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Fund-raising Counsel and Professional Fund-raiser FAQs

Fund-raising Counsel and Professional Fund-raiser FAQs

What is a fund-raising counsel?
Pursuant to s. 202.11(6), Stats., a fund-raising counsel is a person who, for compensation, plans, manages, advises, consults or prepares material for a charitable organization, but who does not solicit and who does not employ, engage, or provide any person who is paid to solicit contributions. Fund-raising counsel does not include an attorney, investment counselor, or employee of a financial institution who, in the normal course of his or her work as an attorney, investment counselor, or employee of a financial institution, advises a person to make a contribution, or a bona fide employee, volunteer, or salaried officer of a charitable organization.

What is a professional fund-raiser?
Pursuant to s. 202.11(7), Stats., a professional fund-raiser is a person who, for compensation, solicits in Wisconsin or employs, engages, or provides, directly or indirectly, another person who is paid to solicit. Professional fund-raiser does not include:

  • an attorney, investment counselor, or employee of a financial institution who, in the normal course of his or her work as an attorney, investment counselor, or employee of a financial institution, advises a person to make a charitable donation
  • a bona fide employee, volunteer, wholly owned subsidiary, or salaried officer of a charitable organization
  • an employee of a temporary help agency who is placed with a charitable organization
  • a bona fide employee of a professional fundraiser that is registered in Wisconsin

When does a fund-raising counsel need to be registered?
Pursuant to s. 202.13(1), Stats., a fund-raising counsel may not at any time have custody of contributions from a solicitation for a charitable organization that is required to register, unless the fund-raising counsel is registered. However, s. 202.13(6), Stats., indicates that a fund-raising counsel does not need to be registered if it does not intend to earn more than $1,000 per year as a fund-raising counsel. If the fund-raising counsel does not intend to earn more than $1,000 per year, but does earn more than $1,000 in a year, it is required to register as a fund-raising counsel within 30 days after earning more than $1,000 if at any time it had custody of contributions for a charitable organization that is required to be registered.

When does a professional fund-raiser need to be registered?
Pursuant to s. 202.14(1)(a), Stats., no professional fund-raiser may solicit in this state for a charitable organization that is required to be registered unless the professional fund-raiser is registered.

Is a professional fund-raiser and fund-raising counsel required to maintain a surety bond?
A fund-raising counsel is required to maintain a $20,000 surety bond. A professional fund-raiser is required to maintain either a $20,000 bond if they have custody of any contributions or a $5,000 bond if they don't maintain custody of contributions.

When do professional fund-raiser and fund-raising counsel registrations have to be renewed?
Renewal applications must be submitted to the department by August 31st of each year.

Must a professional fund-raiser provide confirmation of a solicitation prior to accepting a contribution?
Pursuant to s. 202.14(11), Stats., prior to orally requesting a contribution or contemporaneously with a written request for a contribution, a professional fund-raiser shall clearly and conspicuously disclose all of the following:

  • The name of the charitable organization, as it appears on file with the department, on whose behalf the solicitation is being made.
  • A clear description of the primary charitable purpose for which the solicitation is made.
  • That the contribution is not tax-deductible, if this disclosure is applicable.
  • The name of the professional fundraiser, as it appears on file with the department, and that the solicitation is being conducted by a professional fundraiser who is being paid for his, her, or its services.
  • If the individual acting on behalf of the professional fundraiser identifies himself or herself by name, the individual's legal name.
  • Upon request by a person from whom a charitable contribution is sought, the percentage of the contribution that will be paid to the charitable organization as a result of the person's contribution. If the professional fundraiser does not receive a percentage of the contribution, the professional fundraiser shall disclose the dollar amount it was to or will receive.
  • Unless exempted, any written solicitation, and any confirmation, receipt, or reminder shall conspicuously state the following verbatim: "A financial statement of the charitable organization disclosing assets, liabilities, fund balances, revenue, and expenses for the preceding fiscal year will be provided to any person upon request." These financial statements shall, at a minimum, divide expenses into categories of management and general, program services, and fundraising.
  • If the solicitation is made orally, the professional fundraiser shall, within 5 days after the solicitation, send to each person contributing or pledging to contribute a written confirmation, receipt, or reminder of the contribution.

Are there any restrictions on what a professional fund-raiser can say?
Pursuant to s. 202.14(11)(e), Stats., a fund-raiser may not represent that tickets to an event will be donated to an organization for use by others unless all of the following conditions are met: the fund-raiser has a commitment in writing from the organization stating that the organization will accept donated tickets and specifying the number accepted; the fund-raiser solicits contributions for donated tickets from no more contributors than the number of tickets that the organization is willing to accept.

Are there any exceptions to the disclosure requirements?
Pursuant to s. 202.12(6m)(e), Stats., a charitable organization that operates solely within one community and that received less than $50,000 in contributions during its most recently completed fiscal year may apply for an exemption from the disclosure requirements.

Are there any prohibited acts?
Pursuant to s. 202.16(1), Stats., no charitable organization, fundraising counsel, or professional fundraiser may, in the conduct of his, her, or its affairs, including the planning, management, or execution of a solicitation or charitable sales promotion, do any of the following:

  • Use an unfair or deceptive act or practice.
  • Imply that a contribution is for or on behalf of a charitable organization or use any emblem, device or printed matter belonging to or associated with a charitable organization without first being authorized in writing to do so by the charitable organization.
  • Use a name, symbol or statement so closely related or similar to that used by another charitable organization that the use of the name, symbol or statement would tend to confuse or mislead a person being solicited.
  • Represent or lead anyone in any manner to believe that the person on whose behalf a solicitation or charitable sales promotion is being conducted is a charitable organization or that the proceeds of the solicitation or charitable sales promotion will be used for charitable purposes if that is not the fact.
  • Lead anyone in any manner to believe that another person sponsors, endorses, or approves a solicitation or a charitable sales promotion if the other person has not sponsored, endorsed or approved the solicitation or charitable sales promotion in writing.
  • Use the fact of registration to lead any person to believe that the registration constitutes an endorsement or approval by the state.
  • Represent or cause another to represent that contributions are tax-deductible unless they so qualify under the federal Internal Revenue Code.
  • Represent or cause another to represent that the person has previously approved or agreed to make a contribution when in fact the person has not given this approval or agreement.
  • Represent or cause another to represent that the person has previously contributed to the same organization or for the same purpose when in fact the person has not so contributed.
  • Fail to apply contributions in a manner substantially consistent with the solicitation or the purposes expressed in the solicitation.
  • Represent in any manner that registration constitutes an endorsement or approval by the department or the department of justice.

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