One of the most frustrating parts of being a consulting grant professional is the confusion over charitable standards and registration requirements. Why? Because the standards vary state-by-state and there isn’t always a clear definition of where grant professionals fall within the definitions of fundraising counsel or paid solicitors.
Many grant professionals tend to assume they fall under the fundraising counsel definition, but multiple grant professionals have called the same office for the same information – how are grant professionals classified (in a given state)? – and they have received different answers.
On top of these difficulties, registering as fundraising counsel may require you to submit not only high annual registration fees, but a copy and fee for each contract you have for a new client. The added cost and time lag in getting contracts approved and moving ahead can seem burdensome, and as such, many grant professionals have chosen to avoid registration altogether.
As a group of professionals, our goal should be to gain some clarification on these issues and work with the appropriate parties to ensure that both grant writers and their clients are not unduly burdened as they choose to work together in a consulting arrangement. Taking a passive stance, rather than a position of advocacy, hasn’t moved anything forward. It has only increased the risk associated with being a grant professional for hire unnecessarily.
So, who’s in charge of setting charitable standards across the nation? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell; even the office you would call to learn more about the registration process varies state-to-state.
Here’s a start …
Organizations Setting New Standards
Here are a few organizations that influence charitable standards and registration requirements related to fundraising…
1. National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) | http://www.naag.org/
This group issued “A Model Act Concerning the Solicitation of Funds for Charitable Purposes” in 1986. The document helps define “charitable organization”, “solicit” and “solicitation”, “charitable purpose”, “contribution”, “fund raising counsel”, “paid solicitor”, “commerical co-venturer”, and “charitable sales promotion”. It sets forth annual registration requirements for charitable organizations, speaks to the need for annual reporting/auditing, addresses exemptions, discusses requirements for fund raising counsel as well as registration, contract and disclosure requirements for paid solicitors, and covers charitable sales promotions, point of solicitation disclosure requirements for charities, penalties, and a few other topics.
2. National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) | http://www.nasconet.org
This group, while at a combined annual conference with NAAG, developed The Charleston Principles: Guidelines for Charitable Solicitations Using the Internet, the current standard for online fundraising.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had the same group, at its annual conference with NAAG, develop a recommendation on how contracted grant professionals should be handled nationwide? I think it would move us in the right direction, adding clarity and professionalism to the field.
The 2010 Annual Conference for NAAG/NASCO will take place on October 4, 2010 in Silver Spring, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Charities & Regulators: Doing More With Less During Hard Economic Times”.
Organizations Tracking Current Standards
Until a national recommendation is provided, identifying the right standards for your consultancy to follow can be intimidating. But one organization, the GivingUSA Foundation produces a quarterly newsletter that may be of some help. One of the quarterly issues is its “Annual Survey of State Laws Regulating Charitable Solicitations”. This survey highlights the differences in registration requirements state-by-state in one handy table. I know I have found it enlightening. I hope you will, too.
I’d love to hear what you have to say on this issue. Please comment and tell me how you handle differing standards in your consulting practice.
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