Summer reading for homeschool leaders: Homeschool Co-ops

 

This summer, I’ll be featuring one of my books for homeschool leaders every few weeks (and offering special discounts!). I’m also updating one of my books this summer…can you guess which one?

I’ll start with my first book for homeschool leaders,

I published this book in 2008 with a different cover. In 2013 I updated it and chose a new cover.
HomeschoolCo-opsCover

Original cover

HS Co-ops Cover_400

Updated cover

This book will help homeschool leaders start and run a homeschool co-op.

It has chapters on:

Part One: Starting a Homeschool Co-op
Chapter One: Benefits of Co-ops
Chapter Two: Disadvantages of Co-ops
Chapter Three: Different Types of Co-ops
Chapter Four: Your First Planning Meeting
Chapter Five: What’s in a Name? Names, Missions

Part Two: Running a Homeschool Co-op
Chapter Six: Leadership
Chapter Seven: Co-op Offerings
Chapter Eight: Money Management
Chapter Nine: Managing Volunteers and Conflict
Chapter Ten: Ready for the Next Step? 501c3 Tax Exempt Status

Part Three: Not Burning Out
Chapter Eleven: Avoiding Burn out

Read a sample chapter

Read more about Homeschool Co-ops the book


Here’s a special for the summer. Buy Homeschool Co-ops at 25% off. Get the paperback version for $7.50 (usual price $9.95) or ebook version for $3.99 (usual price is $4.95).


Order Homeschool Co-ops in paperback

Order Homeschool Co-ops in ebook Kindle  or pdf

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Best of: Insurance for homeschool groups

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Here’s a collection of my best blog posts on insurance for homeschool groups:

Start off with my article, Insurance for Homeschool Groups. It discusses the three types of insurance a homeschool organization may need.

Then read through these blog posts for more information:

Three kinds of insurance for homeschool groups

Church requires homeschool group to have insurance

Does a Release of Liability agreement really count for anything?

Insurance provider works with homeschool groups

Do you need insurance on your officers?

I know that a lot of homeschool organizations have a difficult time finding insurance. If you have had success in finding an insurance company that understands homeschool groups, please leave their name in the comments so others can benefit from your knowledge.

Thanks!

Carol Topp, CPA

Insurance and fundraising for a homeschool team

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Carol,
Our homeschool group has an engineering class that has become a finalist team in an invention competition at MIT.  The teacher needed us as a non-profit organization to “back” or “sponsor” the team. All that means is we needed to support the team (not financially, but letter of recommendation).

Now that we have become finalists it is very possible we will be selected to travel to MIT for the competition.  Our concern is liability.  Is there a way for us to continue to support the team without a worry about insurance for the travel?  Can we have parents sign a waiver of liability?
The teacher has agreed to fund raise but NOT have any of the money go through our accounting, since we need to limit our income due to the 5013c requirements.  Our income needs to stay below a certain amount. We are a large coop and so our dues add up quickly.
Mary S
Mary,
Congratulations on your Engineering teams success!

I’m not an insurance or risk expert, so I am not really sure how “sponsoring” an academic team makes your organization responsible if there is an accident while traveling. Yes, have parents sign a waiver, but that is not guarantee that you’re free of responsibility. It just reminds parents that they should be carrying medical insurance on their children.

  • Act in a responsible, safe manner and you’ll lessen the risk.
  • Ask for drivers licenses from the drivers.
  • Ask if they have speeding tickets, their own insurance, etc.
  • Have chaperones at all times, never let the kids go off by themselves, etc.

I bet you can search the internet and find a waiver and maybe even rules to follow. Ask the competition for samples of waivers or contact the other groups coming and ask for their policies.

Does your co-op have liability insurance? You should call your insurance agent and talk to him/her. They may say your group is covered under your current policy or write you a special event rider.

Limits on nonprofit income

The dollar limits the IRS imposes are for organizations that have not yet applied for 501c3 status (if gross income is under $5,000 a year, a group can be considered tax exempt without filing the application form with the IRS).

If you already have 501c3 status (and have an IRS letter to prove it), you are not limited in the dollar amount you can raise. For example, the Red Cross raises millions each year to help  in disasters.

The IRS does have dollar thresholds when filing the annual Form 990. For example if your gross income is under $50,000 you file the simple on-line 990-N form once a year. If your gross income is $50,000-$200,000, you file the Form 990-EZ. The gross income determines what form you file, but does not limit the amount you can raise.

Check with whoever told you that you had to stay under a certain dollar amount. I think he/she may be confused.

Carol Topp, CPA

Preventing child abuse in your homeschool group

Hello Carol,

Thank you so much for all the insight you have offered! I am looking for information on background checks, and creating abuse prevention policy in our homeschool co-op. I have found vague info on how to protect children, but I am looking for written policy to implement. Could you please share with me any resources on this topic you may have.
Thank you for all your time,
Heather K.
Heather,
Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad the website was helpful.

I usually recommend homeschool leaders contact a large, local church and speak with the children’s director. They will have lots of information on background checks and policies. They may even share their policy with you.

National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL) offers a short ebook “Preventing Child Abuse in Your Ministry” by Attorney David Gibbs III. You can download it for free (after giving, name, email, address and phone number) at http://www.ncll.org/resources/free/2014/august . It was quite good and offered general guidelines of what to have in a child abuse prevention policy, but it does not have a sample policy.
You might also join this Facebook group I belong to and ask your question there:
I Am a Homeschool Group Leader https://www.facebook.com/groups/72534255742/
I hope that helps,
Carol Topp, CPA

Church requires homeschool group to have insurance

insurance
Carol,
A local church is requiring us to have insurance to rent their facility.  That has never been needed before.  Do you have any comments about or guidance for us regarding that?  I’m curious about what you’ve seen with other organizations, suggestions for getting short or long term coverage, etc.  Just what you know off the top of your head.
Thanks so much!
Natalie B in Texas

 

Natalie,

I wrote an article on insurance for homeschool groups. There are 3 types in insurance a homeschool group might be interested in buying. Sounds like you need the general liability type.
Insurance for homeschool groups

Some homeschool groups have a hard time finding insurance, but one homeschool leader found a helpful insurance company.

These blog posts I’ve written about insurance will be helpful.
http://homeschoolcpa.com/blog/insurance/

I hope that helps!

Carol Topp, CPA

Does a Release of Liability Agreement really count for anything?

Over on the I Am A homeschool Group Leader on Facebook,   Betty asked a great question:

 

Does a Release of Liability Agreement really count for anything? I see these all of the time; we had one last year as well, but with all of our insurance concerns this year I am beginning to wonder if they are valid at all. Will they hold up in court? Are they sufficient in lieu of insurance?

My reply:

The best information on using liability waivers I heard came from TJ Schmidt, an attorney with Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). I heard him speak at a homeschool convention. He explained that waivers may deter people from suing you. A member may think twice about filing a lawsuit because he or she remembered  signing a liability waiver. That may be why insurance companies require waivers; they cut down on claims and lawsuits.

Liability waivers are NOT sufficient in lieu of insurance. Waivers will not pay damages or attorney fees if there is a claim or lawsuit. That’s what insurance does.

Liability waivers also show that your organization practices due diligence. It demonstrates that you run an organizations that values safety and protection, which might be helpful in a claim or lawsuit.

Carol Topp, CPA

Insurance quote?

Hi Carol,

Our homeschool group needs liability insurance so we can continue renting space from a church.

Do you give insurance quotes, or can you direct us to someone who can?

Thanks, Janet

Janet,

I’m an accountant, not an insurance agent, but I did write several blog posts on insurance for homeschool groups.

Read the blog posts here: http://homeschoolcpa.com/blog/insurance/

You’ll find a few agencies that write policies for homeschool groups as well as advice on reducing your risk in your co-op.

Read my article Insurance for Homeschool Groups as well.

You can find it on my website HomeschoolCPA.com under Leader Tools/Articles.
http://homeschoolcpa.com/leader-tools/articles/

Carol Topp, CPA

Insurance provider works with homeschool groups

Angela, a homeschool leaders in Arkansas, shared some helpful information about insurance for homeschool groups.

 

As our group grew and I began to understand the potential liability we, especially our leadership, was taking on and heard of more and more groups being sued, our board of directors decided it was imperative that we be insured.
Our search for insurance was very long, and discouraging.  We solicited quotes from companies and were completely turned down, or quoted prices that would have ruined our budget.   Then we found AIM!

 

AIMlogo

 

We were able to get insurance for our entire group for about $350/year.
They typically insure PTAs and Booster Clubs through public schools, and we did have to answer a few extra questions, but we have been pleased with the service.  Buying a policy was simple through their website.  Now, we have not made a claim yet, so I can’t speak to the side of things, but it is the ONLY affordable option we found in over a year of search.

 

Also, I think incorporation is a really smart move and covers a lot of the potential liability issues.

 

I hope that helps others.
Blessings,

 

Angela Knight
Director – ETCNWA

Thanks Angela for sharing this helpful information!

Carol Topp, CPA

Do liability waivers really protect homeschool leaders?

I was recently asked about liability waivers from a homeschool leader:

As we draw up a liability waiver, do we need to have an attorney in our state look at it to make sure it is okay, or are they generally pretty generic forms? It seems those I have filled out in the past were basically the same, with just a few minor changes to make it appropriate for the group and/or event. Judy K. (Tennessee)

I wasn’t sure how to answer Judy, so I turned to Christine Field, an homeschool parent and attorney with Homeschool Legal Advantage:

You don’t think of homeschool groups as engaging in potentially dangerous activity, so the whole idea of waivers and liability insurance may seem unnecessary. Yet many groups are increasingly called upon to obtain liability insurance. The insurer may insist on your group having a release of liability form or a liability waiver.

Many people believe that a signed waiver makes them invulnerable. This is not true. Here are some common misconceptions about liability waivers:

1. If someone signs a waiver, they can’t sue us. This is not true. An injured party can still attack the validity and scope of a waiver.

2. If I have a waiver signed, I send it to the injured party’s lawyer and they won’t sue. Also not true. As a homeschool group, you still need to report the claim to your insurance company along with sending them a copy of the waiver to be used as part of your defense.

3. If I have waivers signed, I don’t need insurance. Definitely not true! In fact, if you have insurance, the insurer will often insist that you obtain waivers or releases from participants.
An enforceable waiver of liability is one which is prepared in accordance with state law, sufficiently describes the risk and is understood by the reader.

Some things to look out for in your releases are as follows:
1. Remember, minors generally cannot release liability. Parents or guardians must sign the release on behalf of the minor.

2. A release can only release from ordinary negligence. In other words, if there is gross negligence or intentional injury, the release will not be effective.

3. The language of the release must be in compliance with the state law and the signer must understand the language of the release. Look for language barriers or other inability to understand.

It is always good to have an attorney licensed in your state take a look at your liability waivers or releases. Doing so provides the best possible protection for your group as well as your directors.


Thank you, Christine, for your reply and insight into the best use of liability waivers for homeschool leaders.

Carol Topp, CPA

Do you need insurance on your officers?

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In my article, Insurance for Homeschol Groups , I discussed several types of insurance a homeschool organization might need. One type is called Director and Officers Insurance, or D&O insurance.

D&O insurance provides defense for leaders if they are sued for wrongful acts in their capacity as leaders. Typical lawsuits against a nonprofit organization include mismanagement of assets and improper employment practices such as discrimination, wrongful termination, and harassment. Many small homeschool organization find that D&O insurance can be very expensive and sometimes forgo purchasing a policy.

But could that be harmful to your organization or leaders?

Since writing that article, I have found an excellent explanation of D&O insurance for nonprofit organizations written by the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York. You may read the entire article here.

Here is a helpful excerpt:

Unlike general liability insurance — which any organization that has a physical plant would be foolish not to have — many nonprofits are uncertain whether they need D&O coverage. When a person becomes a board member of a nonprofit organization, she assumes a level of responsibility for the organization (“duty of care”), and exposes herself to claims for not running and managing it in a proper way. Whether or not your organization needs D&O insurance depends on what the likelihood is that one of your board members will be the target of such a claim.

Claims generally fall into two categories: bodily injury (physical harm) and non-bodily injury (non-physical harm, like discrimination or termination). The majority of claims are for bodily injury. Your general liability insurance covers board members, subject to policy terms and conditions, for claims arising out of bodily injury and property damage.

Directors & Officers liability insurance only covers non-bodily injury claims. Non-bodily claims include employment-related claims and mismanagement of funds.

Fear of non-bodily injury lawsuits would be one reason to have D&O insurance. Although there are very few reported cases, it doesn’t mean that claims have not been filed and then either settled out of court or dropped.

Generally, there are two types of lawsuits in which a claim might be brought against a board member: derivative lawsuits and direct or third-party lawsuits.

Derivative lawsuits are claims against a board member on behalf of the corporation. The typical claim here would be mismanagement of assets. But, under New York State law only a few people have “standing” or the right to bring such claims. They are: 1) board member(s) suing other board member(s) 2) members of an organization suing a board (if at least 5% of the total membership join the lawsuit), and 3) the state Attorney General.

Because of these restrictive standing rules, very few derivative claims are ever made. It should be noted that claims of these types are not made for awards to an individual, but rather to make the corporation “whole.”

Direct or third-party lawsuits are brought by an employee or by a person not connected with the corporation who asserts a claim against it or its board on account of some non-bodily injury.

Employment practices like termination and discrimination are the largest exposure in these types of claims. If you have a small, friendly staff, and feel unlikely to have employment claims resulting in a lawsuit, you might not think it necessary to carry D&O insurance. However, when employees feel they have been wronged and are angry, they may file a claim even if it is baseless. At that point, you will have to hire lawyers. Your D&O then becomes a legal defense policy.

Indeed, Swords’ view is that D&O insurance is essentially legal defense insurance, noting that “99.99% of the cases brought against a board are going to be thrown out, but you’re still going to have to pay the legal fees if a claim is filed.”

In this connection, the “deep pocket” theory is relevant. This theory holds that only people with money are likely to be sued. Lawyers may file a suit based on a bogus claim against “deep pocket” board members with the hope of securing a settlement for their client. Organizations that have a board made up of “ordinary” people who aren’t known to have vast amounts of money may then be comfortable without D&O insurance.

I think their explanation of D&O insurance being “legal defense insurance” is very understandable. They also point out that most of the lawsuits filed against nonprofits are related to employees.  If your homeschool organization does not hire employees (and most do not), your risk is low and D&O insurance may not be necessary.

Carol Topp, CPA