Legal Office provides outreach, fundraising tips
August 18, 2011
By Amy Perry
FORT LEE, Va. (Aug. 18, 2011) -- Planning a car wash or bake sale to raise funds for your company's organizational day?
Want to give back to the local community by collecting canned goods for the food bank?
Not so fast, advised Capt. Justin Price, administrative law attorney at Fort Lee's legal office. Military community members should keep in mind that approval may be needed for any fundraising on the installation.
"Don't launch these initiatives on your own," said Price. "Depending on the fundraising activity, you may need company-level approval or even an OK by the garrison command group."
Every situation is different though, said 1st Lt. Joseph Smith, another administrative law attorney.
"It's better to ask with each situation," said Smith. "The who, what, where, when and how can be different - it's very fact specific. There's not a broad overarching answer to fundraising."
Price agreed, and said "There are some general principles and rules we look at - Army Regulation 600-29, for instance - but the specific facts of a given situation are really going to dictate what should go down and what should not go down. They aren't legal versus illegal - they are permissible versus impermissible."
In every situation, ethics come into play, said Price.
"We like to avoid the appearance of impropriety," he said. "If we see any issue, even in a gray area, we're going to try to steer them in a direction that avoids a bad appearance."
There are general rules to fundraising, including avoiding solicitation from members outside of the organization, said Price.
"If you are having a bake sale and someone buys a brownie, they should know that 'my $2 is going toward that organization and my benefit is I get a brownie,'" he said. "However, you shouldn't solicit money from individuals if it's going to an organization or function from which they won't get any benefit. An elementary example would be an officers' club soliciting from enlisted members when those individuals are not eligible to participate in the activity due to their rank. We summarize that rule by saying 'for us, by us' - so the fundraising by the group that is looking for the benefit should only be among the group members who can derive benefit from the donations."
Something important to keep in mind on Fort Lee is the rule prohibiting solicitation among advanced individual training Soldiers and their families, if they are the targeted group.
"For example, if you are having a bake sale at a site away from the AIT barracks, an AIT Soldier may walk by and buy something, but it isn't targeted at the AIT Soldier," said Price. "If you have a bake sale in the middle of AIT the companies, you'll have an uphill battle if you try to argue that you aren't targeting them when you are in the middle of their barracks."
Fundraisers that compete against the Combined Federal Campaign and Army Emergency Relief are also something to avoid, Price said.
Another thing the administrative law office urges people to avoid is the appearance of sponsorship.
Recently, a community member reserved a room at the community center for an off-post organization and didn't realize the activity required coordination through proper channels. It results in a last-minute change in location that caused frustration for the user. A lot of the cases the administrative law office gets are similar to that scenario, said Price.
"Unfortunately, a role of our office is sometimes to put the toothpaste back into the tube after something has been messed up," he said. "People are figuring out 'how do we make this right?' To someone off post, it could give an appearance of the military sponsoring an organization they shouldn't be."
Keeping in mind that the facts can change with every situation, it is wise to check the regulations first to see what is permissible when it comes to fundraising.
If the regulations are not clear or do not address your fundraising ideas directly, it's best to check with legal.
"It really is hard to nail some things down when it comes to fundraising - there are private organizations and then there's FMWR or FRGs that have different rules that apply," said Smith. "That's where the question of 'who' is really important. And it's why you should contact the legal office to check out your situation if you are unsure."
Any group or individual who has questions about fundraising ideas should run it past their administrative law office.