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Nonprofit Law/Charging non-members for lectures, field trips, etc.


QUESTION: I am the treasurer of a 501(c)(3).  Our organization provides lectures and field trips related to archaeology and history.  Currently, anyone may attend free.  We are considering charging non-members a fee for these activities.  One of our members stated that we would lose our exempt status if we do so.  Another says that all we have to do is provide one lecture a year to avoid the problem.  Is any of the above true?
Thank you for volunteering your services.

ANSWER: Many 501(c)(3) organizations charge fees, such a art museums that have fees for non-members and reduced or no fees for members.

Some organizations would qualify for 501(c)(3) organization status
whereas others would not, but could be 501(c)(7) organizations.
in which the IRS discusses a gemological organization and the two

You did not explain whether your primary activity is providing lectures and field trips.

Harvey Mechanic, Attorney at Law -
P.S. This response is intended to be a general statement of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.    

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your speedy response and the reference to the IRS publication.

Our Objectives, as described in our by-laws are:
1.  to promote the preservation and conservation of cultural and historical resources;
2.  to assist in the scientific archaeological survey of the Coachella Valley and environs;
3.  to aid museums, universities, schools, public agencies and other interested parties involved in archaeological investigations and research; and
4.  to promote public understanding of and appreciation for cultural and historical resources.

Our primary activity during the my association with the organization, the last five years, has been the lectures and field trips.  We also present an annual symposium, publish a newsletter, publish and sell occasional papers and provide a very modest scholarship for study related to our purpose.

Thanks, again for your help.


Looks good for a 501(c)(3) organization. Note that, in order be considered that the organization is working for the public and not a small membership group, the organization should publicize its events as open to the public and have no more than a reasonable fee.

Harvey Mechanic, Attorney at Law -

P.S. This response is intended to be a general statement of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.  

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Harvey Mechanic


I am an attorney and I volunteer time to answer general questions about U.S. Federal income tax issues of nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charities only. Those questions could be about establishing and maintaining legal requirements for such non-profit organizations in the United States, including Internal Revenue service filings and requirements. I will not be working on this free forum to answer questions about Nonprofit's possible unrelated or for-profit businesses or how to fill out forms. This forum is only for general questions about federal tax law, not as the law applies to your specific situation. If you do not make your question public then I will not be spending much of my donated time on answers that would not benefit the public. If you have other questions, please contact me at I will reply from my email. In any case, do not reveal confidential information to me until after I have contracted with you to provide personal legal services. My responses on this forum are intended to be general statements of law, should not be relied upon as legal advice, and do not create an attorney/client relationship. For me to consider your individual situation and how the law applies, I would need to gather extensive information about the situation. To search my previous answers you can do a Google search by "" without the quotes and then add your search terms before hitting enter.


I have been practicing law and especially the law of nonprofit organizations since 1990 when I was admitted to the New York Bar and I have maintained my status with the Bar since that time.


B.S. Columbia University in New York City, 1970

J.D. (Law Degree) Brooklyn Law School, 1990 -- Cum Laude.

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