By James D’Ambrosio

(This is the second article in a series)

Before delving into Part II, I’ll share feedback from Part I. One reader noted that some nonprofits fail to realize that using a fund-raising firm is just one aspect of a comprehensive development program that should include donor acquisition, major gifts, institutional giving, estate planning, etc. In short, have a solid program in place and use a fund-raising firm to enhance it. Another reader commented that many reputable firms do exist, and nonprofits should use them to raise critical funds. I certainly appreciate — and encourage — thoughtful feedback; it enhances learning for everyone, myself included.       

For this column, I turned to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — charged with protecting consumers in the U.S. — for additional guidelines.  


After developing a list of potential firms, gathering information (including a blank contract), and scheduling interviews, ask these questions:

♦ Would the firm solicit by phone, mail, e-mail, door-to-door, or use several methods?

♦ Would they solicit money only, or sell products and tickets to events?

♦ Would subcontractors be used for any part of the campaign?

♦ How would the firm ensure telephone solicitors use approved scripts? Would they record calls? Have monitors listen in?

What procedures are in place to ensure the firm abides by the FTC Telemarketing Sales Rule?

This rule applies to telemarketers hired to do inter-state solicitations for charitable donations by phone. Firms and subcontractors must adhere to these stipulations: a) calling between 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.; b) identify the nonprofit they’re representing and state they’re asking for a donation; c) refrain from making misleading statements during a pitch for funds; and d) if someone asks to be placed on a “do not call” list, honor that request. Subsequent calls to that same person may subject a telemarketer to fines up to $16,000.


Many states have regulations regarding charitable solicitations. Ask firms if they understand such regulations and how they’ll be followed. Consider including a statement about abiding by state regulations and federal law in the written contract. Also find out if the firm is registered and bonded, something many states require. The National Association of State Charity Officials provides a list of state offices. Visit:

Lastly, get bids; some states require nonprofit managers to get competitive bids. What constitutes a reasonable bid depends on many factors including, but not limited to, a) time and type of labor involved; b) nature and length of the relationship with the fund-raiser; and c) the firm’s experience and expertise.

QUESTION TO READERS: What else would help a nonprofit select a reputable fund-raising firm? 



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