Roles and Responsibilities of Officers and Board Members
By Deborah Walsh, Past President, Connecticut PTSA
One of the things I love the most about being the Connecticut PTSA President is getting out into your local units. I get a chance to speak to lots of you as I help run Leadership Conferences across the state. I've learned a lot from you and I hope you picked up a few ideas from me!
In my travels I noticed some confusion revolving around what PTA is and the roles and responsibilities of officers and board members. Veteran or newcomer, some things just aren’t clear for lots of you. And, because I know of some possible repercussions for the lack of knowledge I noted, it is my responsibility to clear up the confusion. This web page looks long and forbidding, but please read it - it may be the most important thing you do today. Connecticut PTA wants you to continue working for our children; we want you to do this in a legal manner, without risking your personal finances or good name.
Before you read on, let me clarify my comments. This is not just a "PTA thing" and, honestly, if you were an officer in a PTO or any other nonprofit organization, the same basic rules would apply. I have tailored my comments to address PTAs, but they are universal in application to all nonprofits. I urge the reader of this page to share it with all board members of your organization. If your PTA is associated with a school, I recommend you share this with your principal as well.
|Oversight and careful scrutiny of the budget and regular financial reports|
|Reading of the minutes and keeping of accurate records|
|Asking questions when something just isn’t clear or seems questionable|
|Board members are expected to put the interests of their PTA before their own personal interests. Conflicts of interest should always be avoided.|
But, you know your local unit has a problem if...
|You haven’t updated your bylaws in 10+ years|
|Your bylaws say your dues are $.75 and you have been collecting $5 for as long as you remember|
|You have never seen or read the Mission and Objects of PTA|
|Your treasurer does not supply monthly financial reports which are reviewed by your board|
|Your board members financially gain by being members of the board|
And, these problems are only the tip of the iceberg. For every one mentioned, there are ten more. Why should you care? As an officer or board member of a nonprofit organization, you are personally liable for your actions and the actions of your organization. Personally liable also means financially liable should any member decide to sue your organization for mismanagement, misrepresentation, etc.
Am I scaring you? That was not my intent. My hope with this page is to get you to think about the possibilities, spread the word to your board members, and take steps to remedy your problems. How do you do this?
- First of all, allow us to help. Officer training, boardsmanship, bylaws, parliamentary procedure, finance & budget - let Connecticut PTA provide this training for your boards.
- Read your bylaws and make sure they reflect what you are actually doing. If they do not, change the bylaws.
- Make sure that ALL officers and board members have an understanding of their responsibilities and have the training to fulfill them.
- Make sure ALL board members have a copy of the bylaws.
- Consider purchasing Officers Liability Coverage to protect your officers against personal liability arising from alleged mismanagement or misrepresentation. The Connecticut PTA office can help you in this matter.
- Review the National PTA Annual Resources and share pertinent information with your board.
Finally, your PTA is a private, independent, nonprofit organization. Your money does not belong to a school, a principal, or any one person in your organization - it belongs to your members and its use is directed by membership.
No principal has the right to run your PTA, tell you when to meet or what to do, or interrupt or interfere at meetings unless your bylaws specifically give him or her this right. Principals, if they purchase a membership, have the same right to vote as any other member. Remember that PTA is independent and must run by nonprofit rules and regulations. PTA presidents are the legally recognized leaders and spokespeople for their nonprofit organizations. PTA presidents run meetings, and PTA boards and members make monetary decisions. At no time should public money and PTA money mix - your principal cannot use PTA funds at his or her discretion and you cannot take and use taxpayer’s dollars. PTAs can meet anywhere and can be formed anywhere. You do not need a school to have a Parent Teacher Association.
Okay, you got this far down the page. Are you...
- Nodding in agreement
- In denial
- Ready to toss your computer across the room?
While I would love to believe most of you fall into the "a" category, my experience leads me to believe that most of you fall into the last three slots. Please let us help. Contact the Connecticut PTA office or your area’s Region Director. One of Connecticut PTA’s responsibilities is to help you; we are, after all, a 501 c 3 nonprofit just like you. Please allow us to help you continue to do all the great things you are doing for Connecticut’s children!
First of all, does any of this apply to you? If you are an officer or a board member of your PTA, yes it does. How do you know if you are on a board? Your unit’s bylaws should clearly delineate who is an officer, an executive committee member, and a board member. Many units leave the decision-making to an executive committee; other units include all standing committee chairs as well. Some units name the principal as an executive committee member, others do not. Your bylaws, voted on by your membership, tell you who is on your board.
If you are an elected officer or a board member of a local PTA or council, the IRS, local, state and federal governments recognize you as a leader of a 501 c 3 educational nonprofit organization. And, as a leader of a nonprofit organization, you have certain duties and responsibilities delineated in corporate law. For some of you, this will come as a big surprise. I know... I've seen your stunned faces when I've said this aloud in your community.
According to nonprofit corporate law, there are three main duties owed by a board to the members of their organization: the duties of obedience, care and loyalty. (Notice I said these duties were owed to the members - boards serve the membership.) What does this mean? A board member is expected to obey the central purposes of their organization (in this case, the Mission and Objects of the PTA) and to use this purpose to guide in decision-making. The board also has the responsibility to ensure that the PTA functions within the law—both the laws of the land and the laws of the organization (your bylaws).
Board members are expected to exercise care in all their dealings concerning their PTA. This includes, but is not limited to...