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What You Need to Know About Quid Pro Quo Donations

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Published July 7, 2015 Reading Time: 3 minutes

We often think of charitable donations as a simple one-way transaction. Gifts to nonprofits, however, actually come in several different forms. One of the most common is a contribution made in exchange for goods or services. This type of fundraising can be a powerful opportunity for engagement, but there are some separate rules governing the process.

Donations in exchange for goods or services are also called quid pro quo contributions. The value provided to the donor impacts the tax deductibility of the gift. Learn how to comply with federal disclosure laws and determine the value of what the donor receives. You will then be able to explain the tax details to donors.

What are Quid Pro Quo Contributions?

There are a variety of fundraising situations that qualify as quid pro quo transactions. One common example is when supporters purchase a seat at your annual gala. Perhaps each ticket costs $250 and the donor receives a four-course dinner and drinks during the ceremony. Because they are receiving a notable material return for their donation, you must determine and notify them how much of their contribution is tax deductible. If the dinner and drinks are valued at $80, then $170 of the ticket price is tax deductible.

Other events can also be subject to quid pro quo regulations. The IRS website’s explanation includes the example of a donor giving $100 and receiving a concert ticket worth $40.

Fundraising auctions also require a charity to determine the value of a good or service and inform the donor of how much of their gift is deductible. As with the previous examples, donors can only deduct the expense after the cost of the good or services are subtracted.

Let’s say the City Literacy Association is having a charity auction, and Danielle bids on and wins a rare book. She makes a gift of $400 to the organization. The book itself is valued at $250. Therefore, $150 of Danielle’s gift is tax deductible. On the other hand, if there aren’t many bidders on the rare book, Danielle might win by bidding only $210. Because her gift is less than the value of the book, it cannot be deducted on her taxes.

How to Determine Fair Market Value

Obviously, determining the value of whatever goods and service a donor receives is an important step in handling quid pro quo contributions. The IRS specifies that nonprofits must supply donors with a “good faith estimate of the fair market value of the goods or services.” In other words, the nonprofit must try to determine how much the goods or services would cost in an everyday sales situation.

To find out the value of your goods or services, look at how they are being priced in stores or other businesses. If a professional masseuse offers a one-hour massage as an item in your charity auction, you can determine the fair market value by asking how much he usually charges for the service. If he charges customers $80 for a one-hour massage, then that is a reasonable estimate of the fair market value.

It’s important to note that nonprofit organizations must only disclose the fair market value of goods or services when the donor’s contribution is more than $75. For example, a $45 annual membership that offers admission to a botanical garden would not require a disclosure statement. Disclosure is also unnecessary when the goods or services to the donor are insubstantial, meaning worth less than two percent of the total contribution.

Disclosing to Donors

You must provide donors with a written statement disclosing the fair market value of the goods or services and how much of their contribution is tax deductible. This statement can be given either during the solicitation for the gift or following it.

Putting your deduction and fair market value information on the donation receipt makes the most sense. It puts all the donor’s important information in one place. Of course, if a supporter asks about fair market value and the details of a quid pro quo contribution, be forthcoming and honest. Most people’s giving decisions don’t hinge on the tax benefits they receive.

Quid pro quo contributions can be a valuable component to your fundraising strategy, but nonprofits should be conscious of the tax regulations in play. Whether you are hosting your annual dinner gala, running a charity auction, or selling any goods or services, make sure to estimate the fair market value of what the donor receives. Then you can comply with the IRS requirement by disclosing how much of a gift is tax deductible.

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