What is the process of joining SEE?
Once you have determined that your project fits SEE’s structure and mission, please complete an application and mail it to the SEE office.
Once SEE receives the application, we will email you to confirm receipt and let you know that the application is under review by the review committee. The SEE review committee then carefully reviews each proposal. There may be follow up questions for you to answer in writing. Your project may then be invited to interview with members of the SEE staff.
Are there any ongoing fees? What are fiscal sponsorship fees?
There are no ongoing fees other than fiscal sponsorship fees, which are calculated at 6.5% of every project’s revenue for normal services. Please note the 6.5% is not taken from in-kind donations, i.e. nondollar donations. This fee is used to maintain the SEE office, and pay for such infrastructure costs as salaries, equipment, telephone, etc. and cannot be reduced.
Does SEE raise funds for the project?
All projects are expected to raise funds to cover their activities, as well as project-related overhead. SEE is not involved in fundraising for projects as each project is independent.
Can SEE connect projects with any donors or foundations?
Our donors understand that giving ensures a degree of confidentiality; therefore donors always expect an organization to respect their privacy. We adhere to this unwritten code.
Is there a registration fee to join SEE or a minimum amount of revenue to raise?
While it is free to apply to SEE, there is a $100 activation fee to actually sign on as a project upon approval by staff and Board after the interview process. This fee ensures that Project directors are dedicated to working towards their said mission and using their time with SEE effectively.
SEE also requires that each project pay a minimum of $225 per calendar year in fiscal sponsorship fees. There is no maximum amount, i.e. we do not cap fees at a ceiling amount. Any project that does not raise at least $3,400 in donations for a full calendar year will need to remit funds to come up to the $225 level. This policy was enacted to ensure that all projects are active and working toward the goals they have set forth.
What if our group lacks a significant operating history?
SEE is equipped to handle start-up endeavors. As long as you are serious about doing the work, you have a home with SEE. Project Directors are expected to raise funds to expand their work and advance the goals of the project.
How does the flow of money occur once a donation has been received?
SEE processes all account receivables on Wednesdays (deposit checks, run credit cards, bank transfers) and all payables are processed on Friday (submit electronic payment transfers, cut checks, send wire transfers). Donations always need to be sent to the SEE office, where they are deposited. They can be in the form of checks, credit cards (we accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and Diner’s Club only), wires, or stock. Only project-related expenses can be covered with these funds, never personal expenses. If a project does not have adequate funds to cover expenses before checks are deposited, funds will be disbursed only after the checks have cleared.
May we contact / collaborate with other SEE projects?
Yes – we encourage it! Contact information for active SEE groups is listed on the web site at www.saveourplanet.org. Feel free to get in touch with any project that you feel could augment your work and vice versa. We also hold a monthly Live Chat the third Thursday of each month. This is a great opportunity for you to meet other projects and open conversations on collaboration.
Can SEE projects lobby voters or politicians?
Yes, SEE projects can spend up to 5% of their annual project budget expenses related to direct lobbying (visiting lawmakers or creation of publications that advocate voting for a particular law or proposition). If your project may need to spend more than 5% then we encourage you to contact SEE to discuss.
Can we earn a salary doing non-profit work?
Yes, you can pay yourself for doing work for your project. This goes for staff, interns, consultants and contractors. This is perfectly legitimate within non-profit work. However, it is not appropriate for a project’s entire expenses to be directed toward salaries. There are always office and field expenses entailed in carrying on a project.
Do we need to form a Board of Directors?
It is not necessary, as the SEE Board of Directors becomes the de facto Board for all SEE projects. This is due to the fact that every member project is legally a part of SEE as the fiscal sponsor. Projects do not have a legal identity outside of SEE. However, all projects are encouraged, though not required, to form an advisory council. This helps in project efficiency, community visibility, and in the ‘spinning off’ process if a project decides to apply for their own tax-exempt charitable status.
Are we allowed to hold raffles?
Raffle laws vary from state to state, but raffles are mostly illegal (because it is considered a form gambling). In California, the only people allowed to run raffles are the employees of non-profits (where the money raised goes to benefit the non-profit’s mission). SEE must be notified ahead of time of any intent to conduct raffles, as the CA Attorney General’s office has strict rules that must be adhered to. For raffles to be conducted outside of California, please contact SEE staff for specifics per state.
What if our work involves books, films, videos, etc? Who owns them?
This is an important issue, and needs to be understood. Any tangible product or intellectual property (e.g. book, film, video, manuscript) that is produced with funds from the public realm, i.e. via a public charity such as SEE, is technically owned by the charity. It is strictly a legal issue. It is useful to keep in mind that every SEE project is afforded recognized non-profit status only through its affiliation with SEE.
SEE does not act in a proprietary manner with any project’s assets. There will never be an issue of SEE exercising creative control over your productions (unless it violates federal or state non-profit guidelines). However, using public funds to create or purchase an asset does restrict how it can be used. When a project spins off, all assets created during a project’s tenure are granted to the project as long as it goes to another non-profit.
How are contracts with outside vendors / service providers / individuals handled?
Projects are free to negotiate contracts for services rendered by businesses or individuals. However, there is no debt financing allowed in SEE. When signing a contract for a service, the project must have available funds to pay for the said service. If a contract for any amount is over and above a group’s normal operating level, the SEE office must first approve it.
If I have collected donations and deposited them into my personal bank account, are those donations tax-deductible once I join SEE?
No, because in order for a donation to be tax-deductible, it has to be directly deposited into the bank account of a tax-exempt nonprofit like SEE. However, if you have the checks/cash/money orders in your possession and they have not yet been deposited, the donations will be tax-deductible if they are deposited into SEE’s bank account.
Can SEE projects accept donations from businesses?
Yes. However, projects must be very careful not to advertise the gift by thanking the business for their donation on your website. If the business’ “gift” is ever advertised, the IRS will consider that gift to be a payment for advertising, not a donation. Therefore, that money would be considered “unrelated business taxable income” and subject to tax at the corporation rate. Donations from individuals and foundations are not subject to these regulations.
If someone donates his or her time or space (for example, creating my website or giving free office space) can that person receive a tax donation?
The IRS only recognizes tax-deductions for tangible goods and does not consider time or space tax deductible.
What if my project needs to purchase or lease a product?
In some instances, a group may find it necessary to purchase or lease items for their activities. All such purchases and leases need to be executed by an individual associated with your group, not by the SEE office. SEE must not be listed as payee or lessee on any contracts.
If someone donates a tangible good (like a box of t-shirts) can the donor receive a tax donation?
Yes. If a project under SEE received a donated good, known as an in-kind donation, SEE can give the donor a letter for the donor’s records. Non-profits can only list specific items the donor gives, they cannot assign values to those items. Therefore the letter will read, “We would like to acknowledge your in-kind donation of 40 blue t-shirts.” Please provide detailed information as to the In-Kind donations received when requesting a letter to the donor.
If the donor will be deducting the value of the donation from United States Federal taxes and the value is over US$500, the donor will need to fill out Form 8283 with your next annual tax return. If the value of the US tax-deductible donation is over US$5,000, SEE will need to sign the Form 8283, according to IRS regulations.
Is there a minimum / maximum time a group needs to stay with SEE?
A project is not required to spend any particular length of time with SEE. You can begin to seek independent tax-exempt status at any point that you and your advisory council feel ready. SEE does require an exit interview before spinning off.
Can SEE help a group get its non-profit status?
A project can be part of SEE while it goes through the process of seeking tax-exempt non-profit status. SEE has online resources to refer projects to, listed on our website. But for professional assistance, a lawyer specializing in non-profits should be consulted.
What if I’m not sure my project fits within SEE’s criteria?
The best place to start is the Member Projects section on the SEE website, at www.saveourplanet.org. Find the area that best matches your mission and goals, and review the groups that are listed there. If you are still unsure, the best option is to contact us directly.
What if I have more questions?
Many times the best thing to do is to fill out the application and send it in so we can better answer your questions as it relates to your specific project.
Thank you for your interest and for considering becoming one of the SEE member projects. If you have additional questions, please contact us.
Social & Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE)
23564 Calabasas Road, Suite 201 , Calabasas, CA 91302