Chapters can receive money from many different sources. Several are listed here but these are, by no means, the only places funds can be generated. Chapters should constantly be on the look out for creative ideas to raise additional funds for the chapter.
A large percentage of the revenue for the entire organization is composed of membership fees. These are the fees members pay in exchange for the benefits of membership. A portion of these fees is returned to chapters to support the sites directly while a portion is retained by Statewide Friends for the state level operations of the organization.
For each membership sold at a site supported by a Chapter, the chapter receives approximately 20% of the membership cost. Memberships sold on the Internet or through the mail offer an option for the new member to indicate their chapter preference. Approximately 20% of the cost of these memberships is also returned to the chapter.
A chapter receives approximately 20% of the revenue generated from membership sales at the site and from sales where the chapter was designated by the member.
Payments in the form of checks from Statewide Friends to Chapters are made quarterly. For example, the revenue sharing payment for the quarter January through March would be made in April and so on for the rest of the year.
The revenue sharing program has two large implications for a Chapter. First, and possibly most importantly, membership sales can generate a very significant source of revenue for the chapter with some Chapters receiving significant sums of money to use for site projects or programs.
Site managers, staff and chapters should all work together to support the sale of memberships at the site.
The second major implication of the revenue sharing program for Chapters is the importance of membership sales at the site. Statewide Friends provides marketing materials, sales tools and training to the sites to help improve membership sales. However, the chapter should also involve itself in helping site staff sell memberships. Educating the public at a special event with a Friends display, making sure brochures are stocked and prominently displayed and recognizing the efforts of the staff can all lead to improved sales and, consequently, larger revenue sharing checks for the Chapter.
Volunteer Incentive Program
Another program that can generate significant revenue for a chapter is the Volunteer Incentive Program (VIP). This program essentially pays chapters for properly recorded and submitted volunteer hours performed in the service of the site. Perhaps the most significant contribution made to the Division is the volunteer support provided by Chapters. It is critical to the success of the organization that these efforts are recorded and tracked to help assess the overall value of Friends to the Division.
This program is designed to encourage chapters to record and submit volunteer hours. Statewide Friends rewards chapters for recorded volunteer hours at a rate of $2.00 per hour up to an annual cap of 2,000 hours. $2.50 is paid for hours above 2,000 to a cap of 3,000 per year. Chapters at historic sites have the same hour limits but are paid $2.50 and #3.00 respectively. Payments are issued quarterly and could result in an additional $6,500 per year for a park chapter or $8,000 for a historic site chapter. Smaller chapters at low-traffic sites benefit greatly from this program while helping to demonstrate the value of Friends to the Division and the public.
Forms for tracking and submitting volunteer hours are available on the Chapter Services site at: friendsofgastateparks.org.
For auditing purposes it is necessary to capture contact information for volunteers working at the site. Friends does not use this information in any except to possibly verify that the hours recorded are accurate and genuine. In addition, all volunteer hour submissions must be signed or approved via email by the site manager.
Site managers must approve all submitted volunteer hours by signature or email approval.
For details about recording and submitting qualifying volunteer hours, see the Volunteering section of this handbook.
Many chapters choose to supplement these two revenue streams with local fundraisers. Effective fundraisers can be significant sources of income for the chapter while also providing benefits to the guests involved.
The most successful fundraisers are those that combine the uniqueness of the site with an opportunity for guests to participate in some activity, event or group and to take away unique memories or souvenirs. While there are many options for choosing a fundraising project, selecting the right one should be done carefully. There are many companies that provide fundraising tools to non-profits that simply aren’t effective in this situation. Examples might include fundraisers typically conducted by schools or churches like candy bar sales, greeting card or wrapping paper sales, and other such programs that have very little if anything to do with the site. While some money can be raised using these tools, chapters have found through experience that they often involve a good deal of work with very little return.
Special events at the site are often the most effective fundraising ideas. People choose the state park system for family fun, entertainment and education. Most are willing to pay a few extra dollars for a unique event and will return time and time again to an entertaining special event.
The Master Agreement provides the site manager with the authority to allow Chapters to raise funds through special events at the site.
This does not suggest that sites should begin charging admission for every special event to benefit the chapter. Guests also rely on the parks and historic sites for inexpensive opportunities to entertain and educate themselves and their families. Working with site management, most chapters can create ideas for successful fundraising events and projects without taking away from the guest experience.
Sale of Merchandise
Chapters may choose to raise funds through the sale of merchandise on their site. Most sites have some form of gift shop or retail area where guests look for unique suvenirs or gifts from their travels.
The chapter and site manager should work together to ensure available merchandise is appropriate to the site and doesn’t directly compete with other products.
The recommended procedure for selling merchandise on site is to use a consignment process. Through this process, the site is responsible for handline the sales through normal sales processes. The chapter then receives a check for the merchandise sold from the state. The consignment process allows guests to make only one transaction to pay for Friends merchandise and regular merchandise available in the gift shop. In addition, sales tax is collected and reported appropriately.
Chapters may sell merchandise in site gift shops with manager approval through the normal consignment process.
The consignment of merchandise through a site gift shop is subject to manager approval and the chapter should work directly with the site manager to determine appropriate items to sell and the best way to handle the process.
Many chapters frequently receive donations from guests and members for specific projects or programs. As a 501(c)(3) organization, these donations offer a tax deduction for the donor if no goods or services are received in exchange for the donation.
Donation boxes placed around the site are a great way to accept small donations. Be sure they are easy to see, placed in high-traffic areas and are emptied frequently.
When accepting a donation, the chapter should provide the donor with a receipt or letter of thanks for the donor to use as proof of the donation. At a minimum, the letter should contain the date and amount of the donation and should indicate that no goods or services were exchanged for the contribution. However, a letter of thanks is also a good opportunity to personally thank donors for their contributions, to offer them information about how their donation will be used and to invite them keep in touch with the organization to watch their donation being put to good use.
Donations of materials, goods or services are referred to as in-kind donations. Donations of this type can provide a chapter with needed materials to complete a construction project, plantings for a new flower bed, an item for a historical display and much more.
In-kind donations are unique in how they are recorded for your financials. See the section on Recording Revenue for more details.
Like cash donations, in-kind donations are often tax deductible for the donor. The chapter should provide the donor with a letter of thanks indicating the donor’s name and the date of the donation. The items donated should also be listed in the letter or on a receipt. Chapters should refrain from listing a dollar value for the donation as there are many different methods that could be used to determine value. What method is used and the value of the item itself should be left up to the donor and his/her tax professional. Should the donor have questions about determining the value, the web site for the IRS is an excellent source of information.
Chapters should never list the value of an in-kind donation in a thank you letter or donor receipt. The donor is responsible for determining the value for the IRS.
In-kind donations are also recorded as expenses for the purpose of IRS reporting. For example, a chapter receives a donation of a boat valued at $5,500. At the time of receipt, the chapter records an in-kind contribution of $5,500. The chapter then donates the boat to the state park for use with keeping the lake clean or programming. At that point, the chapter actually records an expense of $5,500 which is categorized as an expense for site projects, programs or services. While no cash enters or leaves the chapter’s bank account, there is still an entry for the revenue and for the expense of the boat.
IRS Publication 526 refers to charitable donations. Chapters should be familiar with the contents of this publication. Find it online at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p526.pdf.