Fundraising legal issues with the Phila School District.

Hi everyone.
Or team sends out fundraising letters every year like many of you, but this year about halfway into the season, the school told us to stop sending out letters. My understanding is that someone brought up a “legal issue” about our team sending out fundraising letters to prospective sponsors. We have been sending these letters out for years, and have had no problems until now.

My question is: have any other teams had an issue like this? Is there any way around it? We are in need of a place to build with these recent snowstorms coming through PA and schools being closed.

Thanks, and we appreciate your answer.

–Phil, Team 304

Have they told you anything specific about why you can’t send out letters like the content, school policy, etc…?

All I have heard is that someone contacted the school district about the legality of a team fundraising from a school (or something like that).

Thats all I know so far.

Then I would suggest that you investigate why you can’t and then see about action. Who knows, it could be a very small issue that could be resolved in a matter of minutes or something much larger. But a school team not being allowed to do fundraising seems a little odd with over 1500 teams doing across the country.

Good luck!

So the school district will fully fund your team? :confused: That’d be nice. :smiley:

Rather than question it here, you need to talk to your school administration, the superintendent, and the school board. Find out the policy. And find out if any other school organizations are allowed to raise funds. I’d be surprised if there weren’t booster clubs for the sports teams.

I would suggest that your team leader contact your FIRST Regional Director to discuss options.
http://www.usfirst.org/regionalcontact.aspx

You can also contact your FIRST AmeriCorps-VISTA member: http://www.usfirst.org/community/volunteers/content.aspx?id=3312

Thanks for the info. A large problem is that the school district is very slow with everything, but I’m sure we can work it out.

Does this have something to do with the team making legal agreements that could impact the school?

How were your other sponsorships arranged?

Another thought - are any of the other Philly teams affected by this? How do they deal with it?

As long as your parent organization is 501c3 (if a school is somehow not, then god help them) then you should have nothing legal holding you back. Ask the school to talk to your regional director and explain how things like sponsorships work through the school.

i know our team’s letters have to be approved by a school administrator just because they mention the school…did you get your letters approved?

Is it more of a directive/policy rather than a legal issue?
I find it hard that a school (which normally are non-profit status) is not being allowed to fundraise legally.

My educated guess is that you need to run the letter by the school. Our district has no issue with us sending them out, we just had to have a specific letter approved by the school, then only use that letter for the sponsors.

Most schools (other than private schools) are NOT 501c3, as that implies non-profit corporation status. Public Schools fall under government funded and thus are not non-profit corporations. Donations to School clubs can be tax deductable, but not under 501c3.

Tristan Lall:
Does this have something to do with the team making legal agreements that could impact the school?

How were your other sponsorships arranged?

As far as I know, we don’t really sign any contracts. In the past we did the same things, and never had any problems.

Akash Rastogi:
As long as your parent organization is 501c3 (if a school is somehow not, then god help them) then you should have nothing legal holding you back. Ask the school to talk to your regional director and explain how things like sponsorships work through the school.

We had the paperwork until this year, when the District refused to give it to us (thats what I last heard)…

computerteen643:
i know our team’s letters have to be approved by a school administrator just because they mention the school…did you get your letters approved?

We never got them approved in the past. The format of the letter changed very little in the past years.

waialua359:
Is it more of a directive/policy rather than a legal issue?
I find it hard that a school (which normally are non-profit status) is not being allowed to fundraise legally.

As I understand it, the team is a separate entity from the school. This is complicated by working in the school rather that at a company/business.

Daniel_LaFleur:
Most schools (other than private schools) are NOT 501c3, as that implies non-profit corporation status. Public Schools fall under government funded and thus are not non-profit corporations. Donations to School clubs can be tax deductable, but not under 501c3.

We had the 501c3 paperwork until this year. Most companies never asked for them though, so we never provided it.

I was just thinking of a way of trying to get the someone in the School District to move on this, because from personal experience (being homeschooled in Philly) they are very slow to act on anything and provide answers. I think the idea to contact our regional director is a good one, and I will suggest it to our mentor.

Thanks for all the input.

–Philip

Our team is not a separate entity from the school, however, it depends on how you have things setup in terms of donations, bank account, 501c3, etc.
Those things are separate from the school to a certain extent, as we have multiple avenues in how we receive funding.
If you are a public school, donations made to the school on behalf of your team should be tax-deductible. I really dont see how letters cant be sent out asking for donations unless its a “policy” rather than law.
If anything, it is less complicated working in the school.
Setting up a 501c3 non-profit organization requires a lot of work, and I spend quite a bit of time doing paperwork for our team and meeting compliance issues. If it were just a school club account like how we did things before, it would be much much easier than complicated. However, it limited how and what we could receive.
Hope you folks can iron things out and get the support you need.

Do your letters suggest that the donation may be tax deductible? For our school district, inorder for a donation to be tax deductible it has to be given to the district at large and allocated by the district in what ever way they see fit - which may not be for the robotics team. We learned this when we asked the school for the Tax Number that our sponsors should use for the tax deduction and they said - you can’t do that!

We currently advise our students to tell potential sponsors that they should consider their sponsorship of us as part of their advertising budget, and produce a patron books containing all if the “ads” and distribute it to all the patrons and community at large. We also acknowledge them in newsletters, on our website and on our t-shirts and robot (depending on the size of the sponsorship). It’s quite a lot of advertising bang for the buck, at least that’s what we tell the sponsors!

It’s probably some really small technicality that no one would normally care about. My advice is to have your mentor try to set up your team as a completely separate entity from the school, and instead have the school as one of your sponsors. That way, your team is entirely responsible for their own funding. However, you need to have an adult mentor who really knows the laws about this sort of stuff, otherwise you’re liable to get in even more trouble. But, in my opinion, it’s much better for the team.
Of course, if you can get your team set up as a 501c3 organization that’s completely separate from the school, that’s the best situation. All donations are tax-deductible, your team controls it, and you don’t have the politics of the school board to go through. If you have a student whose parent/relative is an accountant, or if you can convince a nearby accountant to donate their time to your team, this would be the best course to follow.

In the short-term, if you need to talk to your school board, I’d advise that you contact each member of the board individually. Have a student (or two, or three…) talk to each board member about what FIRST is and why it’s so great for the school. Maybe even have your mentor discuss potential legal issues with a few of them. After you’ve won a few over, bring up the issue at a board meeting. Our school district usually holds a public-accessible board meeting every month. Have your team wear their shirts and attend the meetings. Get a bunch of family members and friends to wear team shirts and go as well. Politicking is all about showing that you have strong support behind your goal, and that’s most visible when a large group of people at the board meeting is wearing a shirt advertising your team.

Good luck!! Hope it turns out for the best for your team. :smiley:

Ack! We have the same problem…

Except we’re a private school. Which can be just as complicated.

What we have to do is run our letters through our Communications people, just to check if any of the people we’re trying to get to sponsor us already sponsor the school or something like that.

For instance: based out of Atlanta, an obvious sponsor would be Coca-Cola, especially since many parents of kids at the school work at Coke (including my mom. And the CEO and several board members had kids at our school). However, we’re not really allowed to ask them since our school has a partnership with Coke, so that didn’t work out. (YET ;))

Even though there are obvious differences between private and public schools, there should be someone who has a list of potential sponsors that have been sought in the past. Now the question is, is that person at your school or part of the larger school district system?

For a time, we were banned from approaching anyone to sponsor us. Now we’re given a very limited degree, but still better than before, and running letters by the Communications Director cleared things up for us.

Best of luck!

Best thing is to set up your own 503-C non profit corporation/foundation.
We are inc. in California and have the paperwork with the feds for our non profit status. Then the next step is to file with your state. First step: set up your board of directors, make your by-laws and vote on them. Draft and file your articles of incorporation in your state. Set up your own bank account for robotics seperatly. It takes time, alot of paperwork, but in the end, your robotics program is own its own and easier to run. Good luck.