Rewarding volunteers in your homeschool organization

HomeschoolCPA has been getting quite a few questions via e-mail lately…here’s one I thought I’d share with you having to do with rewarding volunteers.

Carol,

Thank you for your web site. It is a great resource for homeschool groups.

I’m on the board of a home education association. We hold an annual conference of about 800 – 1000 and need many volunteers to help us with the event. What are some appropriate ways to thank the volunteers? Can we give them a gift (e.g. mug)? Can we give them free parking? Can we give them a dollar amount off admission for each shift they work? From one of the answers you gave in your FAQ, it appears it is OK to give discounted admission to the conference, but I just want to confirm that.

Can we give more to key volunteers (ones who are responsible for key areas of the conference and will not be able to attend sessions)? Can we give key volunteers a complete set of CDs from the conference, hotel rooms and meals while at the conference? Do we have to report this on the 990 also?

Thanks for your great help.
Dorothy K

Dorothy,
Thank you for your kind words about my website. You ask some excellent questions. As for the mugs, free parking and reduced admission: yes, yes and yes. All these are appropriate ways to thank your hard working volunteers.

As for the CD set, hotel and meals: yes, these are also appropriate ways to thank volunteers. If any of these volunteers are also board members, you should disclose these expenses paid by the organization on their behalf on Form 990 Part V-A Current Officers compensation. I’d include a note to the effect that the volunteer was given lodging and meals at the annual convention. This is not taxable income to the volunteer. Putting the information on the Form 990 is just a way of disclosing to the IRS and anyone reading your 990 that you pay expenses for volunteers. That is a completely legal, legitimate and generous thing to do!

I hope that helps! Best of success in your future efforts!

Carol L. Topp, CPA

Insurance for a homeschool sports program

Does your homeschool sports group need insurance? A homeschool leader in Indiana shares information on her insurance company.

Dear Carol,

I heard you speak at the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention and it was VERY helpful. At the end, I mentioned that we had sports insurance and you mentioned that you wanted that info. So, in keeping with my promise, I am responding to that request now.

We use USSFA which was established many years ago, as I understand it, to provide insurance for homeschool sports. There are only a few states in which they cannot insure, but you can contact Lew Owens for more information if needed.

email: ussfaoffice@comcast.net
USSFA Office
4150 Kildeer Drive, Ste 2-A
Indianapolis, IN 46237
Phome: 317-357-8908
Fax: 317-357-8791

We have used this for several years (our sports program is over 11 years old) and have been very happy with the program USSFA provides. With this insurance, we are able to show the schools and other rental locations that we have liability insurance and then we have the added benefit that our player/coach coverage picks up their existing medical coverage ends.

If you call Lew, please be sure to mention that you heard about him from me (Shawna Howell). Effective 3/15/08, I became the director the SEI Panthers Basketball (SE Indiana) program and he will know of me through that affiliation.

My prayer is that we can continue to network with one another for the benefit of the homeschool community across the country.

Thank you for all that you do to help our community and particularly for sharing your wisdom with us at the convention. I was truly blessed.

Blessings,
Shawna Howell

Thank you for sharing this helpful information, Shawna.

Carol Topp, CPA

Homeschool group avoids IRS tax notices

A homeschool group in Georgia asked for my help because they had been getting letters from the IRS about back taxes.

We are in dire need of your help. Our homeschool group has received notices from the IRS saying that we need to contact them regarding our overdue taxes. Our group was incorporated (in 2003) but we have not filed any paper work (tax returns or corporate updates) since. Please advise, as soon as possible.
TD, Georgia

I e-mailed and spoke to this homeschool leader several times, so I’ll summarize the resolution:

The treasurer e-mailed me because she had been getting letters from the IRS stating that the homeschool group was late in filing their corporate income tax return. The group ignored these letters for a few years until they found my website. It seems that the original founder had mistakenly thought that the group owed corporate income tax on their surplus. She had filed a Form 1120 (Corporate Income Tax Return ) with the IRS and paid them $71 several years ago. The IRS expected to see corporate tax returns every year thereafter and was mailing the letters when the returns were not filed.

Fortunately, the group had filed for nonprofit incorporation status with the State of Georgia several years before. This was solid documentation that the group was a nonprofit organization (even they did not have 501 tax exempt status with the IRS).

I called the IRS on behalf of the group and the IRS employee told me to mail a cover letter and a copy of the nonprofit incorporation certificate from the State of Georgia. I did so and when I called the IRS two weeks later, the IRS employee told me that the situation was taken care of, the case was closed and the group wouldn’t be getting any more letters! (We didn’t ask for a refund of the $71 previously paid, though!)

That is an excellent example of how nonprofit incorporation status helped one group avoid paying federal corporate income tax. I’m not sure that I could have convinced the IRS of their nonprofit status without the nonprofit incorporation certificate from the State of Georgia.

This is NOT to say that state nonprofit incorporation is the same as tax exempt status with the IRS. Tax exempt status with the IRS (granted by applying to the IRS using Form 1023 and paying the IRS fee) is the only way to guarantee that your group’s financial surplus will truly be classified as tax exempt.

You can read more about the benefits of nonprofit incorporation and tax exempt status in my book The IRS and Your Homeschool Organization.

Carol Topp, CPA

Can my individual homeschool have a fund raiser?

HomeschoolCPA has been asked this question twice lately,

Can we (an individual homeschool) be allowed to do fund raising similar to youth sports groups, scouts,etc?

What a good question. In general I say, Yes, you can participate in a fund raiser if the fund raising organization allows it. BUT, the profit you make is taxable income and you’ll need to report it on your tax return.

Another homeschooling mom e-mailed me with a similar question:

With 6 children needing school curriculum, we are coming up short in finances. We contacted a calendar company that said it would be permissible for us to sell calendars as a fund raiser for our homeschool. We accepted personal checks made out to our homeschool name (that we registered with the state school board, considered a non-profit private school). We do not have a checking account with our homeschool name on it. Therefore, we have no way to deposit them.

What is your advice to us? The checks amounted to $90. Is this method acceptable to continue as long as we pay taxes on it? Mrs. W.

By selling calendars Mrs W. was operating a small for-profit business. She is free to use the profit of the small business for anything she wishes,including homeschool books and supplies. Since Mrs W. didn’t mention what state she was in I cannot tell if her state requires business registration. Many do not require any type of registration for a sole proprietorship using your own name. You may have to file a name registration with your Secretary of State to establish a business name.

To deposit these checks Mrs W. need to open a checking account in the homeschool’s name. You’ll have to get an EIN number from the IRS at www.irs.gov (See the Q&A on my website for details www.HomeschoolCPA.com). You can then spend the money in the checking account on homeschool supplies and close it or keep a small amount in it until next year.

Mrs W. should report the $90 as income on her tax return as either Other Income on line 21 of the 1040 or on Schedule C Business Income if she had expenses from the sale of the calendars (postage, mileage, etc…)

Quite a mess for a $90 fund raiser, huh? Before you try a fund raiser for you individual family homeschool make sure its worth the effort of getting a business name, EIN, and checking account. Maybe try having a garage sale or sell something to bring in income instead!

Carol Topp, CPA

Individual fundraisers and homeschool groups

Michelle in CO asked a question about fund raisers in a homeschool group:

Hi Carol,
We have had fund raisers in the past (butterbraids, a frozen pastry) and have made approx. $1,500 doing that fund raiser. We had a cooking class that prepared hot lunches and the co-op made money on those. We will have less than $100 left in the check book. We have a Fed ID #. What do we do? What about next year? Is fund raising not a good idea for us as you say in your website? We thought about charging more for membership (we charge $35/ yr now) and if people wanted to do individual fund raisers that would be up to each family. What do you think? Thank you so much for your help to the homeschool community and for whatever answers you can give us.
Sincerely,
Michelle P


Dear Michelle,

Did I say fund raising is not a good idea on my website? I didn’t mean to. Hopefully I just warned groups that fund raising can be a lot of work. And if you sell products to the public (outside your own membership) you may need to report your “solicitation” to your state. I’m writing an article now on fund raising and I do say this:

Your state may have reporting requirements if you are representing yourself to the public as a nonprofit organization. In my home state of Ohio, we have to file a Charity Registration form if we do fund raising to the public. One year we sold candles door to door and had to file a seven-page financial report with Ohio’s Attorney General Office. That report was such a nuisance (and the fund raiser was so much work) that we no longer do sales to the public. Investigate what your state requires from groups doing fund raisers. This website has nonprofit reporting requirements by state: http://www.hurwitasociates.com/.

In general I encourage groups to get most of their income from membership fees and not depend too much on fund raising. Fund raising can be very successful or turn out very poorly. It is also a lot of work with sometimes only a few people doing all the work.

I’m not sure what you mean by “individual fund raisers.” I do know that it is not proper to “award” a family for raising more money than another family, nor is it proper to set up individual accounts. It’s not right because it is not in keeping with the nonprofit motive or with the idea of a group benefit. In short, individuals are not supposed to benefit; the group is supposed to benefit.

Thank you for your kind words. I hope my website was helpful. I wish you success in Colorado as you serve homeschooling families!

Carol Topp, CPA

Good Advice for Starting a Homeschool Group

Veronica  at The Homeschool Classroom had some excellent advice in her post titled How To Start a Support Group.

Methods of communication — Some groups rely on printed newsletters; others, solely through email. Because I love the Internet and my friend likes the telephone, we decided that I would start up and run the Yahoo message board and info blog, and that she would handle telephone calls.

I love how the two founders split of the tasks based on their strengths. If only one person did all the work, there would be a lack of communication and possible leader burnout.

Veronica has a lot of other good advise that applies to all homeschool groups, not just support groups. She mentions:

  • Writing a mission statement
  • Writing down ideals and setting some aside
  • Making decisions about how to lead the group and where to meet
  • Advertising
  • and praying for your group

Read her entire post at The Homeschool Classroom here

Carol Topp, CPA

Board, Bylaws and Budget

A homeschool leader is asking some excellent questions about writing bylaws, establishing a board and collecting money.

Dear Carol,
I am co-directing an established homeschool group and we are in the process of writing by-laws. My question is:
  • Is it okay to not allow members to have a vote pertaining to the decisions of the homeschool board?
  • Can the by-laws be set up to allow suggestions and recommendations from the members at the approval of the board?
  • Also, is it legal to initially appoint a board without a vote and then fill vacancies at the discretion of the established board?
Our concern is to protect the vision of the homeschool group.
Your website has been a tremendous help to us as well as your article in The Old Schoolhouse magazine. Thank-you for your time and ministry to homeschooler’s.
Misty M

 

Misty,
You have asked several good questions. Your group is fortunate to have you as a co-director.

Yes, it is OK to not allow members to vote; I have been on several nonprofit boards that do not have members vote.

Yes, you can set up your bylaws to allow final approval of ideas to be a board responsibility. You may establish a practice of considering suggestions and recommendations; you may not need to formalize the practice in the bylaws.

Yes, you can appoint a board without a member vote. This is done quite frequently on nonprofit boards, especially fine arts boards (i.e., art museums, symphonies, ballets, etc). Many boards find their own members from interested members, volunteers or patrons.

As a guideline, your board should remember their fiduciary duty (duty of care and duty of loyalty) to manage the funds with the purpose/mission of the organization in mind and not for private gain or benefit.
The board’s job is

  • to provide for fiscal accountability,
  • approve the budget, and
  • formulate policies”

(from “Major Duties of Board of Directors),

In other words, think first of what is best for the organization.

I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA