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Fundraising Idea of the Month:
What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

by Doug Nash

Plan for the best, prepare for the worst
so you land somewhere in the middle.

Any time spent improving your knowledge and position in regards to the legalities associated with different types of fundraising in your part of the world is time and effort well spent. Please believe that what you don't know may not just hurt you - it can turn your life and those around you into a complete misery!!! Due to the nature of the audience and the myriad of traps for fundraisers, this article can't cover all aspects. However I will try to impress upon you the basic message by covering some of the larger dangers and to encourage you to adopt a better outlook to help be less likely to be taken unawares.

Ignorance is not and probably never was a legal defence. Lack of experience is one thing - ignorance is something different. Do your homework - it will give you, your helpers and all associated with your fundraiser a sense of security. Even if you are just a volunteer and not the organiser, you may be exposed to legal action if things go wrong. Especially if you are involved in fundraisers that involve games of chance or have alcohol included. Make sure you have the appropriate insurance, permits and permissions required.

Be aware that what is legal in one part of the country may not be legal in another. Also what may have been free or legal last year may not be so at the present moment. Legislation is always changing so you have to be up-to-date.

Don't take the word of other fundraisers, they are a great starting point. However go straight to the official local authority responsible or who control such events. Get your local and state politicians involved and have them help you through this maze, even if they just put you in contact with the relevant authorities or keep you informed of any changes in the law as it relates to your fundraising efforts ( they may have a larger and better qualified staff than you).

Don't forget copyright. Copyright is hard enough for lawyers to understand let alone the average person in the street. Be aware there are major differences in copyright law between different parts of the world. So let the professionals do their job and advise you. In all countries and counties there is usually some access to free legal advice, it's just a matter of finding it.

A good example is selling raffle tickets, in the good old days you would buy a few books of tickets and then sell them. Not today, now you have to have permits, and in my part of the world, the way you sell is also affected by current laws. The old "a dollar each or three for two dollars" is not allowed, each chance must be the same cost. Schools must have written permission to send tickets home to parents. Times have changed and good, experienced, knowledgeable fundraisers are worth their weight in platinum.

Better to spend a little money upfront and have the correct permits and insurance than face a tragic and life altering consequences afterwards. The consequences can range from a monetary fine, prison or to the destruction of your fundraising organisation. Personal issues that needs to be taken seriously.

If you chose to proceed and take a risk, then you must let all involved know the risk being taken and let them choose whether or not to be involved. If you are going to take a risk then make sure you know fully the risk you are taking. Now all this can seem a bit daunting - don't let it put you off. It is not as bad as it may seem initially. Make a few phone calls and make a decision then. The first time is always the hardest. Once you have found the source you simply go back, of course, it is wise to seek opinions from at least three different sources if possible.

Many a fundraiser has been shelved due to the cost of permits, insurance or protecting the position of a fundraising organisation and it's members and volunteers. Better safe than sorry is a very sensible policy to adopt. There is always an alternative.

In short, this article is about risk management. The better informed you are the better your risk management will be and so will all those involved with your organisation.

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About the Author:

Doug Nash lives in Logan City in Queensland, Australia. He has graciously consented to share a fundraising idea with us every month. Although many of the ideas aren't new, each of them has a unique flair that comes from being developed and refined half a world away from ours. Visit his web site at for more fundraising ideas.

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