Hiring a professional fundraiser can be an important strategy for a nonprofit organization. At the same time, it’s important to approach such agreements carefully and seriously.
Some organizations may lack the staff and expertise to conduct fundraising on their own. They may find that professional fundraisers have databanks and specialized equipment that make hiring them seem more cost effective than trying to develop those assets internally. Because these solicitors represent the organization to the public, the integrity and reputation of an organization can be affected by the quality of the solicitation efforts.
Here are some considerations to help protect your organization and to approach an arrangement with a professional solicitor seriously and carefully:
- Consider multiple options. When considering hiring professional fundraisers, talk to multiple providers before finalizing a relationship. In Ohio, the names of registered professional solicitors can be found on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. Nonprofit leaders also can contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section for information.
- Seek information about other campaigns. Consider how other nonprofits have used professional solicitors. Nonprofits can contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for information about campaigns that specific solicitors have handled for other organizations. Ask for a copy of the contract and review the materials the solicitors used. Contact other nonprofits for feedback on their experiences with the solicitors.
- Make sure the fundraiser is properly registered. It is vital that nonprofits only hire professional fundraisers who are properly registered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The nonprofit also needs to ensure that the solicitor will file all of the appropriate notices and final financial reports connected with the campaign.
- Check for enforcement actions. Inquire about whether the solicitor has had any enforcement actions taken against it by the Federal Trade Commission or state charity regulators.
- Make sure services are clearly defined in the contract. Many required elements of a contract are listed in Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1716. In general, when developing contract arrangements with a solicitor, be certain there is clarity about what specific services the solicitor will provide. Ask to see and approve all scripts and materials the solicitor prepared. Discuss how the cash and donations will be handled and processed. Determine whether the names and contact information for all donors will be supplied, so the organization can cultivate a relationship with donors independent of whether the solicitor is retained. It also can be helpful to have an attorney review the contract before signing.
- Keep lines of communication open. It is important to have ongoing communication with the solicitor and to receive regular reports and accountings. It also can be useful to visit the solicitor’s office and listen to outgoing telephone calls if telemarketing is a part of the services provided. Some solicitors keep tape recordings of calls that can be monitored.
- Check bills and invoices from third-party vendors, if applicable. It can be important to obtain and review bills and invoices from third-party vendors to make certain those bills are properly paid.
- Review campaign results. At the close of the campaign, it is important to review the results and determine whether the solicitor provided all promised services.
Nonprofits place the reputation of their organization in the hands of others when they hire outside fundraisers. These can be fruitful and productive relationships, but they deserve the investment of time and attention to make certain that the efforts enhance the charitable mission of the organization.