Across the nation, there are various businesses that are termed “professional fundraisers,” or alternatively “commercial fundraisers” or “professional solicitors.” These professional fundraisers are companies and individuals in the business of providing fundraising services. Specifically, these businesses conduct work on behalf of charitable organizations to solicit donations and promote sustainable, long term giving.
A large part of professional fundraising is the use of face-to-face fundraising. Face-to-face fundraising allows the charity to engage with the public in an effective and compelling way to reach new supporters. As the name makes clear, face-to-face fundraising involves these professional fundraisers interacting with potential supporters in person. This type of fundraising can take place in a public place, like a busy street in a shopping area, or at a private site, such as a supermarket.
Fundraising activities are regulated by state law and each state has their own regulations and procedures for professional fundraisers. Typically, they are subject to registration and financial reporting requirements, as well as requirements for registering their contracts with the charitable organizations. Professional fundraising for large organizations, particularly those that operate in multiple states, can be very complex, since it requires compliance with these different regulations. In addition to state regulations, there are also rules and regulations at the local levels, typically both county and municipal levels. Locally, most municipalities have specific rules for how fundraisers may engage with donors and professional fundraising organizations need to be aware of the rules, as they are vigorously enforced. Some states also have specific regulations about required disclosures. Some states’ regulations are specific about the way written disclosures must be presented, including specifications about font size.
Some states allow exemptions from these typical registration requirements for certain types of charitable organizations. However, in most of these states, exemptions are not automatic, and formal requests must be submitted or other procedures followed. States may impose fines or late fees on organizations that conduct fundraising activities without following proper procedures and obtaining the required registrations or licenses.
General Counsel, P.C.’s lead Charitable Solicitation attorney, Hailey Brown, is a founding board member of the Professional Face to Face Fundraising Association, the regulatory body for face-to-face fundraising in the United States. Complying with the various regulations in the professional fundraising context can be complex, but General Counsel, P.C. can work with you and simplify that process. In addition to the compliance aspect of ensuring your business is obtaining the proper licenses and complying with all regulations, the professional fundraising world also deals with adjacent issues, such as contracts law and employment matters. Our attorneys are experienced in all relevant areas to assist your business with whatever issues may arise.