The son of an employee wants to commit monthly donations to the program his mom spearheads at our 501(c)(3) agency. He wants to commit to nearly $20,000 over two years to help assure the program's sustainability and his mom's employment. He is asking that a commitment to his mom's work schedule be documented in the thank you letter? Is this legal?
Yes, it is legal. It just isn’t deductible as a charitable contribution. If you are willing to commit to employ his mother for two years, he can commit to giving you $10,000 a year toward her salary. But since it is a quid pro quo arrangement, and he is presumably getting his money’s worth from the payment, there is no gift element and hence no deduction.
If he gave you a monthly donation and directed that it be used to pay his mom’s salary, it would not be deductible because it was directly for the benefit of a designated individual and also not a charitable contribution. Even if he made no long-term commitment and merely made a monthly donation so long as his mom is employed, based on the course of conduct you describe, although some may disagree with me, I think it would be hard to argue that it is not based on an “understanding” with the charity and therefore a quid pro quo.
You can test his charitable intent by asking whether he is willing to make the $20,000 commitment with no commitment on your part about the continuation of the program or his mom’s employment.