Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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10 Tips for Public Safety Organizations Working With Paid Solicitors

Because Public Safety Organization Members assist our communities in so many ways, Pennsylvania consumers are eager to show their support for your organizations. In an effort to protect both the public and your organization when it raises funds, Pennsylvania enacted laws regulating solicitations conducted in Pennsylvania. This brochure is designed to provide general guidelines for public safety organizations that raise funds through paid professional solicitors. Failure to take the following precautions may lead to bad publicity, loss of profit and damage to the reputation and financial stability of your organization.

You are encouraged you to seek independent legal advice concerning the specific details of your fundraising campaigns to ensure that you are in compliance with Pennsylvania's solicitation laws.

Tip #1 
Research the "track record" of professional solicitors, ask for and check all references. A prospective paid solicitor should be able to give you the names and addresses of organizations on whose behalf he/she has previously conducted fundraising events. Check with these organizations to be sure they had a positive experience with the solicitor.

Tip #2 
Put your contract in writing. Your organization must have a written contract with the professional solicitor signed by an authorized representative of your organization. All terms agreed upon are to be in writing. The complete legal names of your organization and the solicitor should be used. The names of the persons signing the contract should be printed below the signatures. A full mailing address for both parties must be included. Be sure the following are also included:

a. clear and complete terms as to what amount of money raised goes to your public safety organization, including any terms which guarantee a minimum amount your organization will receive and what date the organization will get its final payment from the fundraiser;

b. the beginning and ending dates of the contracts;

c. a statement that the paid solicitor does not have custody or control over the funds as they are received, including funds arriving after the conclusion of the campaign; and cancellation information if the solicitation is stopped for any reason.
 

Tip #3 
Open the bank account in the name of your public safety organization, not the paid solicitor's. Your organization should have control of all withdrawals from the account. Never sign blank checks.

Tip #4 
Determine who will be responsible for distributing show tickets and/or other professional items involved in the fundraising. Determine who will pay the solicitor's expenses if the fundraising is unsuccessful, and specify whether it is the solicitor or the public safety organization.

Tip #5 
Require that the solicitor use only material reviewed and approved by your organization when contacting the public, especially telemarketing scripts and printed materials mailed to donors. Make sure these materials comply with Pennsylvania law. Include the address and phone number of your organization for people who may have questions about your organization or the paid solicitor.

Tip #6 
Specify ownership of donor lists. Typically, the lists of names, addresses and telephone numbers used by paid solicitors when contacting the public for donations belong to the nonprofit organization. If your organization retains ownership and decides to offer your list for rental or exchange, consider the privacy of your donors. You may want to offer donors the opportunity to opt off lists you provide to outside mailers and phone solicitors.

Tip #7 
Make periodic, unannounced visits to the phone room(s) where the solicitations are being conducted. This will allow you to monitor what is being said to the public on behalf of your organization.

Tip #8 
Review both the sales records and financial records of the campaign at least weekly. Make the project manager aware that you plan to do this.

Tip #9 
Obtain copies of the original invoices as received, paid receipts as paid, bank statements, checks and deposit slips from the professional solicitor.

Tip #10 
Monitor all expenses to be sure that they are reasonable and necessary. Immediately question any expense which you feel is excessive or without documentation.


Report any problems to:
Office of Attorney General
Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section, 15th Floor
Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA 17120
(717) 783-2853

or

Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
http://www.attorneygeneral.gov

or

Department of State
Bureau of Charitable Organizations
124 Pine Street, Suite 300
P.O. Box 8723
Harrisburg, PA 17105
toll-free within Pennsylvania, at 1-800-732-0999.