State Clears up Confusion on New Florida Fundraising Law

If you raise funds for a nonprofit in Florida, chances are that you have heard of the Florida Solicitation of Contributions Act, the law which governs nonprofit fundraising. This year, the Florida Legislature amended the Act hoping to cut down on financial fraud, but while providing new tools to state investigators, ambiguities in the law left nonprofit lawyers and accountants alike scratching their heads.

The new law prohibits “any person in connection with the planning, conduct, or execution of any solicitation or charitable or sponsor sales promotion to . . . [c]ommingle charitable contributions with noncharitable funds.” According to a statement on the website of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the agency that oversees compliance with state fundraising laws, this means that “contributions should be kept in a separate account from funds that are not used for a charitable purpose.” It sounds simple enough – keep charitable and non-charitable funds in different bank accounts. But as any nonprofit professional knows, nonprofits only raise and spend money for their charitable purpose. What could these ‘noncharitable funds’ possibly be? Without a legal definition of the term, some experts speculated that the state was now expecting nonprofits to keep management and fundraising expenses in a separate bank account, a nightmare scenario for any nonprofit accountant.

Fortunately, the State recently clarified its position in an email written by the Bureau Chief for the Department’s Division of Consumer Services:

If the charity doesn’t have a for profit business attached to it there is no comingling of funds…for example, if there is a stand alone charity…and they use some of the funds for management, some for fundraising and some for the program services (charitable purpose) they do not need separate accounts. This change was meant to address issues when a for profit has a non profit arm.

In short, if your nonprofit doesn’t have a for-profit entity associated with its operations, then the new law doesn’t apply to you. If it does, well, you shouldn’t have been commingling those funds anyway.

Check the status of your nonprofit’s fundraising registration here.

JJustineCowan_Headshot_tustine Thompson Cowan is an attorney with over two decades of experience in the nonprofit sector. She is the President of Cowan Consulting for Nonprofits which provides strategic and legal solutions that help nonprofits grow and thrive.

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Fall 2018 Nonprofit Certificates

ir_fall18_certsThe Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College offers six certificate programs designed to provide specialized education to strengthen your organization and your professional development.


Certificate in Leadership Practice learn more >
October 3, October 10, October 17, & October 24

Certificate in Proposal Writing learn more >
October 5, October 19, November 2, November 16, & December 7

Certificate in Fundraising & Development learn more >
Required course: Fundamentals of Successful Fundraising learn more >
September 7, 14, 21, & 28

Certificate in Board Member Orientation learn more >
August 21

Certificate in Nonprofit Management learn more >
Registration is ongoing

Visit the Edyth Bush Institute website for more information at

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Reposition Yourself: A Discussion for Current & Emerging Nonprofit Leaders

Rollins College. Aerial Photo overlooking Lake Virginia. Photo: Scott Cook.The Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership’s 3rd Annual Leadership Panel: “Reposition Yourself: A Discussion for Current & Emerging Nonprofit Leaders”.

Learn from this panel of distinguished Central Florida nonprofit leaders about what drives them and how they have such a prolific impact on their employees, organizations and the community. Attendees will receive valuable insights into questions such as how to become a recognized leader in your organization, how to position yourself as a strong candidate in the selection process, what people and resources you should seek within your organization to take the next step in your career, and how to inspire staff, donors and beneficiaries alike.


  • Kyle Johnson, VP, Chief Sustainability Officer at Lighthouse Central Florida
  • Catherine McManus, President and CEO at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando
  • Anthony Sudler, Chief Development Officer at Nemours Children’s Hospital
  • Heather Wilkie, Executive Director at Zebra Coalition
  • Karen Willis, CEO at Early Learning Coalition of Orange County

Panel Moderator: Margaret Linnane, Executive Director, Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College

The event is FREE and open to the public.

Date: Friday, May 19, 2017
8:30 a.m. Networking, 9 a.m. Panel Discussion, 10 a.m. Q&A

Register >>

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Board Members and Financial Oversight

By: Kate Martin, J.D., Edyth Bush InstituteKate_Headshot

As board members, we have heard that our responsibilities include overseeing a nonprofit’s assets, operational accounts, and reserve accounts, and ensuring proper financial safeguards and policies are in place. What does this mean?

If you’re like me, you instantly think of a front-page newspaper article announcing theft, insolvency or squandering of nonprofit funds. (Oh My!) While preventing such behavior is part of it, financial oversight also means using financial information to improve nonprofit performance.

Naturally, boards should establish strong financial systems with detailed financial reports, and good policies & controls (i.e. two signatures on large checks or prior board approval for large expenditures) to prevent financial malfeasance. Once policies are in place, we should continue to be vigilant and thoughtful about those systems and policies. Do not hesitate to question reports or systems if you do not understand them, lack confidence in, need clarification, or see a possible irregularity.

Board members also should consider financial information during decision making. New ideas or programs to better fulfill the mission? Great! But first, turn to the financials – they inform us how the nonprofit is fulfilling its mission and strategy. Will our nonprofit cover its costs? If we spend the money on this does it provide a real benefit in programs and services? What’s the ROI: the impact it will have on our constituents and community? Does spending follow the priorities of the strategic plan? These questions and others you think of can be your guide.

We need to be careful though. As the saying goes, don’t miss the forest for the financial trees. A balance must be struck between relying on financial information and paying close attention to other aspects of our organization’s performance. Financial information can tell us about performance, but it does not tell us why it happened, or how we can better serve our constituents. Keep the financials and the financial policies in mind but do not let them impede nonprofit creativity in fulfilling our mission.

Also see William P. Ryan, “Financial Responsibilities of Boards” in the Nonprofit Quarterly.

Sign up to attend Kate’s workshop, Legal and Ethical Issues for Nonprofit Boards on March 28, 2017. Sign up online at

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In Tax Reform, Declines in Charitable Giving Could be an Unintended Consequence of Simplifying the Code


I hope you will take a look at the blog written by Sabeen Perwaiz, CEO of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance. It is important that every nonprofit organization have conversations at the board level about potential reductions in government funding as well as the potential loss of individual donations if the move to an expanded standardized deduction reduces the number of individual donors because they no longer take a deduction for charitable giving. I encourage you to discuss a few “what if” scenarios with your boards. “What if our government funding is suddenly reduced by 25%? 50%?” “What if our total donations from individuals are reduced by 25%? 50%”?” Planning will be key.

Margaret Linnane
Executive Director, Rollins College Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership

Below is a copy of Sabeen’s blog post:

In Tax Reform, Declines in Charitable Giving Could be an Unintended Consequence of Simplifying the Code

By Sabeen Perwaiz, CEO, Florida Nonprofit Alliance

Recently, I went to Washington, D.C., and joined with more than 200 nonprofit leaders from across the nation representing a diverse group of charities to urge lawmakers to protect charitable giving in America. We gathered as part of the Charitable Giving Coalition’s “100 Years of Giving Fly-in.”

As Congress continues to tackle the largest, most comprehensive re-write of our tax code in more than 30 years, congressional leaders have made clear that one major objective is to simplify the rules for individual taxpayers. I think most Americans would welcome this relief from the over-complicated and conflicting tax code we all follow today.

But, simplifying the tax code could create major pitfalls for America’s charities.

Under the current tax code, a little more than 30 percent of taxpayers itemize their deductions. They are eligible to take the charitable deduction, and many clearly do. Giving USA reported that individual giving in America accounted for more than $265 billion to charities in 2015. Over 80 percent of those dollars are given by taxpayers who itemize and use the charitable deduction.

Why does this matter? As lawmakers aim to simplify the tax code, one appealing proposal is to raise the amount of the standard deduction and allow far more taxpayers to take the standard deduction rather than itemize. That probably sounds good to most itemizers – more certainty and less expensive tax preparation.

But there’s a consequence. Under at least one proposed scenario, an expanded standard deduction would leave only 5 percent of taxpayers who would itemize. So, only 5 percent of taxpayers would have the charitable deduction available to them.

That is one of the reasons why I joined with my colleagues to urge our lawmakers to maintain the full scope and value of the charitable deduction, as well as its possible expansion.

We also offered a solution – a universal charitable deduction available to all taxpayers. Regardless of income level, all American taxpayers should receive an incentive to give to charity. If the tax incentive is broadly available to all taxpayers, it will:

  • Increase giving, in terms of both dollars and donors
  • Increase fairness by treating all taxpayers’ contributions equally
  • Provide modest tax relief to middle- and lower-income taxpayers

Research confirms that, regardless of income level, taxpayers who receive a deduction for their contributions give more to charities than those that do not receive a deduction. Expanding a tax incentive to all taxpayers could increase overall charitable giving in America. It might also offset any declines in charitable giving resulting from any inherent uncertainty created by tax reform.

We also proposed that Congress not place limitations – such as floors or caps – on the charitable deduction. Here too, studies from diverse research institutions indicate that charitable giving would decline by billions of dollars annually if floors or caps are imposed.

Florida Nonprofit Alliance will continue to keep you informed and work with the Charitable Giving Coalition to navigate the best possible outcome for America’s charities in this tax reform process. Since its founding in 2009, the CGC has been dedicated to preserving a charitable giving incentive that ensures that our nation’s charities receive the funds necessary to fulfill their essential philanthropic missions.


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