Can excess supply fees be used to pay other expenses?

Our homeschool co-op charges families a registration fee to cover administrative costs and a per-class supply fees to cover supplies/materials for individual classes. This past year we have a pretty good surplus on supply fee income.  Teachers ended up not needing to purchase the supplies they anticipated.  But we are running a little short on the administrative side.  Are we able to use some of the supply fee income to cover those outstanding administrative costs?  Or should we leave that alone and dip into our contingency fund for those admin costs?  Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thank you for being such a valuable resource to homeschoolers!
Regards, Julie


Your homeschool nonprofit organization can certainly use excess supply fees to cover administrative costs. Your leadership has a fiduciary duty to manage the program and part of that is managing the finances to shift expenses around if needed.

The only time that shifting expenses is not permitted is if a donor specifically designates their gift be spent on a specific program or event. Then the nonprofit must honor the donor’s request. Many nonprofits do not accept designated gifts because it ties the hands of the leadership in using the funds where most needed.

In general, I advise homeschool groups to avoid multi-part fee structures, where every fee is tied to an expense. For example, some homeschool groups charge several fees: a facility fee, insurance fee, supply fee, etc. Instead of all these fees, I recommend homeschool groups do what private schools and colleges do: charge one large fee.

Your treasurer and board will know what needs to be paid from that fee (rent, insurance, supplies, etc), but then it is easier to pat all the expenses and not feel guilty!

Creating a budget

Need help creating a budget so that your fees cover all your expenses?

Money Management in a Homeschool Organization explains how to create a budget, monitor it, and inform your board of the financial health of your organization with clear, easy-to-understand financial reports. Specifically written for treasurers of homeschool organizations.

Carol Topp, CPA
Helping Homeschool Leaders

What to do if you suspect embezzlement in your homeschool group

Cover Money Mgmt HS Org

I hope you never need this information, but if you suspect someone in your homeschool group is embezzling money, here’s what you need to do:

(an excerpt from my upcoming book Money Management in a Homeschool Organization: A Guide for Treasurers. Expected release date January 2014)

What to Do If You Suspect Fraud

Get help from an attorney, a CPA with fraud experience or a certified fraud examiner. If an investigation is warranted, says Allan Bachman, education manager of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, it should be conducted by a trained professional and not by group members with no training in such matters.

Resist the temptation to confront the suspect. If you try to handle the matter internally, you could put yourself and your group at risk for liability.

Contact the police when advised by your lawyer. This is an agonizing decision, but it should be made based on the evidence, not your personal relationship with the person you suspect.

Cooperate with the authorities. The police will review evidence, question the suspect, and determine whether he or she should be charged. If police decline to pursue the case, your attorney can advise you on a civil suit.

When communicating with your group, focus on the steps you are taking to recover the money and prevent theft. Do not comment on past actions, including the alleged theft and any current or pending charges, unless the person has been convicted.

Keep your group functioning as normally as possible. A legal case can take a year or longer to resolve. You don’t want to put your events and other activities on hold.[i]


Please do not let embezzlement go unpunished. The guilty party will just go onto another organization and could do more damage. Seek to get the embezzled funds paid back to you.

Carol Topp

[i] Ghezzi, Patti. “Protect Your Parent Group From Embezzlement.” PTO Today. Accessed October 29, 2013.