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Nonprofit Law/Membership Fee for Voting Rights


QUESTION: Our high school Speech & Debate team has a 501(c)3 booster to help fund Invitational Tournament Costs, League Fees and Coach Travel Costs.   Is it legal to charge a membership fee ($50) to have access to voting rights?  And, to further disclose that and identified number of families have not paid their "membership fee" in a public meeting?

ANSWER: I am assuming that the organization is a California nonprofit corporation and tttp://  starting at section 5002 is the California Nonprofit Corporation's law and specifically starting at 5110 is the law for Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporations, which would be how a 501(c)(3) booster organization would be established, if if was a corporation. Let me know whether the organization is such a corporation and also whether the articles of incorporation or bylaws specify anything about "memberships" and, if so, what. After you give me that information I will reply further.

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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QUESTION: Yes, we are a California Non-Profit booster with a Fed Tax Id and 501(c)3 status.  I do not believe the booster has ever filed anything with the State of California, and do not establish themselves as a California Non-Profit Corporation.  (I believe this is simply because they are unaware of this step).

The ByLaws state, on Attachment #4, Form 1023, Part VI, Section 2: ** Speech Booster raises funds and provides volunteers for the ** Speech Team.  All members of the ** Speech Team are recipients of benefits from the ** Speech boosters.  New members of the ** Speech Team are selected by the coaches and current team members.  Membership in the ** Speech Boosters is open to any parent or interested individual.  There is only one level of membership, and no dues are collected.

However, these bylaws were written 2 years ago, and I do not have access to the current bylaws, although I do not believe they have made and had approved any changes.

They did however, hold a vote a couple months ago asking parent to approve a $50 membership fee for voting rights, as they told the parents that the Booster would not survive without it.  So, a majority of parents agreed, but far from all inclusive.

At a meeting last week, they indicated which families had not paid, and pointed to members in the room to indicate who was actually a member.

But, I do not believe the changes to the bylaws were made or approved, as they must be approved at the beginning of each school year by the School District.


Because the organization has not been incorporated as a California Nonprofit Corporation it would not be subject to the California Nonprofit corporation law and the organization could properly have membership fees for voting memberships and I know of no law prohibiting them from announcing who was not a voting member. However, the etiquette, normally is that organizations would announce or post who are the voting members and not who are the millions of people who are not voting members.

If they did properly change the bylaw that had that "no dues collected", then they could have fees for voting memberships.

Harvey Mechanic, Attorney at Law -

P.S. his response is intended to be a general statement of law, should not be relied upon as le gal 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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