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5 Compliance Rules You Must Know Before Your Next Fundraising Event

Fundraising events can be a great way for you to engage, educate, and inspire your members and ultimately generate revenue for your association. Understanding compliance requirements will ensure that your event brings the success you seek, rather than an unpleasant surprise. Here are 6 rules to follow before your next fundraising event:  

1. Register to fundraise where required 

Communication is key to any successful event and determines where you must register to fundraise. Before you begin emailing, posting, and tweeting about your event, make sure you understand the basics of fundraising licensing. States define fundraising solicitation as asking for donations, regardless of the means. Solicitation takes place wherever the fundraising message is received, regardless of whether a donation is given in response to that solicitation. Those event emails, tweets, and posts could mean that your association is fundraising in all 50 states. If so, you may need to register to fundraise in many of them.

State law governs fundraising registration, reporting, exemption, and renewal. Currently, 41 states require nonprofits to register before they solicit donations from their residents. Annual renewals of those registrations, as well as regular reporting, is also typically required. 25 states mandate that nonprofits include specific disclosure language in all fundraising solicitations. As part of your event planning and budgeting process, determine where you must register. This clickable map of the requirements of each state includes specific details and instructions.

2. Confirm fundraising professionals are registered where required

Bringing in a fundraising professional to help with your event can be a great strategy, but requires specific registrations and reports in many states. While each state has its own definitions, a fundraising professional is generally an independent person or firm (rather than an employee or volunteer) who is paid to assist you with its fundraising. Fundraising professionals include both fundraising counsel and professional solicitors. In most states, both types of fundraising professionals are required to register, renew annually, and report regularly. If you have hired a fundraising professional to assist with events or campaigns in multiple states, they may need to register and report in multiple states. 

Although registration and reporting are the responsibility of the fundraising professional, it’s wise to make sure that all of the people you hire are compliant. Hiring a professional fundraiser may bring extra state scrutiny to your association.  You may be required to submit contracts to the state, as well as provide details about the relationship between your association and the fundraising professional. You can learn more about the requirements for each type of professional fundraisers and the organizations that work with them in this professional fundraiser guide.

3. Meet state fundraising disclosure requirements

In addition to fundraising registration requirements, 26 jurisdictions require nonprofits to include some form of disclosure statement when communicating with donors. This may include items such as:

  • The full legal name of your nonprofit
  • Address and contact information
  • The charitable purpose for which funds are being solicited
  • Your fundraising registration number
  • Directions for contacting state authorities to obtain copies of your financial or registration information

Typically, disclosures must be included on any written solicitations, as well as donor receipts, reminders, and confirmations. These requirements may also apply to online solicitations such as social media posts and web pages. In-person, email, and telephone solicitations also require disclosures in some states, and there may be a different disclosure requirement for each type of solicitation. 

Remember that solicitation occurs where the message is received, not where it originates. This means that you may be required to include disclosures from multiple states in your fundraising appeals and donor communications. With such varied requirements, be sure that each fundraising activity you engage in meets the guidelines of all appropriate states. 

4. Obtain all needed state and local gaming licenses 

Bingo, auctions, raffles, casino nights, and other types of gaming can be a fun way to raise funds and build a sense of community at your event. If you are planning to engage in these activities, you need to investigate before signing with your event venue. Be sure to first check with the municipality where your desired venue is located to confirm that the charitable gaming of interest is allowed there.

If so, determine if you must also obtain a specific state gaming license, as well as a local gaming permit. Nonprofits that use games for fundraising purposes are typically required to apply for a license or permit from the state. Most states allow nonprofits to conduct a variety of gaming events in conjunction with an event as long as the organization holds the proper license. Depending on the activities you are planning, you may need to obtain more than one license. Be sure to comply with state restrictions on who is permitted to conduct and attend gaming activities. Finally, be sure to file all required post-event reports with licensing authorities. Consult a charitable gaming compliance guide to ensure that your event gaming meets all legal requirements.

5. Plan ahead to ensure success and compliance!

The time required to register in a given state can vary from a few days to a few months. Be sure to account for the state’s processing time when calculating your event compliance timeline. Carefully track deadlines for each state’s registration applications and all required reports. Include reminders to follow up on each submitted application. Then complete and submit all registration applications far enough in advance to confirm that you will be in total compliance before the big day! 

Make sure that your event is memorable for all the right reasons. Compliance minimizes risk, protects the reputation of your association, and sets your event up for success. With careful attention to detail, comprehensive event software, and detailed compliance guides, you can be confident that you meet all state regulatory requirements triggered by your event. To make sure that your association understands and complies with all registration obligations, consider hiring a specialist who is knowledgeable about nonprofit fundraising compliance to manage these details for you. That way, you’ll have more time to focus on your mission and members.


Harbor Compliance does not provide tax, financial, or legal advice. Use of our services does not create an attorney-client relationship. Harbor Compliance is not acting as your attorney and does not review the information you provide to us for legal accuracy or sufficiency.

Sharon Cody, J.D. is the Nonprofit Partnership Manager at Harbor Compliance, a leading provider of compliance solutions. Sharon is passionate about educating nonprofits on the role of compliance as both a best practice and an industry differentiator. Her more than 30 years of experience as an attorney, charitable fundraiser, foundation executive, and nonprofit board member give her unique insight on the use of nonprofit compliance as a strategic tool to enhance an organization’s reputation and increase its revenue. Sharon can be reached at scody@harborcompliance.com or 1-717-431-9162.



Harnessing the Power of Email Marketing for Your Event

Marketing Events create and leverage interactions between a business and its customers to promote products, services, organizations, or causes. Companies can use all types of events, online or offline, to support campaigns including conferences, fairs, seminars, webinars, galas, networking events and more. 

The idea behind using events as a marketing tool is to engage consumers who participate in the event, and reinforce the value proposition of your brand or the brand of your sponsor and drive some combination of interest, affinity, and purchase decisions. Typically, to make the most of these events, you should create scenarios that allow you to showcase the capabilities of your product.

In this post, we will focus on how you can use email marketing to promote your event strategically. However, before we dive into the main topic of the article, here are a few of the other possible digital marketing channels for marketing your events:

  1. Social Media Marketing (SMM) – Using social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to promote events is very popular for a few reasons. First, you can easily create, customize and manage your events including adding important information, seeing how many RSVP’d, and communicating with the event-goers. Second, with almost 3 billion people that are using social media worldwide, the people you want to target are likely already there. Finally, most sites allow you to use various paid options that can further increase the exposure of your event.
  2. Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign – This model is intended to drive traffic to your website. The idea behind it is that you only pay the publisher, which is typically a search engine, when the ad is clicked. The advantage of this model compared to others is that the payment amount is linked to how successfully it performs.
  3. Organic content marketing – The goal behind this technique, which is also called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is to drive traffic to your website from users who search certain keywords on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. This advertising technique is centered around creating high-quality content that is enjoyable to read and less focused on promoting businesses or products. As a result, the search engine usually gives the content a good rank and it appears high in search results. This makes it more likely that people who search for specific keywords will click on your site and read the content.

Source: https://unsplash.com/

As far as email marketing is concerned, there are many benefits of implementing it into your strategy. Here are just a few:

  1. Reach specific target audiences.Email marketing allows you to fine-tune your desired target audience, so you can reach exactly the right customer base for your business.
  2. Customize your invite. – With email marketing, you can design the event invite however you like! This means you can add a lot of important details and make the invite look exactly how you want it to.
  3. Personalize your message. – Advanced email marketing software solutions offer advanced personalization features across every aspect of your email, so you can change the content of the invite to help your recipients feel special and entice them to RSVP.
  4. Automatically time and send your invite. – Another advanced feature of email marketing solutions, timing your newsletters and event invites can help you verify that each and every one of your contacts receives your email at the best time for them. This increases open and conversion rates tremendously. 

Now that you understand what makes email marketing an efficient tool to market your event, here are some best practices:

How to harness the power of email marketing for your event:

#1: Strengthen the connection with your guests

One of the best advantages of email marketing is the ability to build and maintain a relationship with your target audience and event-goers. With email marketing, you can easily reach your target audience and boost engagement by allowing them to interact with your campaigns. With this approach, you can also build a long-lasting relationship by keeping them updated with the latest news on your events and other promotions. 

Source: https://marketingunited.com/

#2: Make an informative and educational invite

Give your guests all the necessary information about the current event they signed up for, and use this opportunity to expose them to your upcoming events and other deals they can take advantage of. Ensure that the invite contains all the information you want to convey to them; including the story of the event, why you decided to host it, and what they should expect. You can also use emails to inform them about possible logistics requirements, add a map, or notify them about a dress code. The more informative your message is, the more likely it is to get guests excited for the event and invite more friends. 

Source: https://www.salesforce.com/

#3: Tailor the invite to your event

Not all events are physical, you can use email marketing to bring traffic to your online events such as webinars, online courses you are hosting, or an online presentation. For example, you can directly link your event in the invite and allow users to request a reminder with a link to their email 10 minutes prior to the event starts.

Souce: https://www.aarp.org/

#4: Automate the process

Advanced email marketing solutions are the future. Automating the process of email marketing will leave you plenty of spare time to create and execute all of the other aspects of your marketing strategy. This also allows you to leverage the automation features for all transactional messaging, friendly event reminders, and surveys sent after the event. 

Source: https://www.apple.com/

Now that you know how you can harness the power of email marketing for your event, you can start to build your own winning email marketing strategy. With the right tools and strategy, you can create memorable and convincing invites that will bring more traffic and visitors to your events.


Luda Greko is the head of content marketing for ActiveTrail, a leading provider of professional-grade email marketing and automation software for growing businesses. By day she writes for top online marketing sites about email marketing and marketing automation, and by night she is a lifestyle blogger and a social media enthusiast.