How Not to Bury a Fundraising Disclosure

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Posted on January 14, 2019 by Harbor Compliance in Nonprofit Compliance.

When donors look at your fundraising appeals, what do they see? No doubt you’ve put a lot of thought into your messaging, choosing just the right words and images to tell your nonprofit’s unique story. But have you given any thought to the message your fundraising disclosures are sending?

Too often, nonprofits bury disclosures in the most inconspicuous place they can find. You may have even read articles proposing creative hiding spots, like the back of an envelope flap. Yet nobody expects to find good news lurking on an envelope flap, or skulking in the margins of a document in six-point type. That’s the realm of legal disclaimers (generally not good news) and medical side effects (definitely not good news!).

In fact, fundraising disclosures are very good news. And as it turns out, they’re sending a message donors are looking for when weighing their giving options.

So why are you hiding them?

Donors Are Worried

Today’s donors are eager to give. They’re also inundated by fundraising appeals and worried about the impact of their donations, according to a survey by Fidelity Charitable. Their number one concern? Making sure a charity is credible and trustworthy.1

Charitable solicitation disclosures speak to that very question. Generally, they show that your charity is registered with authorities where required. They affirm that your financial statements are a matter of public record, and that you’ve met your regulatory obligations for fundraising.

All of these things send a message about your nonprofit’s transparency, legitimacy, and viability. By leveraging them as part of a wider conversation about your organization’s compliance with charitable solicitation laws, you can enhance the persuasive power of your fundraising appeals.

What are charitable solicitation disclosures?

Required in 26 states, charitable solicitation disclosures provide basic information about your charity. This may include items such as:

  • The full legal name of the charity
  • Address and contact information
  • The charitable purpose for which funds are being solicited
  • Your fundraising registration number
  • Directions for contacting state authorities to obtain copies of your financial or registration information

While these details are useful for donors who want to make a formal inquiry, they can also make a powerful impression on donors who are just glancing over your materials for the first time. What sort of impression they make depends a lot on how you present them.

Where must they be included?

Each state that requires disclosures spells out where they are required and what they must contain. In some states, different requirements are provided for solicitations made by phone, email, in person, or in writing. Because the requirements are so varied, it’s important to ensure that each fundraising activity you engage in meets the guidelines of the state where the solicitation is made.

It’s important to note that in the case of long-distance appeals, solicitation occurs where the message is received, not where it originates. For example, a North Carolina charity that sends an email solicitation to a Nevada resident must meet relevant Nevada requirements.

Some states provide a statement that must be included verbatim on all written appeals. This may include online solicitations such as social media posts and web pages. Other states are less specific. It’s important to follow the instructions for each state where you solicit to the letter. In Texas, for example, the written disclosures must be in contrasting eight-point type or larger.

If you need advice or help with disclosures, our specialists can help. Just give us a call and we’ll get you set up.

Go Big. Be Bold. Get Fundraising.

If you’ve gone to the effort of meeting all of your fundraising registration and disclosure requirements in a state, why would you relegate that information to the fine print? Disclosures are evidence of good stewardship, and they should be shared as such: in big, bold print, with a headline and some surrounding copy to help readers understand what they mean.

Here are some tips that will help your nonprofit unbury your disclosures and harness their power to boost donor response and retention:

  1. Feature your disclosure statements proudly in solicitations. Give them a headline that provides context, like “Our Commitment to Good Stewardship,” or “Fully Registered and Compliant.” Make sure you explain the story behind the disclosure: that you’re a good corporate citizen committed to responsible governance, financial transparency, and maintaining good standing with state authorities. These are the messages hidden within your disclosure statements. If you don’t spell them out, you’re missing an opportunity to win trust—and boost donations.
  2. Prepare compliance talking points for board members and staff. As your fundraising champions, your board members and staff should understand the measures your nonprofit has taken to achieve compliance. Explain to them what it means to be fully registered for charitable solicitation under the laws of the states where you raise funds and equip them to share that news as they reach out to donors.
  3. Provide a complete compliance picture. Your regulatory obligations extend beyond fundraising registration and disclosuresYou also have requirements to maintain good standing in your home state and other states where you’re registered to conduct operations. These include filing annual reports, maintaining tax exemptions, and having an active registered agent for service of process, among other tasks.
  4. Go beyond disclosure. Once you begin to view compliance as good news to be shared rather than legalese, you may be surprised at how many opportunities you’ll find to share it. Spread the word about your compliance in grant requests, newsletters, social media messaging, and presentations. You’ve invested in sound governance and good stewardship, make sure you reap the rewards!

Not sure where you stand?

If compliance has taken a back seat in your nonprofit, you’re not alone. Nonprofit leaders and staff wear a lot of hats, and regulatory compliance is one that tends to be put on as needed and then tossed in the closet until the next deadline. We get you! In fact, we hear from nonprofits every day who aren’t sure where they stand with all of their reports and registrations. If you’re in that position, we can help.

We can perform a quick compliance check to confirm your status in any state and let you know what you need to do now and through the year to maintain compliance. Just give us a call, 1-888-995-5905, or contact us for more information. We’re happy to help!

1. “Overcoming Barriers to Giving,” Fidelity Charitable. Web.