Words to Live By: Is It Time to Panic?
You’ve been hearing about proposed postal-rate increases; rules against personalizing mail pieces with your donor information and thanking donors; new, expensive accountability measures; and rules against e-mailing potential donors.
So is it time to hit the panic button? No, but this also is no time to allow yourself to continue on, unfamiliar with the legislation and other changes that could affect your organization’s fundraising efforts.
Following is an update on some of the issues the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation is monitoring.
The DMANF is resisting efforts to modify the non-cash gifts rules that would affect donations of food, clothing, books, land, etc. There are proposals on Capitol Hill that could hurt many organizations relying on such donations. The U.S. Senate Finance Committee was preparing sweeping new reforms that could harm giving, but the tide has turned slightly in favor of creating new giving incentives.
Madigan v. Telemarketing Associates successfully filed briefs in early 2003 before the U.S. Supreme Court against setting up an arbitrary fundraising percentage by law. But the DMANF remains concerned that setting a particular percentage hurts newer campaigns, new organizations and unpopular causes. But this issue is not dead at the state level; dozens of bills have been introduced to try to set a fundraising-cost threshold. We’re standing ready with other allies to challenge such legislation.
The DMANF succeeded in establishing an exemption from the National Do-Not-Call Registry for nonprofits that raise funds and seek help through telemarketing. We currently are seeking federal preemption over dozens of state laws that may or may not exempt charities from making calls to donors, since states have passed measures that are more strict than the federal law.
Nonprofit solicitation at state level
We’re monitoring state nonprofit solicitation legislation. Dozens of bills are introduced each year that impact your ability to even try to raise support. For example, an Oklahoma law states that any fraternal or membership organization seeking to solicit contributions by telephone must have at least one member in the county where the call is received. We are working to amend this provision.
Postal reform and rates
We’re seeking preservation of the nonprofit preferred rate; six-day-per-week mail delivery; a strong regulator to protect against rate hikes; and predictable, uniform rates. Postal-reform passage is possible this year; HR 22 already passed in the House of Representatives, and we’re seeking Senate passage of its Version S.662. At the same time, a rate increase of 5.4 percent across the board likely will go into effect in January, with another rate-increase request by the USPS filed in 2006, going into effect in 2007.
E-mail solicitation and spam
We’re monitoring the Federal Trade Commission to make sure typical fundraising solicitation via e-mail doesn’t constitute spam that’s subject to regulation. Nonprofit organizations should have the freedom to pursue new techniques in building online donor relationships. A worrisome trend has developed at the state level in that some states perceive an online solicitation as sufficient to claim jurisdiction and force you to register in that state, even if you have had minimal state contact.
Senny Boone is the executive director of the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation.