Organizing a charity event is hard work – lots to worry about, lots of details to coordinate, and lots of fires to extinguish from start to finish. Lurking behind all the logistics and excitement of charity fundraisers is a surprisingly long list of legal compliance issues that can easily trip up an unsuspecting nonprofit organization. The purpose of this checklist is to help you identify some of those issues.
1. Consultants and Charitable Solicitation Registration Issues.
If your organization retains the services of a consultant in connection with the event, confirm whether the consultant is required to register under Virginia’s Charitable Solicitation Statute. The consultant may fall under the statutory definition of either of the following:
- Professional Fund-Raising Counsel – Any person who for a flat fixed fee advises or acts as a consultant in connection with soliciting contributions for any charitable or civic organization, but who actually solicits no contributions as a part of such services.
- Professional Solicitor – Any person who, for a financial or other consideration, solicits contributions for a charitable organization whether such solicitation is performed personally or through his agents or employees.
2. Obtaining Adequate Insurance.
Confirm whether you have adequate insurance covering the event (i.e., staff, volunteers, and attendees). Depending on your organization’s existing liability coverage, special event coverage may be necessary. Be sure to consult your organization’s insurance agent during the early stages of planning for the event.
3. Complying with State Charitable Gaming Laws.
Charitable gaming (e.g., bingo and raffles) is regulated under Virginia law. There is a broad exemption for organizations whose anticipated receipts from gaming activities is $40,000 or less in a given 12-month period.
4. Copyright and Trademark Infringement Issues.
When developing themes, logos, and tag lines for fundraising events, you need to be careful not to infringe upon intellectual property owned by others.
5. Mailing Lists.
If you intend to share your mailing list with corporate sponsors as part of your sponsorship packages, then you may have to record the value as income on your Form 990, potentially as unrelated business taxable income.
6. Alcohol Issues.
If alcohol will be served at the event, you need to confirm whether a special liquor license will be required and, if so, who is responsible for obtaining it. You should also confirm whether your liability insurance policy covers alcohol-related liability.
7. Auction Issues.
You should conspicuously disclose the estimated fair market value of all auction items so that the winning bidders can claim a charitable deduction to the extent their winning bid exceeds fair market value.
Eric Perkins is a small business and nonprofit lawyer in Glen Allen, Virginia. He works with nonprofit organizations on transactional and compliance matters from start-up to dissolution stage.