What, Exactly, is a “Suggested Donation”?

When charity board members or staff sit around a conference table planning their next fundraising special event, the discussion inevitably turns to how much to charge. When a price is determined, it’s not uncommon, especially in smaller organizations, for someone to recommend that the amount be described in publicity materials or on tickets as a “suggested donation” amount of $X. In another conference room somewhere Read More

Let's Start the New Year with Good News: Progress on the Multistate Charitable Solicitation Registration

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the recent, bizarre, presidential campaign was that charity law - yes, charity law! - was thrust into the daily news cycle. Among the meaty issues - alleged or real - that legal analysts, anchors, and pundits tossed about is the often-overlooked requirement in about ¾ of U.S. jurisdictions that 501(c)(3) charities file state charitable solicitation registration documents.   While Read More

Court Blocks Donor List Request – Again

Federal and state regulators want charities to disclose significant amounts of information. For the most part, these organizations are on board with the notion of full transparency. There have, however, been giant battles and resistance from some quarters in connection with requests for disclosure of donor lists on annual information returns. This controversy has played out at the federal level, in connection with Read More

Year-End Donor Queries and the Overhead Myth

In December 2014, we posted “Uh Oh. It’s the End of the Year and We Have Money Left Over!” The point, of course, was that many nonprofits mistakenly believe they have to spend down every last penny by year’s end in order to maintain their status. We clarified that the term “nonprofit … usually means the type of organization that has successfully jumped through the proper state and federal hoops to receive the most Read More

Congress Digs In On Huge College Endowments

“A not-so-old joke has it that Harvard is best thought of as a hedge fund with a university attached.” The fund in question is its endowment - the largest in the United States - valued at over $35 billion. There have been growing concerns in recent years about the massive nest eggs of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning. These criticisms arise against a background of record-breaking Read More

Wounded Warrior Project: "So Many Lessons, …"

In 2003, former Marine John Mejia was determined to help wounded service members returning from the Iraq War. He had been injured near Somalia a decade earlier and recalled arriving at a military hospital with nothing more than his hospital gown. So Mejia started a small project to prepare and distribute backpacks with CDs, socks, and other comfort items for injured veterans. From this modest beginning, the Wounded Read More

Crowdfunding: What California Charities Should Know

It seems like a perfect marriage: the internet and charitable fundraising. A lightning-speed way to pitch alerts about causes - often in times of emergency - for which generous people in your own backyard as well as around the globe can help with the click of a mouse. It should be no surprise, then, that crowdfunding is exploding in popularity. “The nonprofit and charity sector has particularly benefited from the Read More

Cause-Related Marketing: The California Rules

Fundraising is the lifeblood of 501(c)(3) charities. Whether an organization has an in-house development department or hires consultants, government regulators take a keen interest in the process and the results of soliciting charitable donations. Outside Solicitation Help In “Taking Fundraising Outside the Organization,” we introduced the California rules that apply when a charity turns to outside help with Read More

Taking Fundraising Outside the Organization

Fundraising is central to the success of public charities. It takes an enormous amount of time, effort, and resources to raise the money needed to accomplish an organization’s mission. And it’s certainly quite a bundle that’s raised. For example, in 2013, total charitable giving in the United States was over $335 billion. That’s $335 billion or so that donors expect to go to legitimate organizations for charitable Read More

What Could Possibly Be Worse than Poverty Porn?

What could be worse? “Poverty porn” that isn’t even true, that's what. First Things First: What, Exactly, is “Poverty Porn”? It’s a term that has emerged in recent years to criticize the practice of telling gritty stories and portraying gruesome images and video of destitution, of natural catastrophes, or of serious illness, injury, or deformity in order to create interest in media (newspapers, TV, movies) or to Read More