healthcare-and-money-vector-id1050719352

Are You Paid to Solicit Charitable Contributions for a Charity? You May Need to Register as a Professional Fundraiser

A professional fundraiser (“PFR”) is a person or entity who is hired to raise money on behalf of a charity.  Forty-two states have laws regulating the activities of a PFR. Generally, these states require a PFR to register before conducting any fundraising activities, and file their contracts and campaign financial reports.  They must also make certain disclosures to donors.  The states’ interests are to promote transparency around charitable fundraising, protect charitable assets for their intended use, and ensure that they are not misapplied through fraud or other means.

What is a Professional Fundraiser? 

A professional fundraiser (a/k/a commercial fundraiser for charitable purposes, professional solicitor or paid solicitor) is generally defined as a person or entity who, for compensation, directly solicits contributions on behalf of one or more charitable organizations.  A professional fundraiser may have temporary custody of contributions and is permitted to receive percentage-based compensation.

Examples of professional fundraising activity include telemarketing, in-person meetings with prospective major donors, vehicle donations, thrift store operations, event ticket sales, auctions at charity events (including the acquisition of auction items), and operation of certain internet fundraising platforms.

Where Does a Professional Fundraiser Need to Register?

Generally, a professional fundraiser is required to register in any state where they are directly soliciting charitable contributions on behalf of a charity.  With respect to internet solicitations, a state may impose its registration and reporting statutes only on a PFR’s activities that meet the constitutional requirement of “minimum contacts” with that particular state.

Acknowledging these jurisdictional limitations, and given the practical reality that applying (and enforcing) their registration requirements to every internet solicitation is virtually impossible, the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) issued guidelines in 2001 known as the Charleston Principles (the “Principles”).  The Principles are not binding law; however, NASCO encourages state charity regulators to use them as practical guidelines for applying their state laws to online fundraising activities.

The Principles summarize the application of state registration and reporting regimes to PFRs as follows:

  1. Entities domiciled within the state.

An entity is domiciled within a particular state if its principal place of business is in the state. However, according to the Principles, a physical presence within a state, such as a branch or regional office, may also be indicative of appropriate state jurisdiction.

  1. Out-of-state entities whose non-internet activities would require registration in the state (e.g., inbound telephone or face to face solicitations in the state).
  1. Out-of-state entities that solicit through an interactive or non-interactive website and either (a) specifically target persons physically located in the state or (b) receive contributions from the state on a repeated and ongoing basis, or a substantial basis, through or in response to the website solicitation.

The Principles leave the definition of “repeated and ongoing” or “substantial” to the individual states.  Currently, three states, Colorado, Mississippi and Tennessee have, by regulation, formally adopted numerical thresholds.  In Colorado, an entity receives “repeated and ongoing” or “substantial” contributions if it receives at least fifty online contributions, or the lesser of $25,000 or 1% of its total contributions, in online contributions during a fiscal year, respectively.  In Mississippi, an entity receives “repeated and ongoing” or “substantial” contributions if it receives at least twenty-five contributions or $25,000 in online contributions in a year.  In Tennessee, an entity receives “repeated and ongoing” or “substantial” contributions if it receives at least one hundred contributions or $25,000 in online contributions in a year.

Professional Fundraising Contracts

In addition to the registration requirements, state charitable solicitation statutes require that contracts between a charity and a PFR be filed in the states where solicitation activity is occurring and that they include certain provisions. Common contract provisions required by state statute including the following:

  • Legal name/address of the charity
  • Statement of the charitable purpose for which the solicitation campaign is being conducted
  • A clear statement of the fees to be paid to the professional fundraiser
  • The effective/termination dates of the contract
  • A statement that the charity exercises control and approval over the content, volume and/or frequency of any solicitation
  • An estimate of the amount the charity is expected to receive as a result of the solicitation campaign
  • California and New York require lengthy cancellation provisions designed to allow the charity to cancel the contract within 10-15 days of signing without penalty
  • Several states require the contract to be signed by two authorized officials of the charity

Campaign Financial Reports

Nearly all states that regulate PFRs require them to file a report that accounts for the funds raised in the campaign.  The reports generally require disclosure of the total amount raised, the fee paid to the PFR, and certain campaign expenses.  These reports are required within a certain time period following the end of the campaign (typically ninety days) or, for ongoing campaigns, annually in connection with the anniversary date of the campaign.

Bonds

As part of the registration process, PFRs are required to obtain a surety bond.  The purpose of the bond is to guarantee against malfeasance in the conduct of charitable solicitations.  The face amount of the bonds required by the states range from $10,000 to $25,000.

Point of Solicitation Disclosures

Virtually all states require a PFR to identify its status as a professional fundraiser, and many require the PFR to disclosure that the PFR is being compensated.  If asked by the potential donor, the professional fundraiser must truthfully disclose how much of the donation will go to the charity.

In addition, a number of states require solicitation disclosure notice statements on all written materials used when soliciting contributions.  The required disclosures must include how additional information about the organization may be obtained as well as certain state regulatory agencies’ contact information where donors can obtain further information. Solicitation disclosure notice requirements apply to charitable organizations as well as professional fundraisers.

The solicitation disclosure notice is required to be included on every printed solicitation or written confirmation, receipt, and reminder of a contribution. Customary examples of printed solicitations are direct mail solicitations, fliers, or solicitations contained in a newsletter.  Often overlooked, however, are emails or the organization’s website, which, if it includes a donate button or other request for a donation (including a link to the donate button), is considered a form of written solicitation.

The services that professional fundraisers provide can be of great value to nonprofit organizations. Understanding the regulatory framework governing professional fundraisers will help avoid missteps that can lead to actions by state regulators, including fines and penalties. It is incumbent on both the professional fundraiser and its charity clients to take the steps that ensure compliance under state charitable solicitation laws.  If in doubt, it is always a good idea to seek legal counsel.

Share this Post

Related Posts

perlman & perlman philanthropic sector law firm blue logo

click to exit page

silk lanterns

who we work with

Our clients are diverse nonprofit organizations with a broad range of missions, as well as for-profit companies in evolving areas such as social enterprise, corporate philanthropy, joint ventures, technology-driven fundraising, and impact investing.

A.B. Data
AB InBev Foundation
Absolut Company
American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science
American Diabetes Association
American Friends of the Hebrew University
American Parkinson Disease Association
Association of Fundraising Professionals
Avalon Consulting
Baton Rouge Area Foundation
Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation
Bleeding Blue for Good Fund
Bradley Cooper’s One Family Foundation
BrightFocus Foundation
Brooks Brothers
Chadwick Boseman Foundation for the Arts
Changing Our World
Charity Defense Council
Christian Appalachian Project
Doctors of the World/ Medecins du Monde
Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins San Frontieres
Drug Policy Alliance
Duke University
Emory University
Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.
Feed The Children
Food For The Poor
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
Grameen Foundation USA
Hope for New York
International Campaign for Tibet
International Crisis Group
International Justice Mission
J. Crew Group
Johns Hopkins University
Lautman Maska Neill & Company
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
LSU Foundation

Marts & Lundy
Meyer Partners, LLC
Milken Institute
NAACP Foundation
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
National Marrow Donor Program
National Park Foundation
Natural Resources Defense Council
North Carolina State University
North Shore Animal League
Operation Smile
PBS Foundation
Pernod Ricard USA
PetSmart Charities
PopSockets
Population Action International
Project ORBIS International
Public Interest Communication
Rails to Trails
Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Save the Children Federation
Sesame Workshop
Simon Wiesenthal
SOS Children’s Villages – USA
Subaru of America
The Little Market
Touro University
United States Equestrian Team Foundation
United Way Worldwide
University of Connecticut
University of Virginia
Vote.org
Whitney Museum of American Art
World ORT
World Wildlife Fund
YWCA USA

A.B. Data
Absolut Company
American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science
American Diabetes Association
American Friends of the Hebrew University
American Parkinson Disease Association
American Rivers
Association of Fundraising Professionals
Baton Rouge Area Foundation
BrightFocus Foundation
Burger King McLamore Foundation
Cancer Care
Carnegie East House and James Lenox House Association
Center for Car Donations
Changing Our World
Charity Defense Council
Christian Appalachian Project
Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation
Convoy of Hope
Cornell University
Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins San Frontieres
Drug Policy Alliance
Duke University
Emory University
Feed The Children
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
Grameen Foundation USA
Helen Keller Services
Hope for New York
Human Rights Watch
Humane Society of US
Indiegogo
International Campaign for Tibet
International Crisis Group
International Justice Mission
Japanese American National Museum
Johns Hopkins University
Lane Bryant Charities
Lautman Maska Neill & Company
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
LSU Foundation
Mattel
Meyer Partners, LLC
Milken Institute
National Breast Cancer Coalition
National Marrow Donor Program
Natural Resources Defense Council
North Carolina State University
North Shore Animal League
Obama Foundation
Operation Smile
PBS Foundation
Pernod Ricard USA
PetSmart Charities
Population Action International
Project ORBIS International
Public Interest Communication
Rails to Trails
Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Sesame Workshop
Simon Wiesenthal
SOS Children’s Villages – USA
Steinhardt Foundation
Subaru of America
United States Equestrian Team Foundation
University of Montana Foundation
University of Nevada, Las Vegas Foundation
Whitney Museum of American Art
World ORT
World Wildlife Fund
YMCA USA
YWCA of New York City
YWCA USA

perlman & perlman philanthropic sector law firm blue logo

click to exit page

news & events

Our attorneys’ recent contributions to the media and nonprofit sector publications.

news & events

Check out our attorneys’ recent contributions to the media and industry publications.

Secure Your Data – Seriously, AFP New York Chapter News
As Jon Dartley, a data privacy and security attorney at Perlman and Perlman says, “It is vital to have the appropriate legal terms in the contract to protect your interests.”  Find out what your liability limit is.  Have it in writing who bears the responsibility and cost of a data breach.  And, have the vendor agree on a specific timeframe within which they need to advise you of a data breach.

Warning: Don’t Cut Legal Corners When Mixing Social And Business Impact,  Forbes
Particularly striking is that (Karen) Wu believes this is the “first multi-state regulatory activity involving cause marketing in almost two decades.”

Is stealing, then giving back, OK?
Cliff Perlman lends his advice on theft within a nonprofit.

Buyer Beware: Negotiating Terms in Technology Agreements
Jon Dartley provides tips on negotiating contracts with technology vendors.

Four Ways Charitable Giving Could Change with a Tax Overhaul
Cliff Perlman remarks on the possible threat of a change to charitable deduction.

How To Deal With Residual Data, Nonprofit Times
Jon Dartley’s advice on addressing “data exhaust”.

Secure Your Data – Seriously, AFP New York Chapter News
As Jon Dartley, a data privacy and security attorney at Perlman and Perlman says, “It is vital to have the appropriate legal terms in the contract to protect your interests.”  Find out what your liability limit is.  Have it in writing who bears the responsibility and cost of a data breach.  And, have the vendor agree on a specific timeframe within which they need to advise you of a data breach.

Warning: Don’t Cut Legal Corners When Mixing Social And Business Impact,  Forbes
Particularly striking is that (Karen) Wu believes this is the “first multi-state regulatory activity involving cause marketing in almost two decades.”

Is stealing, then giving back, OK?
Cliff Perlman lends his advice on theft within a nonprofit.

Buyer Beware: Negotiating Terms in Technology Agreements
Jon Dartley provides tips on negotiating contracts with technology vendors.

Four Ways Charitable Giving Could Change with a Tax Overhaul
Cliff Perlman remarks on the possible threat of a change to charitable deduction.

How To Deal With Residual Data, Nonprofit Times
Jon Dartley’s advice on addressing “data exhaust”.

perlman & perlman philanthropic sector law firm blue and green logo

click to exit page

perlman & perlman philanthropic sector law firm blue and green logo

click to exit page

silk lanterns

who we work with

Our clients are diverse nonprofit organizations with a broad range of missions, as well as for-profit companies in evolving areas such as social enterprise, corporate philanthropy, joint ventures, technology-driven fundraising, and impact investing.

who we work with

Our clients are diverse nonprofit organizations with a broad range of missions, as well as for-profit companies in evolving areas such as social enterprise, corporate philanthropy, joint ventures, technology-driven fundraising, and impact investing.

A.B. Data
AB InBev Foundation
Absolut Company
American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science
American Diabetes Association
American Friends of the Hebrew University
American Parkinson Disease Association
Association of Fundraising Professionals
Avalon Consulting
Baton Rouge Area Foundation
Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation
Bleeding Blue for Good Fund
Bradley Cooper’s One Family Foundation
BrightFocus Foundation
Brooks Brothers
Chadwick Boseman Foundation for the Arts
Changing Our World
Charity Defense Council
Christian Appalachian Project
Doctors of the World/ Medecins du Monde
Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins San Frontieres
Drug Policy Alliance
Duke University
Emory University
Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.
Feed The Children
Food For The Poor
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
Grameen Foundation USA
Hope for New York
International Campaign for Tibet
International Crisis Group
International Justice Mission
J. Crew Group
Johns Hopkins University
Lautman Maska Neill & Company
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
LSU Foundation

Marts & Lundy
Meyer Partners, LLC
Milken Institute
NAACP Foundation
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
National Marrow Donor Program
National Park Foundation
Natural Resources Defense Council
North Carolina State University
North Shore Animal League
Operation Smile
PBS Foundation
Pernod Ricard USA
PetSmart Charities
PopSockets
Population Action International
Project ORBIS International
Public Interest Communication
Rails to Trails
Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Save the Children Federation
Sesame Workshop
Simon Wiesenthal
SOS Children’s Villages – USA
Subaru of America
The Little Market
Touro University
United States Equestrian Team Foundation
United Way Worldwide
University of Connecticut
University of Virginia
Vote.org
Whitney Museum of American Art
World ORT
World Wildlife Fund
YWCA USA

A.B. Data
Absolut Company
American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science
American Diabetes Association
American Friends of the Hebrew University
American Parkinson Disease Association
American Rivers
Association of Fundraising Professionals
Baton Rouge Area Foundation
BrightFocus Foundation
Burger King McLamore Foundation
Cancer Care
Carnegie East House and James Lenox House Association
Center for Car Donations
Changing Our World
Charity Defense Council
Christian Appalachian Project
Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation
Convoy of Hope
Cornell University
Doctors Without Borders/ Medecins San Frontieres
Drug Policy Alliance
Duke University
Emory University
Feed The Children
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
Grameen Foundation USA
Helen Keller Services
Hope for New York
Human Rights Watch
Humane Society of US
Indiegogo
International Campaign for Tibet
International Crisis Group
International Justice Mission
Japanese American National Museum
Johns Hopkins University
Lane Bryant Charities
LSU Foundation
Mattel
Meyer Partners, LLC
Milken Institute
National Breast Cancer Coalition
National Marrow Donor Program
Natural Resources Defense Council
North Carolina State University
North Shore Animal League
Obama Foundation
Operation Smile
PBS Foundation
Pernod Ricard USA
PetSmart Charities
Population Action International
Project ORBIS International
Public Interest Communication
Rails to Trails
Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Sesame Workshop
Simon Wiesenthal
SOS Children’s Villages – USA
Steinhardt Foundation
Subaru of America
United States Equestrian Team Foundation
University of Montana Foundation
University of Nevada, Las Vegas Foundation
Whitney Museum of American Art
World ORT
World Wildlife Fund
YMCA USA
YWCA of New York City
YWCA USA
Lautman Maska Neill & Company
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

perlman & perlman philanthropic sector law firm blue and green logo

click to exit page

Culture & Values

Vision

We view our clients as partners that share our commitment to bring about change in the world. Our goal is to provide them the peace of mind of knowing that they are in compliance with their legal obligations and to further empower them to achieve positive social impact and financial success.

Our Mission

Our mission is to provide the highest quality, integrity-driven legal services to our clients, using a practical, consultative, client-focused approach to identify and respond to problems and challenges.

We strive to maintain a culture characterized by respect, opportunity, diligence, mutual empowerment, entrepreneurship, and fair reward for efforts made on behalf of clients and the firm.

Perlman & Perlman is a Certified B Corporation

Certified B Corporations use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corps are unlike traditional businesses because they

  • Meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards
  • Meet higher legal accountability standards
  • Build business constituency for good business