Fundraising do's and don't

  • Published
  • By Capt. David Dayton
  • 341st Missile Wing Judge Advocate Office
The fundraising email read, "By buying a Belgian waffle, you can save the killer whales." I was excited to see two things I absolutely love - Belgian waffles and killer whales. However, reading this created a difficult conundrum for me. I really wanted to eat the Belgian waffles, but I knew the fundraiser rules were currently being ignored because I, the legal reviewer of fundraiser requests, had not reviewed a request for this fundraiser. Could I, in good conscience enjoy a fundraiser that was not following the rules I advise others every single day? I had to decide - either I was going to enjoy those delicious waffles while saving killer whales, or go hungry and send an email advising of the mistakes that had come to my attention.

Private Organizations are special interest groups that operate on base, with the consent of the installation commander, outside of any official capacity as officers or agents of the Federal government. The commander may withdraw consent at any time for just cause, like failing to adhere to the guidance found in Air Force Instruction 34-223, Private Organization (PO) Program. Examples of PO's on this base include the 5/6 Alliance, Big Sky Top 3 Association and Air Force Sergeants Association. In order to hold a fundraiser, a PO must be current - meaning that its constitution has been reviewed and updated within the last year, and has shown proof of insurance or received an insurance waiver. Unofficial Activities may also conduct fundraisers. UA's are small funds whose assets do not exceed a monthly average of $1,000 over a three-month period, like an intra-office birthday fund.

All fundraisers on Malmstrom Air Force Base start with the Resource Management Flight Chief, David Douglas. He verifies that the organization's files are current, ensures that it has not already held two fundraisers that calendar quarter, and provides the necessary forms and points of contact for processing the request. PO's should allow at least two weeks for processing a request. This is because the request must go through several levels of coordination prior to approval. PO's are not allowed to conduct their fundraiser prior to receiving the official approval. There are no exceptions to this rule. No approval equals no fundraiser. Because fundraising requests cannot be approved overnight, you need to plan ahead.

The legal office is one required stop for coordination of the request. Typically, requests only require that the staff check for compliance with the rules, but requests get significantly more complicated for activities like raffles or fundraising conducted during the Combined Federal Campaign. Virtually all other fundraising efforts are discontinued during the CFC to allow concentration on, and prevent competition with, the CFC. The legal office will try to work with PO's to help their requests comply with the rules. This is often done through the legal review, which will recommend approval of the fundraiser only if the PO meets specific criteria. Please read these legal reviews for guidance prior to conducting the fundraiser to ensure you are following the rules.

One of the biggest issues that exists for approved fundraisers is people using their official positions to endorse a fundraiser. Another issue is using government time and resources in support of the fundraiser. Per Joint Ethics Regulation 3-209, Endorsement of a non-Federal entity, event, product, service or enterprise may be neither stated nor implied by Department of Defense or DoD employees in their official capacities. Titles, positions or organization names may not be used to suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment of any non-Federal entity. Official capacity means being in uniform, referring to your unit, organization, office, title or authority in support of your fundraiser. It is possible for DoD employees to volunteer outside of non-Federal entities as long as it is in their personal capacities. No fundraising activities should be occurring when you are on the government's clock.

You now may be thinking one of two things. First, "I need to double-check my next fundraiser request email to make sure that no one at the legal office is cc'd." Second, "I am never going to try to hold a fundraiser again." Please do not allow this guidance to discourage you from holding fundraisers and submitting your fundraisers to be reviewed. Along with this, do not try to hide what you are doing from the legal office, because your organization could lose status as a PO here on base. If it is at all possible, the legal office will find a way to help you accomplish your fundraising goals while still following the fundraising rules. A rifle raffle, a flower sale, burrito sales and a mustache competition have been approved in the last quarter. You can have a lot of fun while providing a great service here on base if you and your PO learn to follow the rules mentioned above.

Now back to the initial question, Belgian waffles and killer whales, or email? I sent the email.