The rise of the Motorcycle Club as a benevolent organization with the purpose to do good for those less fortunate is a good way to turn the tide of public sentiment in favor of the MC community. The LE MC and PS MC clubs seem to be leading the charge in this noble effort.
IRS Code 501(c)(3) describes the “Public Charity” and the “Private Foundation” organizations which are entitled to tax exempt status. This means that organizations which are granted 501(c)(3) status can raise money for charitable purposes and avoid paying some taxes on those proceeds. This also allows those people designated as “Director” or “Board Member” for their particular charity to recoup personal expenses from those proceeds. The only restriction on this is a loose guideline which says in part, “Board members should not be compensated for services except to reimburse direct expenses”. This leaves the policy open to very loose interpretation including abuse of donated funds for personal gain.
Enter the new generation of Motorcycle Club that seeks and attains “501(c)(3) status”. Most of these clubs do the ethical thing and earnestly raise and donate money to legitimate charities and/or recipients. Good deeds done, Public image is strong…..Mission Accomplished !
Sadly, the number of stories that illustrate that this status is abused and donated funds misappropriated are becoming too frequent. The abuses range from the discreet embezzlement or “skimming” of donations to the blatant confiscation of raised funds for personal income. The abusers know it is easy to use the influence and efforts of club members to exploit the good people in society in the name of a “good cause” to pocket or benefit from donated funds meant for those less fortunate. Dishonesty is dishonesty no matter how you pull it off.
Leaders of some “law-abiding” MC’s have referred to their clubs as their “Retirement” or their “Business” as they use the membership to put money in their own pockets thru many means including raising money for “charity” by exploiting the 501(c)(3) status. The IRS is stepping up its efforts to police this and this will make it harder for those clubs that really want to do some good.
We, here at The Alliance, take a very dim view of anyone who exploits charity for personal gain. To those in the law abiding MC world who do this: You know who you are, and so do we. Those you offend will not keep your secret. Remember that if you are doing this, you are violating the public trust. This is simply unacceptable. If your leaders are doing this, it reflects on you and your club. Is that what you want ?
Please remember that any money contributed to your charity belongs to the charity, not you. Donated funds may be held in trust by your club until such time as it is passed along to the intended recipient. Any money not given directly to the charity should only be spent in support of the charitable effort. Charity directors or board members have an ethical obligation to use donated funds only for truly charitable purposes. 501(c)(3) status is an excellent fund raising tool but it is not necessary to do some good in your community.