. Higher quality items will generate more sales and enhance the reputation of PTA. Determine what services are offered to make the fundraising effort as trouble-free as possible.

  • Is shipping an additional cost?
  • Is there a reduced cost based on volume purchased?
  • Who is responsible for developing fundraiser flyers?
  • Who is responsible for packaging individual orders?
  • Are products guaranteed?

Determine the experience, professionalism, and reputation of the company within the community. Ask how long the company has been in business, whether the company is a member of the Association of Fundraisers and Direct Sellers (, and for two to three references. If a company will not provide references, it is an indication not to use its services.When provided, contact references and ask about their experience with the company and whether they recommend using it.

Determine what safety measures or policies the company offers. Review samples of the company's letters, videos, flyers, and other promotional materials that indicate safety is assured.

Determine the company's ability to meet the PTA's goals. The retail price of the product should represent a fair market value for its goods and be reasonably priced. The PTA should be able to make a fair profit. Ask whether the company can demonstrate a history of success, placing the burden of proof on the company to convince the PTA that their goal will be met. Do not pay in full for products until the complete order is delivered. If a deposit is requested, it should be a token amount of the total order.

Verify the company carries liability insurance. The Insurance and Loss Prevention Guide provides a list of Concessionaire/Vendors/Service Providers who have filed the appropriate evidence of insurance with the California State PTA Insurance Broker. Because a vendor is listed with insurance DOES NOT mean that all activities he/she might offer are approved. The red, yellow and green pages must be observed. Refer to Insurance and Loss Prevention Guide for additional information.


Bingo is a game of chance that must comply with regulations of all local authorities, including school district and city and local governments. Consult with county council and/or city attorney to determine local code and ordinances.When authorized, PTA, as an organization that falls within 23701d of the Revenue and Taxation Code (charitable organization and tax-exempt), may receive a license to operate a bingo game provided that all provisions of California State Penal Code 326.5 are met.

A copy of the current Penal Code 326.5 that pertains to bingo is included as a part of these guidelines. It is important to keep updated on legislative changes to this Code. Since its inclusion in the California State Penal Code in 1975, amendments were added in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1981.

PTAs undertaking bingo must adhere to all provisions of the California State Penal Code 326.5. Violation of any provision is a misdemeanor, and certain subdivisions carry an additional fine not to exceed $10,000. Emphasis is given to the following points as contained in the California State Penal Code 326.5:

The PTA may not join with another organization in the operation of bingo. Only the organization authorized to conduct a bingo game shall operate such a game, or participate in the promotion, supervision, or any other phase of such game. No individual, corporation, partnership or other legal entity except the organization authorized to conduct a bingo game shall hold a financial interest in the conduct of such bingo game.

Financial Procedures

Lease the property from the school district for the specific purpose of operation of bingo games.

Have the school district donate the use of the property to the PTA for the performance of the purposes for which the PTA is organized.

Prohibit minors from participating in any bingo game.

Ensure that the bingo chairman is a member of the PTA's executive board.

Keep all profits derived from a bingo game in a separate bank account utilizing the PTA Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Ensure that the authorized check signers (elected officers only) comply with the Bylaws for Local PTA/PTSA Units, Article VI, Section 6***f. Count money with at least two PTA board members in a secure location.

Do not keep funds at committee members' homes.

Maintain accurate, current records.

Provide treasurer with a written report of financial procedures.

Ensure that profits are not commingled with any other fund or account.

Ensure that profits are used only for charitable purposes, such as PTA programs and projects, which exclude PTA organizational expenses. (Bingo games are subject to State of California audits.)

Operate and staff games by members of the PTA unit.

Do not use proceeds to pay salaries or wages of game operators.

Bingo proceeds are considered to be part of the gross receipts of the unit (Gross Receipts 5.7.5, 241). They must be accounted for in the semiannual audit, the budget and all financial reports to the executive board and association. If someone other than the treasurer is responsible for reporting, a financial report must be made at each executive board and association meeting. The proceeds also must be considered when determining the necessity for Federal and Unrelated Business Income Tax reporting.


Forms and information on how to conduct a legal raffle can be obtained by going to the California Attorney Generals website. (See Section 320.5 Gambling: Charitable Raffles.)

A completed registration form and registration fee must be submitted by September 1 of each year (September 1 through August 31) during which a raffle is expected to be conducted. A separate Nonprofit Raffle Report must be completed for each raffle conducted during a reporting year (September 1 through August 31). Reports are due on or before September 1 (California Penal Code section 320.5).


Scrip is a coupon that may be redeemed in lieu of using cash at the store that issued the scrip. Scrip is purchased, usually from grocery stores, in large amounts for a discount off the face value. The PTA then sells the scrip at the full value, raising funds for the unit.When purchased directly, scrip is redeemable by anyone and, therefore, is as subject to loss or theft as cash.

The basic bonding insurance provided as part of the California State PTA insurance program may not be sufficient for PTAs that sell large amounts of scrip. Higher limits are available for those who have a need. Please refer to the Insurance and Loss Prevention Guide.

Inform purchasers that scrip is not tax deductible since the full value is received when paying for items at the issuing store, just as if they paid with cash.

Ensure the Scrip Committee follows correct financial practices.

Work directly with the store(s) and purchase the scrip with a PTA check signed by two authorized elected officers.

Keep an accurate record of scrip inventory and all sales.

Provide a written report to the treasurer with deposit receipts attached, to be placed on file for audit.

Use a stamp to mark front of checks received in payment for scrip, "Scrip Purchase Not Tax Deductible."

Make arrangements for safe-keeping of scrip between sales.

Do not keep scrip at committee member's private residence or in a car trunk.

Renting a safe deposit box at a bank is recommended for large amounts of scrip.

If unsold scrip or money cannot be deposited in the bank immediately, establish advance arrangements with the principal to use the school safe. It is recommended the PTA purchase a small safe or lock box to place inside the school safe.

Prior to placing unsold scrip or money in the school safe, two PTA executive board members must count it. Document the amount and have the documentation signed by the PTA executive board members. The principal may require that a school representative verify the documentation.

Conduct sales of scrip in a safe, protected location.

Provide interested customers with a name and phone number of a person who can be contacted for information about the sale.

Never use children as couriers.

Do not sell scrip in parking lots or at ball games.

Maintain control of the program to ensure that all scrip sales are accurately reported.

Receive a monthly accounting of scrip purchases from the electronic scrip company.

The following considerations must be addressed regarding the terms of any contract for an electronic- operated scrip program.

  • Are there hidden costs (e.g., charges for monthly statements, charges for telephone orders, point-of-sale charges, transaction fees, or charges for promotional materials)?
  • What percent of profit does the PTA actually receive?
  • Who is responsible for the replacement of the scrip if it is lost in the mail?
  • Who is responsible for recovery of monies if a purchaser's check is returned for insufficient funds? PTAs could incur substantial losses if it is their responsibility to recover such funds.

A business may not use and must not have access to the PTA's Internal Revenue Service Employer Identification Number (EIN). Any requirement in the contract for the PTA's Internal Revenue Service EIN must be deleted.

Prior to entering into a contract on behalf of a PTA, remember:

  • The membership must approve the project;
  • The president must have authorization from the executive board/committee to negotiate a contract;
  • All contracts must be received in writing;
  • The terms and conditions of the contract must be understood, reviewed by legal counsel if needed, and agreed to by the executive board/committee; and
  • The contract must be renewed annually, be limited to the term of the participating officers, and not encumber future boards.
  • The PTA agrees to comply with the terms and conditions of the contract and to pay the stated sum.

The fact that the activity is not a financial success or that the PTA has insufficient funds to meet its obligation has no effect on the responsibility assumed. Remember, if there are any questions about the terms or conditions of the contract, the proper time to seek legal advice is before the contract is signed (Contracts 5.5.1, 232).

Obtaining Grants

Grants are specific funds given to an organization to perform specific functions. PTA districts, councils, and units may apply for grants in order to fund many of their projects and programs. Businesses, foundations and corporations give grants to causes they consider worthwhile. When applying for grants, PTAs may want to stress the points that public schools produce future employees and that donations or gifts are tax deductible, as PTA is a 501(c)(3) organization. Organizations like the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, Kiwanis, and Lions Clubs will make funds available for projects that fulfill their goals, such as programs addressing child abuse or substance abuse prevention.

The project for which a PTA is seeking grant funds must be one that promotes the Purposes of the PTA, is relevant to the PTA's goals, and has been approved by a vote of the membership. PTA members must be committed to following through with the stated goals of the program. The project should be one that will not commit the participation of succeeding PTA boards.

If the PTA is serious about seeking grants, find someone with expertise in writing grant proposals. The local school district may have a qualified staff member. Seek the guidance of people who are knowledgeable about the intricacies of writing proposals.

The first step is to gather information about possible sources of funding. These include the federal and state governments, private foundations, community foundations, private individuals, and public sector funds such as United Way. PTA districts, councils, and units may apply for grants in order to fund many of their projects and programs.


A grant writing chairman can be appointed by the president to coordinate PTA grant writing efforts. When a PTA is interested in applying for outside funds to help implement a PTA project, a committee should be appointed by the president to look for sources of funding and to prepare the proposal.


Contact the grant source in writing with a brief letter of intent explaining the project.

Request the grant specifications from the funder and follow them carefully.

Find out who is responsible for reviewing grants and send the proposal to that person.

Follow up with a phone call if the donor has not responded within six to eight weeks.

Seek a personal meeting to explain the PTAs proposal further. Be open to questions. Be succinct. If the proposal is not funded, ask why.

Be open to questions. Be succinct.

If the proposal is not funded, ask why.

Recommend revisions for future proposals.

Accept the final decision graciously. Always properly acknowledge the funder's generosity when the request is funded.


When writing the proposal, provide detailed information about the proposed project. Most grant proposals have a distinct format, but the information sought by funders is often the same:

  • An introduction that describes the PTA organization and its purpose;
  • An overview of the project and its specific goals;
  • A statement that defines the problem the project seeks to solve;
  • Statistics that substantiate problem identification;
  • The target population;
  • The project's value to PTA and to the school community;
  • The proposed outcomes of the project.
  • An explanation of the activities the grant will fund;
  • A timeline for completion of the project;
  • A description of how the project will be evaluated; and
  • A proposed project budget that includes both expenses and in-kind services.

The grant writing chairman or committee should maintain a file of completed applications, individuals who are resources, and possible sources of funds to assist future committees. If the grant is awarded, the grant writing chairman is responsible for complying with the donors reporting requirements, including providing the units IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN). A PTA may furnish a donor with an EIN if requested.

The treasurer must track all expenditures carefully; this information is a requirement in all grant funder reports. Keep the association aware of the progress of the grant application process, and use the reports submitted to the funder to inform the association of the project's implementation progress.

All action taken on grant applications or project implementation must be recorded in the PTA minutes.

Basic Policies
PTA as an Employer
Tax Filing Support Center
Handling Requests for Relief Assistance
Frequently Asked Questions

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