Guest Spotlight

Guest Spotlight: Finessing the Legal Aspects of Your Nonprofit’s Next Fundraiser

19 Aug 2015

It’s never too soon to start planning for your organization’s next major fundraising event. Careful nonprofits spend considerable time “pre-planning” the event to ensure that it runs as smoothly as possible — both from a legal and logistical standpoint. Here are a few legal considerations as you begin planning your next fundraiser.

First, think about whether you will need to hire vendors for your event. Will the board or staff in charge have the time necessary to perform due diligence and solicit bids from a number of providers — to maximize benefit to the nonprofit while minimizing cost? Then, once you settle on a vendor or vendors, you should make sure that you have detailed written contracts with the vendors or other service providers. You may need a lawyer to negotiate, draft, or review the terms of the contracts (if so, make sure you leave adequate time for such a review).

You also need to make sure that your nonprofit complies with the various laws that may govern your event. For example:

  • If you have decided to hire a professional fundraising consultant, are you clear on the laws regarding this relationship? In New York State, nonprofits working with a professional fundraiser are required to enter into a written contract, and the contract must be filed with the NYS Attorney General.
  • Are the activities you propose to include at your event being conducted within the parameters of the law? For example, New York State’s Gaming Commission, not the Attorney General’s Office, regulates the sale of raffle tickets. The rules and regulations around the sale of raffle ticket sales are very specific and difficult to navigate. Do you fully understand what you can and cannot do?
  • Have you considered the need to apply for permits to hold your event? What documentation will you need to submit with the application, and is your documentation current?

Your nonprofit should clearly define roles and responsibilities for those running the event, identify who will fill those roles (paid staff, volunteers, or a combination of the two) and ensure that those people are aware of their individual roles and responsibilities and the timeline in which those requirements must be fulfilled. To that point, have you reviewed your employment or volunteer policies and procedures to make sure that the work being performed is within those policies?

Have you considered whether event attendees should be required to provide a release of liability to your nonprofit? Also, do you have a photo release so you can use event pictures, videos, etc., for future marketing?

Pro Bono Partnership, which provides free business legal services to nonprofits throughout Long Island and the tri-state area, can help your nonprofit address these legal issues and more. For more information, please contact us at 914-328-0674 or visit our website at to access our Request for Legal Assistance Form or to sign up for an upcoming workshop or webinar.

Judy Siegal, Esq.