Agreeing a wishlist
A lot of time and effort goes into raising funds for the
PTA pot, but when it comes to spending it, how do you go about
Monies raised by a PTA are generally used to fund resources or
experiences that enhance pupils' education and enjoyment. These may
vary in specifics from constitution to constitution, with some PTAs
more willing to buy the necessities and some sticking to the
'cherry on top' goods, but whatever the criteria, how do you agree
how to spend the money? We have the answers to all your questions,
from how to gather suggestions to who needs to approve them before
the money is spent. So, wonder no more and get spending!
Your constitution is key
Every PTA should have a constitution in place. It acts as a
guidance document and should state the aims of your association.
Most PTAs have two key objectives: to provide resources or
experiences which enhance the educational experience of pupils and
to cultivate relationships between school staff, parents and the
Having a detailed constitution can be a great benefit should any
disagreements arise between school staff and the PTA committee.
Therefore, if your constitution was drawn up a while ago, it may be
worth reviewing it. If your association is a registered charity,
you should consider how you can best meet your core charitable
Is the money the school's or PTA's to spend?
As a separate entity to the school, the PTA can spend its money
as it sees fit, as long as it's in line with the constitution. It's
important for a PTA to take ownership of its funds and work with
the school to decide what to buy, rather than handing over a cheque
to be incorporated into general school funds. Your committee should
ensure the money is spent appropriately and in line with what your
members and donors would expect. As the PTA is raising money for
the benefit of the school, it's essential to work with the school
to achieve this. Any suggestions made should be considered and
approved by both the PTA and the Head. Schools and associations
work in different ways when it comes to agreeing on how to spend
PTA funds but it's vital that you work together to decide on a
strategy that suits both parties. Your constitution holds the
answers to managing any disagreements between school staff and the
PTA committee, so it's important to keep it up to date and
Do we have to fulfil all requests the school makes?
There is absolutely no obligation to accept all funding requests
made by the school. As money is raised by the PTA, the PTA has the
right to decide how it is spent, bearing its constitution in
Even though you don't have to fulfil requests, the PTA does exist
to support the school, so it should be with good reason that you
turn a request down. It could be that the request doesn't meet the
criteria laid out in your constitution, for example, an initiative
that benefits only a minority of pupils (e.g. a single-class
workshop), or something that you believe should be covered by the
general school budget, such as building maintenance.
Ultimately, it's down to the individual PTA to decide whether to
fund the item or not.
What should you be funding?
What defines PTA spending varies from school to school. Your
constitution will outline exactly how you should be operating and
what your primary objectives are, and therefore where you spend
Generally, money raised should benefit all, or the majority of
children, whether this is immediate, e.g. playground equipment, or
over time, e.g. Year 6 teaching resources that all children will
use as they move up the school. Benefiting a minority, e.g. sports
kit that only a handful of children will use, may go against the
terms of your constitution.
PTA funds should also benefit the children of the parent donors -
people give money with the impression that it will help their child
- so keeping funds hanging around in the PTA bank account could
alienate parents. A simple way to ensure funds reach all pupils is
to budget a set amount for each department or year group.
Some constitutions state that you can't fund anything that is
curriculum-based, while others may be happy to do this as any
support of the school fulfils their cause. But you may want to
consider whether, in light of the economic climate, your PTA needs
to be sensitive to new pressures the school is under.
How do we collect suggestions?
As the funds are raised with the intention of supporting the
school, the school is the best place to begin when deciding what to
buy, as they are best placed to know what is needed. Provide
regular reports on the PTA funds available, as this will enable
staff to suggest items that are realistically within reach.
Ask teaching staff to provide a written wish list each term, as
teachers will know which resources will be of most benefit. But
there should also be the opportunity for the committee, parents and
pupils to offer suggestions too: provide a suggestion box somewhere
that's accessible to all, e.g. the school reception area; set up an
email address for suggestions so people can submit requests
electronically; create a bespoke form asking for details of each
resource (including price) and the benefits it offers to pupils;
ask the school council of pupils for their input.
Use newsletters and social media to remind everyone to submit
requests in the run-up to your committee meeting, so everyone has
an opportunity to make a suggestion.
How do we decide whether to accept or deny a request?
Discuss each suggestion at a committee meeting, considering them
in line with your constitution to see if it's something you can
cover. Accepted items should be agreed mutually between the PTA and
Head, ideally at the same meeting. All requests and suggestions
should be voted on by the committee.
For rejected items, ensure you have sound reasoning for why it
can't be purchased. In some cases, a compromise can be reached, for
example, instead of paying for a workshop for one class, offer
workshops to every class, funded partially by the PTA and partly by
the school. If you're unsure about whether to approve a suggestion
or are split between a number of ideas, try surveying the parents
and teachers to find out their opinions on the idea.
Should we have a contingency fund?
While it's prudent to keep some funds in reserve, bear in mind
that the parents who helped you raise that money will want to see
their children reap the benefits. Agree on a realistic policy for
There's no set amount any PTA should have in its bank account, but
there are things that need to be considered: you'll need to make
sure you have the funds to cover any long-term subscription
commitments and bear in mind seasonal obligations, such as
Christmas treats or leavers' gifts.
If you have any events planned, then you need to take into
consideration how much this will cost in outgoings, and ensure you
have enough to cover this. Avoid making any purchases that will
wipe out your funds. It may be that you're happy to fund an item
fully but can't afford to yet, in which case you could finance it
gradually over the year, or longer. You could agree with the school
to part-fund the item, or create a fundraising drive based around
that single project, to boost support.
If you're hoping to raise money for a specific project, announce
it to parents and local businesses - you never know where support
may come from, but if you don't ask, you don't get! Don't rule out
big projects because the money isn't there. There are an estimated
10,000 trusts and foundations in the UK giving over £2 billion a
year. Read our introduction to grant fundraising.
Money shouldn't be left hanging around in the bank account for
too long, as parents and donors want to see the money they gave
being spent to benefit the children. Purchases will affirm the
PTA's importance and impact on the school while boosting
awareness of your cause.
Having targets before the money is raised can encourage
donations, so bear this in mind for the future and agree on a wish
list in advance of your fundraising events. Ensure that the Head
approves all items before you begin fundraising for them.
If you have advertised an event as fundraising for a specific
item, then you need to buy it, both to stay in line with your
constitution and to satisfy the expectations of your donors.
Top PTA purchases
Here are some of the most popular PTA purchases to kick-start
- Technology - e.g. coding equipment, smart
boards, iPads, laptops, cameras or video cameras
- Subscriptions - these could be to online
resources such as MyMaths or Reading Eggs to use in the classroom
and at home, or magazine subscriptions to add to the class
- Areas - larger projects to consider are a
library transformation, a kitchen, an outdoor classroom or a forest
- Playground - trim trails, play equipment and
outdoor gyms all encourage children to get active
- Experiences - learning is about more than just
material items, so consider first aid workshops or field trips to
local areas and attractions
- Extra-curricular - additions such as music
equipment (ukuleles, ocarinas), board games, books and art
materials can be used in both after-school clubs and classroom
- Leavers' items - e.g. hoodies, yearbooks or
parties for Year 6 pupils.
For the latest and greatest resources for schools, search
our online Suppliers Directory.
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