Question: If we start charging for co-op membership or classes, how should we handle the money?
Money management in a cooperative can be a sensitive subject, but it's one that's absolutely necessary to address. If your co-op has decided to charge for tuition, supplies, registration, facility fees, etc., then you need to consider how that may affect your group's standing with the IRS. Unless you're an expert (and I'm not!), you need expert advice.
In my opinion, Homeschool CPA Carol Topp is the best source of co-op money management advice out there. She has been a CPA and tax professional specializing in non-profits and homeschool organizations for years. She homeschooled her own children and acted as treasurer in her co-op. She knows what she's talking about. I recommend that you use some funds to schedule a consulting session with her when starting a co-op and once a year after that. Her fee is peanuts compared to the peace of mind you will have from knowing you are doing it right.
Here are some of Carol's posts that you should read:
What Homeschool Leaders Don't Know About Tax Exempt Status
What Homeschool Leaders Don't Know About Non Profit Status
Questions on Taxes, Incorporation and Leaving a Group
I was recently asked what we do with money left over after all of our expenses have been paid. At first, we decided to start a small living books library at our host facility (a church) for the benefit of the co-op and church children. We put the profit into buying living books, and now we have more than 800 living books in the library. As time went by, we were also able to purchase supplies like Bausch & Lomb handheld magnifiers for nature walks, rulers and scissors (for sloyd), circular weaving looms for handcrafts, Expo markers and erasers, and other office supplies that made it easier for teachers when they found they had left a stapler or tape at home! And of course, we bought a coffee maker. Need I say more?
I live with my husband and three children in the beautiful bluegrass region of Kentucky. I am passionate about my faith, home educating my children, and seeing as much of God’s creation as possible! I grew up in a home that encouraged self-education, so Charlotte Mason’s philosophy was a natural fit for our family. After moving to Kentucky and struggling to find an established CM community, I decided to host information sessions on Mason’s philosophy of education. Those sessions led to a book study, which led to a summer cottage school, which led to the 2012 establishment of Overstone School, a Charlotte Mason cooperative school. Today, there are over 300 CM home educators and many support groups and book studies in the Bluegrass region, connected through the Bluegrass CM Community Facebook page.