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Use donations for charity, not expenses

Q. I am participating in a charity bike tour in Italy later this year. Each rider must get sponsors to raise $2,500 for the charity. Since there are additional costs of airfare, hotel and registration fees, is it ethical to raise more than the required $2,500 and apply the surplus money to those costs? – David Y. Harari, Brooklyn, N.Y.

You may apply these donations to your expenses if the charity allows it and your sponsors realize that their contributions will be used in this way. But is that so? What you call “surplus money,” the charity and those donors might regard simply as “money” – intended to serve a benevolent purpose, not defray your costs.

While this is something you may do, charity and sponsors permitting, it is not something you should do. One criticism some charities face is that they apply too great a portion of contributions to operating expenses.

That is, the bike tour is meant to underwrite the charity, not the other way around.