Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bucket Raffles and Gambling License(s)

Our local unit is conducting a raffle as part of our fall fundraising.  The chair has proposed that we conduct it similar to how the Scholarship Basket Raffle is held at the Washington State PTA Convention, i.e. participants can put their tickets in receptacles associated with each of the prizes, and each prize is drawn only from those tickets placed in its associated receptacle.  We hope to sell more than $5,000 worth of tickets so we will need to apply for a license, but if we have, for example, 15 prizes, do we have to get 15 licenses or will one license cover the entire event? 
There’s actually a subsection of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC)—the state’s regulatory code—addressing this very question, under the heading of “bucket raffles.”  If all of the tickets are good for all of the prizes—i.e. purchasers buy tickets that they can choose to put into the drawing for any of the prizes—then the state Gambling Commission considers the activity to be one raffle, and only one license is required. 

However, if different tickets are sold for each of the prizes then each of the drawings is considered a separate raffle.  You can view the WAC here (look at subsection (6), “bucket raffles”) or obtain more information from the Washington State Gambling Commission via its website ( or by calling 1-360-486-3440.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Donating to Another 501(c)3

Some members of our local unit’s board of directors would like to donate $500 to another advocacy organization whose activities include endorsing candidates for public office.  Is this something we can do without jeopardizing our 501(c)(3) tax exempt status?  If not, how is this different from donating to a levy or bond campaign?
The first step with respect to any proposed expenditure is to review the PTA’s 1023—the form that was submitted to the IRS to obtain the PTA’s tax exempt status.  If the 1023 does not include making donations to other groups as one of its purposes, the form should be updated before any such donations are made. 

The next step is be to review the PTA’s budget and make sure the expenditure is consistent with the budget, i.e. is there a line item for the expenditure or is it within the discretion of the board under the language of the budget or the PTA’s standing rules. 

Finally, you must consider whether there are legal or practical implications to the proposal.  In the case of the donation you described, both the federal tax code (with respect to 501(c)(3) organizations) and the WSPTA Uniform Bylaws prohibit the PTA from supporting candidates for public office.  In order to be consistent with those limitations, the PTA would be satisfied that the receiving organization could keep the donated funds separate from those that are used to support candidates for public office.  

With respect to bond and levy elections, PTAs can support or oppose ballot propositions (as opposed to candidates).  However, such support constitutes lobbying and as a 501(c)(3) organization your PTA can only devote an insubstantial part of your resources to such activities.   If the PTA has filed the Section 501(h) election with the IRS, its compliance with the “insubstantial” limit can be measured based solely on the amount of the contribution, using a formula that allows up to twenty (20%) percent of the first $500,000 of revenue to be expended on lobbying.  On the other hand, PTAs that have not filed the 501(h) election must limit lobbying expenditures to between 3 and 5 per cent and the PTA’s resources, including both financial resources and volunteer time spent on behalf of the PTA. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Do we need an alcohol permit?

Our local unit is planning an auction and we want to include the option of having alcoholic drinks available for those attending because we think it might help increase some of the bidding.  Do we need to have a license, and if so how do we go about getting it?   

Before answering your question directly I want to point out Washington state law prohibits open containers of alcohol on school grounds, so this event will have to be held at another location, such as a community center or a local restaurant or club. 

Now to your question.  If you are not having the event at a business that is already licensed to sell liquor or you are not using a caterer with a license, then yes the PTA must obtain a license from the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  The kind of license will depend on how the event is conducted.  If you are selling individual drinks, you will need a “Special Occasion” license.  You can download the application form from the LCB’s website and then mail it to the office in Olympia —please note that you must submit the application at least 45 days before the event.  If you are making drinks available on a hosted basis (i.e. not charging for individual drinks) you need a Banquet Permit, which you can apply for and obtain online. 

One final note.  You may be told that anyone serving the drinks needs to have a Mixologist’s Permit, but that is not accurate.  People who are paid to serve alcoholic drinks in a licensed business establishment are required to obtain such a permit, but the legal requirement does not extend to volunteers operating under either a Special Occasion license or a Banquet Permit.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Is there a policy regarding PTA email addresses?

We’re getting organized for the year and one of our officers raised a question about the advisability of using her personal home email address for PTA purposes. Does Washington State PTA have a policy or guidance on this issue? Also if we do use our own personal email addresses, are they subject to public disclosure

The short answer to your question is no—WSPTA does not have a policy about individual PTA leaders using their personal email addresses and including them in their various means of communicating with their members. Rather it’s up to you to decide what works best for their communities.  As you may have noticed, at the state association there are a set of position-based email addresses that are passed along from person to person.  That enables you to contact the WSPTA president at, regardless of who’s currently holding that position, and there are similar addresses for each WSPTA board position.   Many local PTAs follow a similar pattern by creating an email account at one of the free services, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc., and then passing it on from year to year. 

While we’re on the subject of email addresses, I do recommend that school district employees not use their school email addresses when they become a member of PTA because some of our newsletters include advocacy information and we wouldn’t want to inadvertently create a problem for them or the school district with the Public Disclosure Commission.  While I certainly understand that they may not wish to make their personal home email addresses available to parents, I’d encourage them to set up a PTA only email address so they can stay informed about what is happening at the local, state and national level of PTA.

As for public disclosure of PTA email addresses, PTAs are private entities and not subject to the state public disclosure laws.  However sometimes PTA information is distributed through school facilities, e.g. websites or email blasts on the district server, hard copy newsletters distributed through what we call “jeans mail”, etc.  If you do decide to use your personal email addresses on such publications, they may become public through public disclosure requests to the school district.