Taking Planned Giving to the Next Level

With today’s financial demands squeezing charitable organizations’ budgets, many organizations are exploring opportunities to expand their methods and maximize prospects. Planned gift campaigns are frequently mentioned as a likely resource. However, staff professionals are challenged with limited resources to invest and sustain a long term commitment into a program where benefits may not be immediately realized, and Board members and others may not understand the process of securing these types of gifts. As a result, many some development directors have failed to incorporate planned giving into their annual development plans.

So, where to start?

Commit to a program. Begin with a simple plan with quarterly increments. Start with educating others about what planned giving is (and is not!). Planned giving is a service that, when properly done, can have a lasting effect on your organization. Planned giving is transformational for all parties!

Does it really begin with the Board?

Board members can be active in the process of identifying prospects, and perhaps even approaching the organization’s founders. Board members have roles as do staff professionals! While more sophisticated, traditional planned giving programs are staff driven, in small to medium-sized charities, CEO’s, development officers, and even other on staff have developed close relationships with prospective planned giving donors. E.g., a Board member may be the first to know that a certain individual is selling a business for a profit that will realize capital gains. If that individual is an established donor to your charity, with proper planning and communication, the donor can save taxes while making a transformative gift to your charity!

What do we need first?

Begin with creating the RIGHT plan designed specifically for your organization. Next, incorporate these activities into the multi-year fund development plan with measurable goals. Empower the organization and others through successful implementation.

Learn the strategies, techniques, resources and best practices at the upcoming session: Taking Your Planned Giving to the Next Level by Peggy Calhoun, ACFRE. Held on October 15th, participants will begin to understand and adopt the steps needed for success.

For more information or to learn more about Peggy Calhoun, please visit www.MillerCalhoun.com

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The Ice Bucket Challenge for Boards of Directors

The Ice Bucket Challenge for Boards of Directors

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 2.56.46 PMUnless you have absolutely no access to social media, you have probably seen more than you wished to see of friends, family, celebrities and folks you don’t even know dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. Though its origins are disputed, the great financial beneficiary of this summer’s icy trend is the ALS Association. So far the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $100.9 million dollars for ALS compared to the $2.8 million raised during the same period last year.

But, now what? How will they handle this windfall? Will they be like so many lottery winners who turn a bonanza into a tragedy by not using the money wisely? The key to success for ALS is whether or not their board of directors is up for the true ice bucket challenge.

We have all imagined what we would do if we won the lottery. At your next board meeting ask members to take a few minutes to imagine what they would do if your organization was the next big winner of a social media challenge.

How will we spend the money? – What goals are in our strategic plan? The University of Michigan study When Promoting a Charity May Hurt Charitable Giving by Robert W. Smith and Norbert Schwarz (2012) found that if the goal of a campaign is raising awareness, contrary to popular wisdom, the charity raises less money than if the stated goal is to change a problem. What will the long-term effects of the ice bucket campaign be on the organization’s ability to raise money?

Should we create an endowment? According to their January 2013 financial statement the ALS Association had just less than a million dollars in restricted assets. They spent 47% of their money on research and patient and community service, an additional 32% on public and professional education and a 21% on fundraising and administration. What should be their spending priorities going forward?

How do we thank all the people who have donated? The ice bucket challenge had over 3 million donors. How will they be able to thank all those who gave? Will they be able to build a relationship with these donors so that they give again or will they move on to a different cause?

How many people know more about our mission and the problems we are trying to address? Do you know more about ALS than you did when the campaign began? Are they now closer to rallying people to support their efforts to find a cure or assist those who have this terrible disease? Can you even say what the letters ALS stand for?

As a board of directors, having a large amount of money suddenly donated to your organization is a wonderful problem to have. If they have discussed how to manage, invest, and spend donations, your board won’t be all wet when the donations stop.

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Recap of Leaders Series Lunch: Hear from the Experts

Leaders Series Lunch: Hear from the Experts! Image courtesy @RollinsCollege

Leaders Series Lunch: Hear from the Experts! Image courtesy @RollinsCollege on Twitter.

The Philanthropy Center was happy to host a social media panel discussion on Thursday, August 7, 2014. Panelists discussed their use of social media in their nonprofit organizations.

Panelists included Denise Bealin, Director of Development and Communications at United Arts of Central Florida; Maria Shanley, Online Services and Communications Manager with Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida; and Jennifer DeWitt, Social Media Manager at Rollins College.

A common theme in comments from the panel was about creating engaging content. From pictures to hashtags, creating content that engages the audience is a way to increase interaction with the various communities and not just one-way communications.

Crowdfunding sites were a popular topic as well with United Arts’ Power2Give resource in addition to sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and others. The panel discussed the opportunity to use these sites to promote specific campaigns or goals as a way to attract new donors. Also, they said it was important to keep your goals realistic, especially if it’s your first time using a crowdfunding site.

Panelist Maria Shanley from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida commented on the ability to compare Facebook likes with donors. She provided a link to a blog post by John Haydon with details about how you can do this: http://www.johnhaydon.com/2014/04/18/donors-use-facebook/.

The importance of an editorial calendar was also stressed. It’s important to schedule social media posts to coordinate special events, fundraising campaigns, program awareness, and advocacy.

Almost all social media sites were mentioned during the panel with the main focus being on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The importance of sites like LinkedIn, Pinterest, blogs, and others were brought up for their importance in specific instances, but the panel agreed on what they considered the three most important social media sites for their organizations.

Social media and its role in #GivingTuesday was also discussed. This new event started in 2012 is a huge opportunity for nonprofit organizations. Social media plays a key role in driving traffic for #GivingTuesday. If you aren’t familiar with #GivingTuesday, you can visit the #GivingTuesday website for more information. You can also join the Central Florida #GivingTuesday e-mail list which will provide information to organizations about what is happening in our community for the event.

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Follow-up questions to the webinar, What Every Nonprofit Needs To Know To Comply With Florida’s New Laws on Fundraising

Below are follow-up questions to the Philanthropy Center webinar, What Every Nonprofit Needs To Know To Comply With Florida’s New Laws on Fundraising.

Prepared by Justine Thompson Cowan, Cowan Consulting for Nonprofits, PLLC. Email: cowan@cowannonprofits.com

What is the statute that governs fundraising and where can I find it?
The Solicitation of Contributions Act (hereinafter the “Act”) begins at Section 496.401 and can be found here:


Is a museum exempt as a member-based organization?
The exemption for member-based organizations under the Act is very limited. The term “member” has a number of common meanings, but for the purposes of this statute, a member is someone who is assessed dues or fees and has a role in the governance of the organization. In addition, fundraising by the organization is limited to its membership. In non-legal terms, you might think of a member-based organization as some sort of “club”, a professional trade organization or perhaps certain homeowners’ associations (provided that they meet all of the statutory requirements).

While I do not know the structure of your museum’s membership, based on my general understanding of museum memberships, it is unlikely that you are exempt. I would assume that you seek donations from members of the public, and do not allow your members to have any actual control over the governance of the organization.

Here is the language from the statute that describes what is needed to be exempt:

  • A member would have certain “privileges, professional standing, honors, or other direct benefit [sic] of the organization in addition to the right to vote, elect officers, and hold office in the organization.”
  • The organization “limits solicitation of contributions to the membership of the charitable organization or sponsor.”
  • Membership “does not include those persons who are granted a membership upon making a contribution as a result of a solicitation.” Instead, the member paid “bona fide fees, dues, or assessments . . . [where] membership is not conferred solely as consideration for making a contribution in response to a solicitation.”

Does your comment about the Florida legal requirements that you must provide the “amount that can be deducted” upon request include goods and services rendered?
As you may recall, I made a statement that the requirement contained in the Florida Solicitation Act that a nonprofit is required to provide the “amount that can be deducted” may be at odds with IRS guidance. I was referring to a particular situation –  an individual donates an item such as a computer and the organization provides a receipt. Based on IRS guidance, the nonprofit should not be valuing that computer for tax purposes. Instead, the nonprofit should provide a description (but not the value) of non-cash contributions. However, as indicated by the question posed, it is equally true that IRS guidance states that, if the organization provides goods and services, the nonprofit should make a good faith estimate of the value of those services.

The point of my comment is to be aware that there may be a contradiction in the duties stated by the state and the IRS. Standard practice is to follow IRS guidance on how to acknowledge different types of donations which can be found here:


If we have donors in other state, will we have to pay solicitation fees in all of those states?
Each state has its own laws and requirements for fundraising. You will need to check with the state where you would like to conduct fundraising. Fortunately, many states allow an organization to file a “Unified Registration Statement” which can make this process easier. More information about this can be found here:


Does the signage requirement for receptacles apply to “cash” donations?
The signage requirement only applies to receptacles “used to collect donated clothing, household items, or other goods for resale.”

What about crowdfunding such as gofund.me – is that covered by the Act?
There are no exemptions for crowdfunding. As such, you would need to analyze the fundraising activities as was discussed during the presentation. There are exemptions for some of the activities that you typically see on crowdfunding sites (e.g. raising money for an individual), but those activities would have to meet the requirements described in the statute, something that was not addressed in detail during the presentation.

Can you set up one form that all board members can sign indicating compliance with the Conflict of Interest Policy?
Yes, the statute merely requires “annual certification” that “shall be submitted to the department with the annual registration statement.” It does not prescribe a particular format for these submissions. With that said, it is possible that in the future, the Department of Agriculture may create a form for these types of submissions.

View the blog post What Every Nonprofit Needs To Know To Comply With Florida’s New Laws on Fundraising July 2014.


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What Every Nonprofit Needs To Know To Comply With Florida’s New Laws on Fundraising July 2014

Blog post courtesy of: Cowan Consulting for Nonprofits, PLLC; providing legal and strategic counsel to nonprofit organizations.

Sign up for the Rollins College Philanthropy Center free webinar on Friday, August 8th – What Every Nonprofit Needs To Know To Comply With Florida’s New Laws on Fundraising. (Event expired, view Philanthropy Center events here)

Successful nonprofits need no reminders about the importance of guarding their reputation – they know that even the best fundraising efforts will fail if the organization does not maintain the trust of its donors. While Americans are known worldwide for their quick and generous response to those in need, they are equally swift in taking their support elsewhere at even the hint of scandal. And it is not just money that is at stake – it is difficult for a nonprofit to fulfill its mission if it cannot maintain the trust of its supporters and the public at large.

That is why the Florida legislature wasted little time in enacting tougher laws governing charitable solicitations in the wake of the Tampa Bay Times exposé that revealed a darker side to some of our nation’s charities. The result of an investigation by the newspaper, conducted in partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting, confirmed a donor’s worst fears – millions of dollars contributed to causes that help veterans, terminally ill children, firefighters and people with cancer were not reaching those in need. Instead, they were lining the pockets of professional fundraisers and nonprofit executives. To make matters worse, the report identified the worst offender as a Florida-based charity, Kids Wish Network, which was accused of raising millions of dollars in the name of dying children, with only 3 cents of every dollar actually going to help children.

The response by the Florida legislature focused on increasing penalties against bad actors and tightening up the regulation of professional fundraisers. However, the legislation, which consists primarily of amendments to the Florida Solicitation of Contributions Act (“SCA” or “the Act”), also makes significant changes that apply to all nonprofits regardless of whether they use professional fundraising consultants or have a history of ethical or legal problems.

Below is a step-by-step guide to ensure compliance with the new requirements. A word out caution: every nonprofit organization is different and may have unique circumstances that impact the applicability of the new provisions. Moreover, while the law became effective on July 1, 2014, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (hereinafter “Department of Agriculture”), the government agency charged with oversight of charitable solicitations, has yet to provide any information on how it intends to implement the new law. If your organization is unclear about how to fulfill its obligations under the Act, please consult with an attorney or contact the Department of Agriculture for guidance.

Step One: Ensure that your Organization is Properly Registered to Raise Funds in Florida.

Regardless of the size of your organization or how much money it raises each year, if you have not been in contact with the Department of Agriculture in over a year, chances are you are not in compliance with the Florida Solicitation Act. With the exception of government agencies and certain religious and educational institutions, before asking for any financial support, organizations must obtain a permit from the Department of Agriculture or submit a claim that requesting exemption from the permit requirements. The exemptions are limited and include organizations that raise under $25,000 in a fiscal year, certain fundraising efforts undertaken on behalf of individuals, organizations that only solicit from their members, and veterans’ service organizations granted a federal charter under Title 36 of the United States Code. All organizations, even those exempt from registration, must renew their status annually. The permitting requirements are not new, but given the increased focus on charitable fundraising, it is recommended that organizations ensure that their permits (or exemptions) are current. Click here to see if your organization’s registration is up to date.

Step Two: Review your Conflict of Interest Policy.

It has always been good practice to have a conflict of interest policy in place. Indeed, the IRS Form 990 asks tax-exempt organizations whether they have a conflict of interest policy that requires disclosure of potential conflicts, and whether that policy is adequately enforced. Florida has gone one step farther and, under the new law, nonprofit organizations that are required to register with the Department of Agriculture must adopt a Conflict of Interest Policy. The policy must also should require that each director, officer and trustee certify annually that he or she is in compliance with the policy. The certifications must then be submitted to the Department of Agriculture at the time that the annual registration statement is due.

Step Three: Update your charitable solicitation disclosures.

Under existing law, an organization fundraising in Florida must display statutorily prescribed language on its solicitations. The law now requires that this language be included on your website on any webpage that identifies a mailing addresses where contributions can be sent, provides a telephone number to call to make a contribution, or has an online processor for contributions. The prescribed language has also been modified to include the Department of Agriculture’s website address where registration and financial information about nonprofit organization can be found.

Here is a sample disclosure:


Step Four: Determine whether you need to provide the State with updated information.

Existing law requires that an organization inform the Department of Agriculture of changes to the information provided in the initial registration on an annual basis. For example, if the organization becomes authorized by another state to solicit contributions, it must inform the Department at the time of its annual renewal. It must also disclose information that might indicate malfeasance on the part of the organization or its officers. For instance, if the organization has been enjoined from soliciting contributions in another state or any of its directors or officers have committed a crime relating to theft or fraud, the organization must divulge this information when filing its initial registration and update that information on an annual basis. Under the new law, an organization must file an update “within 10 days after the change occurs” on a form provided by the Department. The penalties for failure to disclose can include automatic suspension of an organization’s registration until the appropriate information has been submitted.

Step Five: File your annual registration and financial statements on time.

In the past, the Act allowed the Department of Agriculture to grant an extension for filing an annual renewal statement or financial statements for up to 60 days. During that time, the prior registration remained in effect. The new law eliminates the ability of the Department of Agriculture to grant an extension for the annual registration. The Act does contain a provision that allows an extension of filing a financial report for good cause. In either case, failure to file within the time allowed results in an automatic and mandatory expiration of an organization’s registration.

Step Six: Determine whether your organization is subject to more stringent financial reporting.

The Act requires that an organization file an annual financial statement that includes, among other things, a balance statement and an income statement. The Act provides an option for organizations to file an audited statement or a Form 990. Under the new law, filing an audit prepared by a certified public accountant (CPA) is now mandatory for organizations that receive over $1 million in contributions. In addition, an organization that receives more than $500,000 in annual contributions but less than $1 million must submit a financial statement that has been “reviewed or audited” by an independent CPA. An audit or review remains optional for smaller organizations although the Department has the authority to require an audit or review of any organization if there are discrepancies in financial statements such as irregular or inconsistent information.

Step Seven: Determine whether other provisions apply to your organization.

The measures listed above apply generally to all nonprofits. The law contains many other provisions that may apply to your nonprofit including but not limited to:

  • Additional financial reporting for organizations that raise over $1 million but spend less than 25% of their income on program expenses,
  • Signage requirements for organizations that use collection receptacles,
  • Requirements for organizations that solicit contributions in response to disasters,
  • Exclusion of certain blood establishments from the Act,
  • New penalties for bad actors that may impact an organization’s sales tax exemption,
  • Sweeping changes to the registration requirements for fundraising consultants and solicitors, and
  • Fundraising restrictions on individuals with criminal records.

The new law also provides for increased penalties that can include the revocation of the sales tax exemption allowed for certain charities in Florida.


Florida’s residents have shown themselves to be compassionate people donating generously to a multitude of important causes. It is unfortunate that responsible nonprofit organizations have to suffer, both in terms of reduced donor confidence and additional regulatory requirements, as the result of a few bad actors. However, the new law sends a clear message to those seeking to gain at the expense of Florida’s nonprofit community – that preying on the kindness of Florida’s residents for personal gain will no longer be tolerated. While the law is in its early stages of implementation, the small inconveniences created by this law will likely go far in preserving the excellent reputation of Florida’s nonprofit community.


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