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Nonprofit Law/501c3 vs. pubic school district


QUESTION: We are a Band Booster 501c3 in Santa Fe, NM. We are separate from the school. However the name is Santa Fe High Band Booster Association. Being that we incorporate the "school" does this mean that we could potentially be considered part of the district?

Due to the decrease in school budgets parents are asked to reach into their pockets to help fund programs. In this case the band boosters has charged a fair share fee in the past to pay for those things that the district cannot. Such as: Competition entry fees, transportation, food while on travel and lodging, dry cleaning of uniforms, extra clinicians for sections of the band, band uniform shoes, gloves etc. We are receiving resistance from the Asst. Superintendent that we cannot. Do they have the authority to tell us we cannot? What are the rules in NM for such things.
The fair share payments are listed in our constitution and bylaws.

P.S. The public schools charge an "activity" fee to help offset some costs. The football team requires players to invest in a spirit pack which is $100.

ANSWER: The public should not become confused as most people understand that the word "Association" means that the organization is separate from the School District.  However, your name could lead to a misrepresentation issue if you group funds any entity other than the band at that school.

If the School Board has allowed your organization to use the present name for many years, it would not have any authority, because of the principal of equitable estoppel, to now claim trademark violation -- that you are infringing on their trademarked name, especially as they actively accepted the benefits of your organization.

I have in my profile that this free forum is only for general questions about IRS federal exemption issues of 501(c)(3) organizations. Your issue as to whether the School Board has authority to demand that your organization stop paying for band-related fees is controlled by state law and states may differ somewhat with how they would treat such issues. Even though this forum is not for such state law issues, I will inform you that, generally, school boards only have authority to either accept grants or refuse them.  You can contact the State's Education Department and they may assist you in finding if there are any applicable regulations other than those as to the power to refused grants from the booster organization, but I doubt anything like that would exist.  The Education Department's website gives the applicable contact information as "Questions about a district, school, or charter school?
(505) 827-4296 | constituent services | or fill in the form below".

I am assuming that there is nothing in your articles of incorporation or bylaws that grants powers to the School Board.  Further, I am assuming that your organization has not signed any agreement with the School Board such as was done in Deming.

The State Education Department gives a definition of "Booster Club" at
--- Start of Excerpt ---
BOOSTER CLUBS- A booster club is an organization that is formedto support (e.g.
coordinate  events,  contribute  money,  etc.)  an  associated  club,  sports  team,  or
organization. Booster clubs are at the high school  and university level. The clubs are
generally  run  and  organized  by  the  parents  of  the  students  in  the  supported
organization in high schools, and by athletic supporters and fans. It is not a social club.
Its main function is to develop support for the student program.
--- End of Excerpt ---
We do not see any regulations mentioned in that 132 page publication.

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 information. This gives me some insight and reassurance.

As a 501c3 we can charge membership fees? Is there a limit to how much? Can it be made mandatory?  I just need a link to refer to. (something in plain English)

You are welcome.

My summary of IRS regulations relating to 501(c)(3) booster organizations is at: and you may be interested to read that. You will see that membership fees may be required for membership, but no family can be discriminated against in grants or benefits from the 501(c)(3) organization because they are not members.

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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