Q: Please clarify who can make the “ask” for organizations seeking funding. Perhaps it would be most helpful if you could explain the difference in the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of independent Professional Fundraising Consultant/Grantwriters, Professional Fundraising Solicitors, and the nonprofit organizations themselves.
A: Each state regulates this. In Florida, the roles, responsibilities, and limitations are defined by Chapter 496 of the Florida Statutes and handled – like most other nonprofit corporation issues here – by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The Statute begins by defining the “ask” or “solicitation” as the request for money, property, financial assistance or any other thing of value. It continues by clarifying that the “ask” can be direct or indirect, oral or written, successful or not, and includes publicizing the need for contributions and even attempting to sell things in order to support a charitable purpose. The application for grants is excluded from this definition as long as the application is made either to a government entity or an organization that is exempt from paying federal income taxes.
Only an organization itself and professional solicitors are able to actually solicit contributions. Professional fundraising consultants may offer advise, plan, manage, or conduct a campaign, even prepare materials for a solicitation. But they may not actually make a solicitation, hire anyone else to make a solicitation or have custody or control of an organization’s funds at any time.
Nonprofits – other than bona fide religious or educational institutions, government agencies or political groups which are exempt – must be registered with the State in order to solicit funds from the public. So must anyone who accepts compensation for the help they provide to nonprofits regarding the solicitation of funds. Volunteers, employees of a nonprofit and attorneys, investment counselors or bankers who advise people to make charitable contributions as part of their professional responsibilities do not need to register.
Registration, which is required annually, can be done online. To register or to get more information, go to http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/onestop/forms/10105.pdf. Professional fundraising consultants and professional solicitors alike must also forward a copy of all their contracts to the State prior to beginning any work. For consultants, this is 5 days prior and for solicitors, it is 15 days prior. In addition, professional solicitors must provide a surety bond payable to the State in the sum of $50,000.