Fundraising Overview

Fundraising Overview

Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) utilize membership dues, fundraising initiatives, and funding grants to support the costs of their events and activities. Funding sources for RSOs are found in the On-Campus Grants and Funding section of the Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide.  General information on fundraising, fundraising policies using university facilities, and opportunities for fundraising, such as university departmental sponsorship, commercial sponsorship, and allowable sales by Registered Student Organizations are listed and described below in this section of the Resource and Policy Guide.

General Fundraising Considerations

NOTE: It is important that your organization adhere to University, City, State and Federal laws and policies regarding the collection of revenue.

  • Define your organization's goals. What do you want to accomplish this year?
  • Develop your financial plans based on the organization's goals.
  • Map out methods to reach financial goals.

Planning Tips

  • Plan ahead - you'll have more options available. Your choice of facilities, funding sources, speakers and entertainers will be more diverse.
  • Learn from past experiences. What fundraisers have been most successful for your organization?
  • Combine campus, individual and private funding sources. Don't depend upon only one source for contributions.
  • Identify your constituency and target your audience. Who are the people most likely to support your activity?
  • Evaluate the fundraiser. Write down the keys to your successes and keep records of everything. You can pass the victories and failures on to future members and save them some time. When planning events and activities, new members will benefit from your legwork.
  • Always thank your contributors. Whether you thank an audience with a few words acknowledging the support of a contributor or send someone a note, it will be invaluable in the future. It is also a common courtesy.

Fundraising Policies

Using University Facilities

If you use university facilities to advertise your fundraiser or use university space to hold your fundraiser, you need to be registered as a student organization with the Center for Leadership and Involvement.  After you are registered as a student organization, contact the Campus Event Services Office, to discuss facility use and date availability. Plan as far in advance as possible to complete additional paperwork and confirm arrangements.

The UW Administrative Code requires that the university specifically agree to permit use of its facilities for any sales or revenue producing activities. Student groups must receive this permission from the university agent who reserves the facility (usually this is the Building Manager).  Remember that the general public cannot be invited to events sponsored by student organizations in university facilities, unless a university department is a primary sponsor of the event or activity in conjunction with the registered student organization.

The sponsoring student organization is responsible for rental charges and other special services deemed necessary by the university, such as security costs. Funds remaining after all the costs of such events in university facilities have been paid, may be used to support the activities of the sponsoring student organization(s) or other charitable or public service organizations, but may not be used for individual gain or in support of commercial activity.

Event Attendance

  • Charitable Events/Activities Limited to Students, Faculty and Staff
    • In using university facilities to fundraise for charitable organizations, RSOs must comply with all applicable University policies and guidelines, found in the Fundraising Policies section of this Guide. Unless your event meets the conditions described below, including university department co-sponsorship, your event’s attendance is limited to students, faculty and staff.
  • Charitable Events/Activities Open to the Public
    • If an RSO wishes to open the event/activity to the public, perhaps in the case of a run/walk charity event or other benefit event/activity, RSOs must comply with at least one of the following conditions:
      1. The on campus event/activity is sponsored by an RSO and is in support of a specific non-profit charity, as defined above, provided that (1) the event will not include sales of any products; (2) all or a portion of the fee/donation will go to the non-profit charity; (3) the exact amount of the individual fee/donation that will go to the non-profit charity is specified in all promotions; (4) if the RSO wants to hold the event the following year, they need to demonstrate that the funds from the previous year were received by the given non-profit entity.
      2. The event is co-sponsored by a University Department, in which case the funds must be deposited in the appropriate university account.
      3. The Chancellor or his/her designee authorizes an exception. In most cases for RSO/departmental reservations, the Campus Event Services Office will authorize such an exception to revenue producing policies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can RSOs use University facilities to raise money for charities?

RSOs may use university facilities/grounds to raise funds for the benefit of non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Note that all non-profit organizations are not 501(c)(3) approved. 501(c)(3) non-profit status is determined by the IRS upon application for such status.
In both scenarios described below (charitable fundraising events/ activities limited to students, faculty and staff AND those open to the public), RSOs are encouraged to contact the Campus Events Services Office for more complete information on approvals and forms required for such events.

Do we owe sales tax on money we raise?

Income is generally considered taxable. You should get a "Temporary Sellers Permit" from the Department of Revenue for any major fund-raising event. Most minor income will qualify as "Occasional Sales." The "Occasional Sales" rules are available from the Department of Revenue. Refer to the Taxes and Tax-Exempt section of this handbook for further information or contact the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Can we accept a donation made to the university for our student organization?

A Registered Student Organization does not have such authority. Refer to the “Acceptance of Gifts and Donations on behalf of the RSO” information in the Minimum Requirements for University Sponsorship of Registered Student Organization Events or Activities.

Fundraising Opportunities

Fundraising Opportunities

Sponsorships, Sale Items, Permits

Membership Dues

If you decide to establish membership dues, collect a set amount from each member. Decide as a group what is a reasonable amount. It will be helpful to first decide how much money you'll need for the year. Will students pay less than non-student members? What if someone can't afford the dues? Be sure to disclose to dues-paying members how the dues will be used. Also, establish a policy/plan regarding what happens to money left in the treasury should the group disband.

University Departmental Sponsorship of RSO Events/Activities

A university department may choose to sponsor some or all of a registered student organization's (RSO's) events and activities. A department electing to sponsor an RSO event or activity should ensure that the nature and extent of the sponsorship is clearly understood by both the department and the organization. In order to sponsor an RSO event or activity, a department must adhere to the practices as specified in the Minimum Requirements for University Departmental Sponsorship of Registered Student Organization Events or Activities. This linked page describes practices related to Advisor/Direct Supervision, Liability, Expenditures, Revenue Other Than Gifts and Donations, Acceptance of Gifts and Donations on Behalf of the RSO, and Use of Fleet Vehicles.

Commercial Sponsorship of RSO Events/Activities

Often commercial enterprises are eager for the chance to come on campus to promote their goods or services (telephone companies, charge card companies, beer distributors, etc.). They will, therefore, offer a student organization financial support or sponsorship (for example, pay for publicity) in order to do so. In general, a Registered Student Organization may not use university facilities to raise money for itself or charity by selling or promoting a commercial product. The use of university facilities is a privilege; student organizations may not use their privileged access to university facilities to promote or endorse commercial products or businesses.

If registered student organizations accept a corporate/business contribution for its activities, the recognition of that contribution must follow university policies. When recognizing contributions from businesses to a student organization program, the business name must be secondary on the event publicity. The event is sponsored by the student organization, not the business! If the business has standardized publicity pieces, they may have to be altered for use on this campus. Beer/alcohol sponsorship is discouraged because the majority of UW undergraduate students are under the legal drinking age.

For more information, refer to the following policies and guidelines:

Allowable Items for Sale in Campus Facilities or on Campus Grounds

The following information applies to fundraising activities by Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) in university facilities or on university grounds. RSOs may go off campus, to City of Madison areas such as the State Street Mall or Langdon Street to fundraise. In these cases, the policies of the City of Madison apply.(For specific reservation information, refer to the Reserving Space section of this guide.) If RSOs prefer to fundraise on campus, below are examples of the types of items that have been allowed as sales on campus in the past. Please note that this listing is not comprehensive.

Types of items allowable for sale:

  • Food Items (home baked goods not allowed)
  • Book sales/signing in conjunction with an event
  • Items connected with culture at multicultural events
  • Homemade craft type items
  • Items that have connections with group - Sale of products related to the organization i.e., plant sale by Horticulture Club, Christmas tree sale by Forestry Club
  • Tickets to RSO sponsored events
  • An organization's t-shirt, other apparel and novelty items when it ties into the organization or event
  • A group's literary publication
  • Flowers

Types of items NOT allowable for sale (per University Policy and subject to change without notice):

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Credit card applications, whereby an RSO receives monetary subsidy for each credit card application distributed 
  • Other than food, items that clearly promote or endorse commercial products where the items are not related to the purpose and mission of the organization

Other Items:
The Directors of the Center for Leadership and Involvement and the Campus Event Services Office will review all other types of sale items on a case-by-case basis.

Temporary Food Sales

The sale of foods to the general campus community can take place at approved temporary food stands in the lobby areas of UW Madison buildings and on university grounds, subject to the following conditions and procedures. There are three key elements that are part of any request for a temporary food stand:

  1. Location: A request for an indoor location must be submitted and approved by the appropriate campus building manager. A list of building managers can be found using the Campus Map, by clicking on the "Facility Abstract" link next to the appropriate building name. A request for an outdoor location must be submitted to and approved by the University of Wisconsin Campus Event Services Office, 608/262-2511. No food items can be sold on “non-university” property without a City of Madison food stand permit. Permits are reserved for food vendors and artists. For additional information contact Public Health Madison and Dane County (266-4821).
  2. Permit: To sell food and/or beverages, a temporary food stand permit must be approved and issued by the Environmental & Occupational Health Office prior to the requested sales date. Only registered student organizations are qualified to obtain temporary food stand (TFS) permits. Permits must be applied for online ( at least 2 weeks prior to the food sale. If the application is approved your permit can be paid for and picked up at University Health Services (333 East Campus Mall) room 8501. The cost of a permit is $5.00. A permit is required for each building and/or outdoor location. A registered student organization will be allowed to purchase a maximum of five (5) permits for the sale of ready to eat foods, (foods that do not require further cooking at the food stand; such as bagels, pizza, doughnuts, canned/bottled soda and juices, chips, and whole fruit). per semester. Each registered student organization will be allowed no more than three (3) permits per year for the sale or free distribution of food items prepared on-site (such as the grilling of brats and burgers).  Any changes from those already approved in the original permit application must be approved prior to the day of the event.   Failure to follow these guidelines may result in a student organization being denied future temporary food stand permits.  In addition, temporary food stands that involve cooking or grilling are required to have "Special Events Insurance". Information about this insurance is available from the Office of Risk Management, 21 N Park St., Suite 6101, 608/262-8926, or at the Risk Management website. NOTE: Temporary food stands used for on-site food preparation including cooking or grilling for more than three days per year must have a roof, ceiling, sidewalls, and covered floors, as well as screened food preparation areas, hot water, sinks for utensils and dishwashing and hand washing facilities as required by Wisconsin State Code. Additional fees required for this permit.
  3. Food: Home-prepared foods such as a “Bake Sale” cannot be sold or served to the general public.  Food may be obtained from The Wisconsin Union, University Housing or an approved and licensed food vendor. You may verify if your vendor is approved by checking the Risk Management website under the "Certificates of Insurance" section. Grilled meats are limited to pre-formed hamburger patties, steaks and pre-cooked meats (such as pre-cooked brats, sausages and chicken breasts). All hamburgers must be cooked to at least 155 °F throughout to prevent pathogenic E. coli infections. To minimize the risk of Salmonella infections pasteurized eggs must be used for all egg or egg containing items cooked onside and the grilling of raw chicken is not allowed.

A permit is NOT required for:

Free distribution of "ready-to-eat, pre-packaged" food items associated with special events or promotions.  Examples of these types of food items include candy bars, individually sized bags of chips.  Whole fruits, such as oranges, apples and bananas, are also considered "ready-to-eat", but are not required to be pre-packaged or individually wrapped. Food purchased by departments or organizations must comply with Purchasing rules for catered events. More information is available on the Risk Management website. Pot luck events are defined as a food event where every attendee brings a dish to pass. These events must be restricted 50 participants and open to members only. Pot lucks are not fund-raisers, and no money can be collected or donations accepted.

Fundraising Regulations


Fundraising- Specific Regulations

Selling, Raffles, Poker

Temporary Food Sales: Requires permission from the specific campus location and a food stand permit from Environmental Health, 333 East Campus Mall. For details, see the Fundraising Opportunities panel above.

Selling on UW Library Mall: Unless sponsored by an appropriate University department or office, sales are not permitted on the UW Library Mall (area around the fountain between Memorial Library and the State Historical Society Library). For questions regarding UW Library Mall, contact Campus Events Services, 608/262-2511. Refer also to University Facility Use Policies and Guidelines G3: Use of Library Mall.

Selling in the Wisconsin Union: The Wisconsin Union includes both Memorial Union and Union South. Registered student organizations may reserve space for occasional non-commercial sales within the Union. There is a small fee. Contact Campus Event Services, 608/262-2511 for more information.

Selling Inside University Buildings: No food is allowed in campus classrooms. To sell food in areas outside of the classroom, in lobbies or in other common areas of campus buildings, you must (1) obtain the Building Managers' permission. Click here for a list of building managers and their phone numbers. (To view the building manager information, click on the 'Facility Abstract' link next to the appropriate building.) (2) Obtain a food stand permit. Instructions are available in the Temporary Food Sales section above. (3) Be sure what you’re selling is allowable. Refer to the list of types of items allowable for sale above in this section.

Selling on State Street Mall: State Street Mall extends the entire length of State Street from the Capitol Square all the way down to Park Street and includes the raised, cement podium area and the area south of Memorial Library where the food carts are located. The State Street Mall is City of Madison property and the city is responsible for issuing vending permits. These permits are limited to and restricted to individuals selling handcrafted goods or personally prepared food items. For application materials and information, call or email Warren Hansen, City of Madison Street Vending Coordinator, at or call 608/261-9171.

Selling on City Sidewalks:
City sidewalks include sidewalks on Langdon Street and on University Avenue. To obtain sidewalk vending permits and information relating to sales in these areas, call or email Warren Hansen, City of Madison Street Vending Coordinator, at or call 608/261-9171.



  • The State of Wisconsin Statutes requires all raffles to be licensed through the Office of Charitable Gaming. Tax exempt organizations, having charitable work as a major purpose written into their by-laws, can qualify for a raffle license. The organization also must have been in existence for at least one year prior to application for the license. The other major requirement is that the organization's activities must be limited to the state of Wisconsin.
  • For a more detailed description of these requirements, refer to About DOA (click Gaming and then click Raffle, to find raffle information and documents). Here you will find an Original Raffle License Application, Legal Requirements for Raffles in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State Statutes that refer to raffles. Download the Original Raffle License Application or request an application to be sent by mail, 608/270-2552.
  • The Office of Charitable Gaming asks for 4-6 weeks to process an Original Raffle License Application. Please note that you will need to provide copies of documents from your organization listed on the application along with a $25.00 processing fee. The mailing address is on the application. For further assistance, please call 608/270-2552 or 800/791-6973.

Poker Tournaments

Following is a reprint of an article written by the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) of the Gaming Enforcement Bureau. Please read it over and if you have questions about poker tournaments, contact the Dane County District Attorney’s Office, located at 210 Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd., in Madison, telephone 608/266-4211.

Legality of Poker Tournaments

  • The recent popularity of poker tournaments, specifically Texas Hold ‘em Poker, has generated numerous inquiries to the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation regarding their legality. At this time, it is the position of DCI that Texas Hold ‘em Poker and poker tournaments constitute illegal gambling.
  • Poker tournaments in which the participants pay a fee to enter for the opportunity to win money or prizes are illegal under two different Wisconsin statutes. Wisconsin State Statute 945.01(1) provides the definition of a bet as “… a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.” Wisconsin State Statute 945.01(5)(a) defines a lottery as “… an enterprise wherein for a consideration the participants are given an opportunity to win a prize, the award of which is determined by chance, even though accompanied by some skill.”
  • Several elements of poker tournaments and Texas Hold ‘em Poker cause them to fall under these definitions of illegal gambling activities. Poker tournaments in which the participants are required to pay money to enter (consideration) are clearly illegal lotteries and betting. Another type of consideration would be requiring a minimum drink or food purchase during the event. Even if no purchase is required to enter the tournament, other factors may be enough consideration to make the tournament illegal.
  • The penalties for violations of these gambling statutes range from misdemeanor gambling for making a bet or participating in a lottery to felony commercial gambling for operating a gambling place or conducting a lottery. Gambling is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to nine months. Commercial gambling is a Class E felony, punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment up to fifteen years.
  • A key element of the definitions of both a bet and a lottery is the term “chance, even though accompanied by some skill.” It is DCI’s position that chance predominates over skill in all poker games and poker tournaments. This is due to the fact that the game involves a deck of cards in which nobody can predict with any great degree of accuracy what card will appear next. There are states, such as California, where poker and other traditional gambling card games are specifically allowed. Wisconsin has not adopted any statutes or exceptions which would allow such gambling activity.
  • At this time, it is unclear whether poker tournaments that do not involve consideration (that is, participants do not have to pay to enter) are illegal. The legality of these tournaments will have to be determined on a case by case basis. Check with your District Attorney’s Office to make that determination. Otherwise, all poker tournaments and Texas Hold ‘em Poker games that require any sort of consideration to enter, are illegal and should be discontinued.”