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Can a 501c3 give thank you gifts to school staff and/or parent volunteers?

7 years 8 months ago #149318 by abcd123
This has historically been done by our parent organization. However, a 501(c)(3) organization is not supposed to use its funds for purposes that are not charitable, religious, or educational or for other exempt activities. Giving gift cards as a year-end thank you seems to me to be inappropriate. Does anyone have IRS regulation that could clear this up?
7 years 8 months ago #149319 by Rockne
Within reason, this is perfectly OK.

If you have $5,000 budget, then $4000 shouldn't be going to gifts for your officers. But 4 $25 gift cards would certainly be OK by IRS standards if it's what your group wants to do.

The teacher support is even more clear, as -- for the most part -- you could consider classroom supplies and supporting teachers/the teaching effort as a core part of your mission.

Same is true of, say, buying an officer flowers if she lost her Mom. IRS is perfectly OK with that. It would be considered an acceptabel expense of a well-working organization.


PTO Today Founder
7 years 8 months ago #149352 by abcd123
Thanks for the reply, Tim. Your response sounds reasonable. Do you know of any IRS regulation that mentions this? I still keep coming back to the language that "no part of net earnings shall inure to the benefit of ...private persons". To me, even a $25 gift card provides benefit to a person and is not being used for charitable and educational purposes. Thank you so much.
7 years 7 months ago #149616 by abcd123
I think small thank you gifts are more then appropriate and are part of most 501(c)3s (everyone I have worked with at least). It has been my experience that volunteers that are appreciated are better workers and also when people see volunteers being appreciated it make them more likely to want to be involved. One can say people need to volunteer for the ideal of helping the school but if it helps more people reach that ideal isn't it then worth a small percent of available money.

The gifts range from a hand written note to a pin or roll of lifesavers. I did work for a 911 charity that gave their main volunteers engraved flag cases when everything was over. The cases most likely cost $100 each for 10 people seems like a lot however these people worked non stop for almost a year and raised millions in money and in-kind donations aand help 1000s of workers at the WTC site. Personally I think it was money well spent.
7 years 7 months ago #149650 by abcd123
This would fall under the category of "School Spirit".. keep your gifts at a minimum and put them under "School Spirit" in your minutes and you are fine.
7 years 7 months ago #149654 by abcd123
This is in response to the last one. You are saying to hide it under "school spirit", wouldn't that be considered fraud. I too would like to know the IRS regulation and specifics; as I cannot seem to pin point them. We have cut out any gifts of such, other than a single carnation for a birthday. Money raised for our children shouldn't be buying teachers gifts. I think somewhere down the line people have lost the fact that they are teachers by choice, it is their job and they are being paid for it, just as I am not being paid because I chose to be a volunteer. I personally buy gifts out of my pocket not the PTA/PTO funds.
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