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Nonprofit Law/minimum donation vs. fee


Hello - I attend a yoga studio and sometimes they have an out-of-town special guest teacher lead an event.  In this case, it's a kind of spiritual event/teaching and spiritual service.  They request a donation, which is put in an envelope with our name on it, so they know what is actually given by each person. In this case they are saying the 'minimum donation' must be $50 to attend. I believe this is not a donation at all, but a required ticket price.

Can they get away with calling this a donation? If they are calling it a donation, can I just pay, i.e. 'donate'. what I wish anyway, and not pay $50 = like even $10 or whatever is feasible for me to 'donate'?

On the other hand, if they really want to get their max price per person, shouldn't they be required to call this a required 'ticket' purchase price? -- or, what else can it be called when you can't attend unless you pay the full amount to enter the event?  If they call it a ticket or a fee, then it seems that they could charge what they wish.

They do charge regular fees for most workshops, and wouldn't offer those by donation, although they often offer a discount price if you sign up for the event several months or weeks or days ahead of time.  

I don't know what business code applies for them for this organization or event-- one "arm" of the parent org is non-profit, and the other is a for profit org.

I'd like to tell them that their 'asking price' has to have a different title, and not call it a 'donation'--- or else they need to allow for whatever sliding scale contributions people make.

My interest is that I am comparatively low-income, and I'd like to attend, but I don't like having to pay a lot more than I can afford, while they call it a 'donation' -- that seems improper to me - because I feel pressured to pay the 'donation' and I don't think it IS a donation...  Thank you!!

You are correct that a "minimum donation" is a misnomer, because that amount is required for the goods or services.  They would need to account for the funds other than as a donation, but I do not believe that, merely by using that phrase "minimum donation" they are then subject to providing you the goods or services for less than that amount, nor do I believe it indicates a misrepresentation by them, because that phrase has become very common in the United States.  It is commonly used to indicate that they are a nonprofit organization and the funds will be going to our nonprofit. For example, that phrase is accepted and even put into the county code in one county in Georgia at

I have searched that phrase in State and Federal cases and there are only 12 other cases that have that phrase in them and I do not see anything indicating that the court looked negatively at the use of that phrase.

Therefore, if you offer $10, I do not believe that they are obligated to accept your offer.  You can ask them to accept it, though, and explain your economic situation.

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


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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