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Nonprofit Law/Sale of item with company logo


Is there a percentage of income that a non-profit can generate from the sale of t-shirts, cups, keychains, etc. with the non-profits logo on it without jeopardizing its non-profit status.  Majority of item would be sold to members.

When an exempt organization sells such items they are not considered to be unrelated business, because the primary purpose (besides the desire to gain funds) of such logo merchandise is to promote the organization and to bring the members more into the society and fraternity of the organization. Therefore, there would be no maximum percentage of income limitation from that activity as long as the organization continues its substantial other, main, nonprofit activities, for which it obtained exemption determination from the IRS.

The conclusion would be otherwise if the sale was of non-logo items sold primarily to members because then the IRS would treat the activity as unrelated business.  IRS Publication 598 "Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organizations" at explains
that,  if products or services are not directly related to the charitable, educational, religious or other purpose or function constituting the basis for its exemption (other than for production
of income), then the activities are generally taxable.

Their exact wording is found in the middle column of page 3 "Unrelated business income is the income from a trade or business that is regularly carried on by an exempt organization and that is
not substantially related to the performance by the organization of its exempt purpose or function, except that the organization uses the profits derived  from this activity."

The IRS has declared, "Nonprofit organizations that are granted Federal tax exemption based on their mission-related purposes are allowed by the IRS, within certain limits, to generate income from unrelated business activities." on pdf page 1. But, the organization could, if it has more unrelated activities than the IRS's vague "certain limit", be jeopardizing its exemption
depending upon the facts and circumstances. Two of the main factors is the gross income of the activity in relation to the gross income of the organization's total income and staff time spent on the

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. For me to consider your individual situation and how the law applies, I would need to gather more information.  

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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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