The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Association of State Charities Officials (NASCO) announced on November 15, 2016 that they will co-host a conference titled, Give & Take: Consumers, Contributions, and Charity. The FTC/NASCO conference will take place in Washington, DC on March 21, 2017 and will explore the intersection between charitable giving and consumer protection regulation, in particular, "how consumers evaluate and respond to various charitable solicitation practices and the role for consumer protection in ensuring consumers have confidence their giving expectations are fulfilled."
This announcement follows closely on the heels of the annual National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and NASCO conference, which took place last month. We reported on the 2016 NAAG/NASCO conference in a previous Nonprofit Alert, and noted that increased collaboration between the FTC and state charity regulators was one area of focus that participants highlighted. The upcoming FTC/NASCO conference undoubtedly continues that trend. Here are a few additional items of note:
- As is common with FTC-hosted conferences or workshops, public participation is key to enhancing the event and maximizing its usefulness for industry and regulators alike. The conference will be open to the public and free of charge. Any person may submit written comments on the topics to be discussed at the conference, and the FTC and NASCO also are seeking papers, surveys, and original research related to various solicitation practices and donor experiences. The FTC and NASCO's call for papers and list of topics may be found here. If you are interested in submitting written comments by the February 17, 2017 deadline and need assistance with the same, please contact one of the authors of this alert.
- The FTC continues to have a strong presence in the charity sector. Although the FTC lacks legal authority to regulate legitimate charities or other corporations not organized for their own profit or that of their members, it does exercise jurisdiction over other nonprofit entities (for example, 501(c)(6) trade and professional associations) as well as for-profit charitable fundraisers and traditional and newer for-profit business models that focus on socially beneficial goals.
- The FTC and NASCO can be expected to discuss donor experiences across various demographic communities, such as elderly donors, millennials, or Latinos. This dovetails with upcoming FTC workshops next month that focus on combating fraud in Latino communities (December 5, 2016) and on changing demographics as the population ages and marketers attempt to reach younger consumers (December 6, 2016). Charities and fundraisers who target particular populations of donors should be aware that federal and state regulators have placed a premium on protecting certain donor groups, such as senior citizens.
Additional information about the FTC/NASCO conference will be forthcoming, as the agenda and identities of panelists are finalized. We will provide more information as soon as it becomes available.
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