A charitable organization should provide appropriate training and supervision of the people soliciting funds on its behalf to ensure that they understand their responsibilities and applicable federal, state, and local laws, and do not employ techniques that are coercive, intimidating, or intended to harass potential donors.
Staff, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders can be valuable allies in raising funds to support the charitable organization’s work, but without proper training and oversight support, they can also mislead or misdirect donors and put the organization’s reputation at risk. A charitable organization should provide careful training and supervision of all those who solicit donations on its behalf to make sure they understand their legal and ethical obligations, as well as procedures to follow in representing the organization and working with donors. Training courses and materials are often available through local nonprofit education programs and associations of professional fundraisers. It is particularly important that fundraisers are respectful of a donor’s concerns and do not use coercive or abusive language or strategies to secure contributions, misuse personal information about potential donors, pursue personal relationships that are subject to misinterpretation by potential donors, or mislead potential donors in other ways. All those who solicit contributions on the organization’s behalf, including volunteers, should be provided with clear materials and instructions on what information to provide to prospective donors, including the organization’s name and address, how the donor can learn more about the organization, the purposes for which donations will be used, whether all or part of the donation may be tax-deductible, and who the donor can contact for further information.
If a charitable organization decides to use an outside professional fundraising firm or consultant, it should have a clear contract — as required by law and guided by good practice — that outlines the responsibilities of the organization receiving the funds and of the firm or consultant. The contract should stipulate that donor lists will be treated as the proprietary information of the organization and should specify how information about donors will be handled and protected, and how funds will be transmitted to the organization. The fundraiser must agree to abide by any registration and reporting requirements of the jurisdictions in which fundraising will be conducted, as well as federal restrictions on telephone, email, or fax solicitations. The charitable organization should verify that the outside solicitor is registered as required in any state in which the solicitor will be seeking contributions.
Because some individuals may launch online and peer-to-peer (“crowdsourcing”) fundraising campaigns without the beneficiary organization’s knowledge, many charitable organizations have established written policies regarding who is permitted to raise funds on their behalf and the process for requesting and receiving authorization to do so from the charity. Charitable organizations that regularly solicit funds from the general public should routinely conduct website searches to identify whether and how their names are being used. If a charitable organization finds that others are soliciting contributions on its behalf, it should contact the soliciting individual or organization to determine whether the donors’ information and contributions are being appropriately transferred to the charitable organization. If the charitable organization does not choose to be listed on a site or included in a campaign for any reason, it should send a written request that its name be removed and notify relevant charitable solicitation regulators of any problems.
In general, those soliciting funds on behalf of charities should refrain from giving specific legal, financial, and tax advice to individual donors. Rather, when such questions arise, fundraisers should encourage donors to consult their own legal counsel or other professional advisors before finalizing a contribution.