Why You Should Be Compliant When Building an Online Fundraising Campaign
You’re launching your online fundraising campaign. You’ve mapped out a strategy that engages donors and makes the most of your relationships. Your cultivation efforts are honed in on capturing the hearts, minds and giving spirits of your donors. You’re talking about your mission, building on the clarity of your vision and tuned into the most cost effective way to make all of this happen online. You’ve designed a cadence to your messaging that will bring your campaign to a successful crescendo.
Don’t forget fundraising compliance.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that moving your fundraising campaign online means the rules don’t apply. Who rules and manages the Internet? If a donor decides to give to you online, that’s on them, right?
Whether you ask face-to-face, through the mail or along the information super highway, it’s a solicitation. If you email a donor directly or just post a message on your website, it’s a solicitation. And solicitation triggers registration.
Why does fundraising compliance matter for your online campaign? There’s an excellent chance that your organization is incorporated in one of the 41 states that require charitable solicitation registration. There’s an even better chance that you’re soliciting donations in one of those 41 states. Inevitably, you have built or are building your fundraising clout to a notable level. That’s been your intention. You’ve done an incredible job with your programming and have maximized the impact of each dollar raised. Your donors are impressed and spreading the word about your impact every way they know how—posting on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
A clue to your success is when your donors’ networks have become your network. Your message is spreading to places and prospects that you might not have found on your own. Furthermore, accessibility has been queen and you’ve made it easy for donors to give from wherever they may be. Online giving for your organization is on the rise. Online giving requires online fundraising compliance. “Donate Now”… that’s a solicitation.
It’s reasonable to wonder where you need to register. In short—anywhere you ask! It’s not just about where you are; it’s about where your donors live. Are you casting a wide net, asking everyone you’ve connected with on your website and through social media to participate in your annual giving? Have you followed the recommendations of gurus and made your “Donate Now” button prominent? Can anyone, anywhere find you and give? Maybe some of your donors have even moved away, but remained loyal givers.
Don’t trip over technicalities as the money comes rolling in. Register before you ask. When that generous donor sends you a gift—because Cousin Crystal talked about your work or Aunt Sovia sent them an email—that gift landed them in your pipeline, no matter where they live. You aren’t going to leave money on the table. You’re going to build the relationship and ask again. You are soliciting. Determine if you’re soliciting in a state, and make sure you're meeting all of the necessary requirements.
What are some best practices? Let’s keep it simple. There are four key steps to remember if you want to stay on track.
● Research: You need to know your status in each state. Once you know that, you can easily map out your path to compliance, including which applications to complete and what fees may be charged.
● Apply: Each state has its own application process, so make sure you are preparing the correct forms in the most streamlined and cost effective manner.
● Monitor: As with any other submission you make, you’ll want to follow these applications through to approval, for your—and your donors’—peace of mind.
● Renew: Mark your calendar, so that once you’re compliant, you stay compliant. Track due dates and fees so that your renewals are on time and complete.
Your relationships with your donors are built on trust. Transparency and accountability preserve that trust. You want to nurture that relationship now, so that it is still there later. Building that sense of urgency into your online campaign will capture the attention of your supporters. Don’t procrastinate with fundraising compliance. Solicitation triggers registration, so prioritize compliance! If you’re not in compliance, you run the risk of:
● Fines and penalties that pull vital dollars away from the work you are doing in your community.
● Audits and enforcement actions that take your limited time away from the mission you’re meeting.
● Bad PR that can taint the reputation of your organization and follow you for years to come.
Instead, reap the benefits and rewards that come with knowing you can:
● Fundraise anywhere at any time.
● Tap into the relationships and connections that you have invested time in building.
● Show the world of donors that you are a legitimate, credible organization, worthy of both their trust and their hard-earned dollars.
You want to be proactive while also honoring your valuable and desperately finite time. You want your online fundraising campaign results to be out of this world. Take that good-faith step of investing in compliance.
Ify Aduba is a nonprofit compliance specialist for Harbor Compliance, a leading provider of compliance solutions for organizations of all types and sizes. Headquartered in Lancaster, Pa., Harbor Compliance partners with organizations in every state and over 28 countries abroad to help solve the most challenging compliance problems. With clients that range from the largest organizations in the country to fast-growth startups, Harbor Compliance fully manages government licensing compliance in both nonprofit and business sectors.
In her spare time, Ify actively volunteers within her community. She currently serves as president of the Board of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations, president of the Administrative Ministries Team at Doylestown United Methodist Church and board member for the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition. She is also a member of the Doylestown Branch of the American Association of University Women and Doylestown Rotary.