NC State Extension Publications


A. Examples of Revenue Generation

B. Rules and Regulations

  1. County Government Account
  2. Local EMGV Checking Account
  3. EMGV Association (county and statewide accounts)
  4. NC Agricultural Foundation (county and statewide accounts)
    1. Enhancement Funds
    2. Endowment Fund

C. Gifts and Honorariums


There are multiple ways to generate revenue for EMG programs, but specific rules and laws govern how funds may be deposited and disbursed. This section explains what EMG program coordinators, volunteers, and association representatives need to know to ensure they are following state and federal regulations when volunteers raise money or charge fees for program support.

Photo of master gardener arboretum sign

NC State MGVs in Nash County develop support for an arboretum.

N.C. Cooperative Extension

A. Examples of Revenue Generation

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The following sources are examples of ways EMG programs raise revenue:

  • annual plant sales, raffles, or auctions
  • fees for services such as classes, workshops, and tours
  • sales of books, publications, and program-related products, such as compost bins
  • gifts and donations
  • grants
Photo of master gardener working a plant sale

An NC State MGV working at a plant sale in Brunswick County.

N.C. Cooperative Extension

B. Rules and Regulations

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There are four options for handling the money MGVs raise for program support:

1. County Government Account

Program funds may be deposited in county government accounts. The county may have restrictions on how and when the money may be spent. In addition, some counties may take all unspent funds at the end of each fiscal year.

2. Local EMG Checking Account

In some counties, an individual has created a checking account for the EMG program and finances are run through that account. This accounting approach is not permitted. It has liability and tax implications for that individual and a lack of security for the program as a whole.

3. EMG Association (County and Statewide Accounts)

EMG Associations have been established to financially support the EMG program either in a particular county or statewide. These associations are independent organizations (not part of NC State) that operate under memoranda of agreement with NC State (Appendix E). Fundraising activities of these associations may include receipt of cash or in-kind donations. Often the donor assumes that these donations are tax-exempt. However, an association must meet specific legal requirements in order to accept tax-exempt gifts. The following is a summary of the different categories of current EMG Associations in North Carolina. Each has restrictions as to how or if it may receive tax-exempt donations.

Unincorporated Non-Profit Association—means an unincorporated organization, other than one created by a trust and other than a limited liability company, consisting of two or more members joined by mutual consent for a common, nonprofit purpose. If an unincorporated nonprofit has less than $5,000 in annual revenues, it may function as a 501(c)(3) without applying for IRS recognition of its status. However, as a practical matter, it may be difficult to obtain contributions without an IRS determination letter officially recognizing the nonprofit as a Section 501(c)(3) organization. Operating as an unincorporated non-profit association is generally discouraged because members are personally liable for the association’s debts and liabilities.

Non-Profit Corporation—this signifies that the association is registered with the Secretary of State as a non-profit. This classification does not allow the association to solicit or receive tax-exempt donations unless it is also designated by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization.

Independent 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization/Foundation—may deposit tax-exempt gifts into an account held by the association. Checks must be made payable to the association and not to NC State, the NC State Extension, or _______ county Extension centers.

501(c)(3) Charitable Organization Under the NCEMGVA Umbrella—The NCEMGVA has been certified by the IRS as an Umbrella 501(c)(3), using a Group Exemption Number. This means local EMG associations can obtain their 501(c)(3) status more easily and less expensively through the state association. Visit the NCEMGVA website to learn more about obtaining 501(c)(3) status under the NCEMGVA umbrella.

If the EMG association cannot receive a tax-exempt gift because it is not a registered 501(c)(3) organization, the association should inform donors that their gift is not tax-deductible and this should be printed on any receipt issued to a donor. If the donor wishes to make a tax-deductible donation, it may be made through the NC Agricultural Foundation or the North Carolina Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association (NCEMGVA). All donations should be followed by issuance of a receipt.

4. NC Agricultural Foundation (County and Statewide Accounts)

The NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit with the mission of supporting agricultural research, extension, and teaching activities in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University.

The Foundation manages all gifts in accordance with the donor’s wishes within applicable state laws. They handle all tax requirements, investment decisions, reporting, and other administrative tasks. MGVs may raise money and deposit funds or tax-exempt gifts into their county’s EMG enhancement fund or endowment account. A portion of the interest earned goes to covering overhead expenses.

a. Enhancement Funds

Every county with an EMG program may create an account within the NC Agricultural Foundation called the (Name of County) EMGV Enhancement Fund. An Enhancement Fund is restricted to the purpose for which it is created. Before establishing an Enhancement Fund, there should be a fundraising or solicitation plan in place that will generate funds for deposit into the Enhancement Fund soon after it is established. Questions should be directed to Kathy Kennel, Executive Director at or 919-515-9259.

b. Endowment Fund

Every county with an EMG program may create an endowment. An endowment’s purpose is specified through a written endowment agreement by the donor. Money deposited in the Endowment account is invested in perpetuity; the annual interest earned is made available for spending according to the endowment’s purpose.

Checks must be made out to the NC Agricultural Foundation and noted for support of a specific local EMG program and mailed to NCAF, Campus Box 7645, Raleigh, NC 27695-7645.

Funds should never be deposited into an account held by an individual or organization other than the local Extension, the local EMGV association (assuming that the organization is a registered non-profit corporation), the NCEMGVA, the NC Agricultural Foundation, or the NC State University Department of Horticultural Science.

Consider the following when managing money as an Association:

  • Costs/fees direct (percentage of deposit) and indirect (fee for auditing, insurance, and other services)
  • Limitations on spending
  • Risks (roll back at the end of the fiscal year?)
  • Interest earned
  • Implications of low bid
Photo of master gardener plant sale in Burke County

NC State MGV plant sale in Burke County.

N.C. Cooperative Extension

C. Gifts and Honorariums

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Occasionally a volunteer may be offered a gift or honorarium as a speaker. Volunteers may accept small gifts but not money. It is the responsibility of the MGV to inform the person/group making the offer that no payment is expected or required. Donations to the county or state EMG program are an encouraged method of handling "offered fees."

EMGVs preparing to give a presentation.

NC State EMGVs like these members of the Speakers Bureau in Mecklenberg County are not allowed to accept personal gifts.

NC Cooperative Extension Service


Extension Urban Horticulture Specialist
Horticultural Science

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: May 29, 2019

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