Nonprofit Law/donation vs. fee


Im a senior that love to go to a comunity center in lake mary city. This organization belong to the city hall goverment .They offer exercises class and i enjoing to be with people , most of the senior there live of the social security  pension...when you enter to the senior lobby to sign in they  have a 'donation box' there , but they force you to pay a fee for every class . We pay taxes to the goverment  for this services, and this services suppose to be free. Why the put the word 'donation' and then the remind you all the time pay for the class. Sometime is more that 50 seniors there and they ask for every class 1-2 dollars. They offers 3-5  class daily x 5 days in the week. I think is not fair, some senior stop coming to the class. The goverment 'City Hall Community Center' had the rigth to ask people for donation or fee?. I had the rigth to ask where the money go? Thk for you answer.

The IRS has written on page 1 (first column under "Introduction")
in their publication 526 "Charitable Donations", which is available
at: "A charitable contribution is
a donation or gift to, or for the use of, a qualified organization.
It is voluntary and is made without getting, or expecting to get,
anything of equal value."

That conclusion is supported by  Singer Co. v. United States, 449
F.2d 413, 418, 196 Ct.Cl. 90 (1971), citing to a House Report

In an Internal Memorandum from the year 2000,"Fund Raising Issues:"
the IRS explained further, "where a payment is made in return for
an item or benefit, the presumption is that such payment is the
purchase price and not a gift." on page 12

Therefore, the part above the required fees is a donation, but not the required amount.  The agency, absent some local law, may certainly charge for its services, like a community pool may have a charge for use. As Florida's state law on Open Records, the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press has links to your state's laws at:

If you request them to give you a financial report, they are obligated to comply.

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


DO NOT GIVE ME INFORMATION THAT YOU WANT KEPT CONFIDENTIAL. 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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