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

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