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Old 01-01-2012, 07:02 PM
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"Paying" volunteers

Happy to have found this resource. I look forward to anyone and everyone's input.

Here's the deal...

We are a 501(c)(3) community organization, based in California, formed to create community theater but with a twist, we are making movies instead. In an effort to continue to keep our volunteer members continuing to participate in our activities, we are examining compensation for the people who participate in in our filmmaking. Our concerns/issues are these: we do not want to pay our people too much money so that they stop being considered volunteers and then become employees. This would trigger, at the very least, having to pay minimum wages and, of course, all of the other challenges associated with record keeping and withholdings. The alternative is not any better. Defining them as independent contractors (as if we actually had the discretion to make this determination, laws make it for us). If they were to be dealt with as 1099'ers, our city requires everyone who works as an independent contractor to have a business license!! We obviously can't expect vounteers to have to get business licenses so they can receive payment for their help. Our compensation idea is to award points for work performed. Then, as we get revenues (assuming we do at all) from the sales and rentals of our films, we wold set aside a certain percentage of revenues to be divided by the total universe of outstanding awarded points and pay each person holding points accordingly. I have reviewed the FLSA as it applies to volunteer firefighters. It provides some foggy assistance.

Our question becomes, what can we pay to our people to remain considered "nominal payment?" We would like for our members to enjoy a part of the rganization's success should we find ourselves with a "hit." We are also concerned with the issues of "inurement to the benefit" but have received opinions that suggest our payments from revenue would not be a concern. But, now the concern is how much can we pay before we end up turning someone into an employee. If we had a vey successful film, we'd like to be able to share this success with those who made it possible, But, if doing that triggers them becoming 'employees' or 'independent contractors' and no longer 'volunteers' then we have a big problem.

Insight into this would be most welcome.


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