Funds for Freedom

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I. FINANCIAL PLANNING: BASIC STEPS

1. Familiarize yourself with Al policies related to fundraising.

2. At least once a year, hold a planning meeting with core members. Do a Group Inventory to locate your strengths; use it to develop an effective strategy for the year.

3. Build fundraising into your annual plan and budget, to cover projected costs.

4. Get a bank account (unless you are a campus group with school arrangements).

5. Keep accurate records of income and expenses.

6. Make a generous annual pledge to Amnesty International USA, to support the basic research and materials for our human rights work.


Al POLICIES

In the "Resources" part of this guide are policies related to fundraising and work with other groups. Please read them! These are basics to remember:

1. To protect impartiality, never take money from a donor who sets conditions ("Iíll give $100 if your group will focus next year on Icountry, type of abusel").

2. Amnestyís 5 percent rule, which protects impartiality, applies to each group. If you receive a donation in excess of 5 percent of your annual budget, contact your regional office for advice. (In-kind donations of goods or services donít count.) You can also ask a donor to write two checks, one to your group for no more than 5% of your budget, and one to AIUSA for the rest. Send the second check to the Development Unit, New York Office; contact staff to explore ways to cultivate this new donor.

3. The IRS requires that all local groups and clusters operate on AIUSAís fiscal year, October 1 to September 30.

4. If you cultivate major donors (see section II), we ask that you seek new contributors who are not already major donors to AIUSA. We desperately need our national donors to fund basic research, materials, and services. You can find out the names of national donors in your area by contacting the Development Unit.

5. You should not give tax advice to donors--it could lead to liability. State that "AIUSA is a 501 (c)3 organization and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law." In-kind donations are rarely 100 percent tax-deductible; encourage in-kind contributors to consult their accountants or lawyers.

6. There is one exception to rule #5: you must tell donors the fair market value of anything they receive. If you sell $50 reception tickets, you must tell purchasers what the food and drink is worth. If you give a T-shirt for a $30 contribution, you must tell buyers what the shirt is worth.

7. AIUSA encourages volunteers to network in your community, but in most cases you should not co-sponsor events with other groups. (See "Cooperation with Outside Groups"

8. If you develop a foundation program (Section VI), donít contact national foundations without first consulting the AIUSA foundation program in the New York office. AIUSA submits many proposals at the national level; we need to avoid competing applications.

9. AIUSA has support systems to help you fundraise. See "Resources."

 

HOLDING A PRODUCTIVE PLANNING MEETING

Every group should plan to plan! The steps:

1. DONíT tack your annual planning onto the end of a long meeting when everyoneís tired. Make it a special, separate event.

2. EVALUATE your past work. What worked? What didnít? Why? Donít reject an idea just because you did it before and want to look original. Many successful groups develop "hallmark" projects which get easier and more profitable each year.

3. Set GOALS for the coming year. Make them concrete; set one or two priorities. A recipe for headaches and a sense of failure is: "This year we need to get more members, make lots of money, educate the public, get press coverage, and do more campaigns." A recipe for success and enjoyment might be: "We have two priorities this year, recruiting five new members and raising $600. Weíll offer new members some options and see what theyíd like to do. If we get publicity from the fundraiser, so much the better, but the main thing we need is cash to build on."

4. DO A GROUP INVENTORY. This means listing membersí skills, contacts, and experience as a basis for your plan. Include everyone; that quiet person in the corner may be key. Some questions to ask:

Who do we know (the mayorís spouse, a school Board member, a cartoonist, the minister of a church with a fax machine)?

What do we like to do (tennis, calligraphy, electric guitar)?

What material resources do we have (a computer with publishing software, a pickup truck, a house with waterfront view, a goat)? (Quit laughing, that goat will be useful in Section III!)

What other groups do we belong to (clients of XYZ Grocery, employee at ABC Corporation, member of Methodist Church, volunteer at AIDS Support Group, spouse of Junior Womanís Club President)?

5. BRAINSTORM how to fulfill your priorities by using your inventory. Brainstorming rules are: accept every idea; encourage "hitchhiking" (building on an idea after itís suggested); donít permit any evaluation, groans, snickers, or statements like "we tried that" or "it wouldnít work" until brainstorming is done. Encourage all to contribute. Write ideas on a chalkboard or flip chart. Set a time limit and stop.

6. INCLUDE FUNDRAISING IN YOUR

PLAN. Otherwise your group will suffer from limited options, chronic deficit spending, low visibility, and ineffectiveness.

7. DIVERSIFY FUNDRAISING. Use multiple approaches, i.e., dues, requests to a few donors, and a public event. Relying on one concert to raise your whole yearís budget is extremely risky.This handbook will help you to expand your options. Put together your priorities and inventory to create an effective plan with several components.

8. EVALUATE. Every year and after any big event, discuss the results. If youíve had a flop, were there any positive aspects? If so, these are clues for success next time. If you made smashing profits, donít forget to look at the aspects you could improve. You may want to schedule annual evaluation as the first stage of your Planning Meeting for the next year.

9. CLUSTER. The trick in planning is to challenge yourselves to think big without taking on a project which will overwhelm you. One solution is for groups to work together. This is helpful if a few members feel they are the only ones who do any fundraising--they can find like-minded activists in other chapters. Cluster projects can attract a great deal of publicity and money and make groups feel they have a much stronger presence in the community.

 

HOW CAN THE GROUP COORDINATOR PROMOTE PLANNING & FUNDRAISING?

Someone has to take the lead--usually the Coordinator or Treasurer, who should participate in all planning and fundraising discussions. Here are a few ways to promote participation by the whole group:

1. Share this guide.

2. Let the group know that planning and fundraising are important by scheduling plenty of meeting time for these priorities.

3. Donít decide in advance what you want to do and insist that the group accept it. Let the whole group create a plan. People with a stake in the ideas phase are much more enthusiastic during the work phase. (Of course, if youíve read and thought about fundraising before the meeting, youíll bring brilliant ideas for consideration.)

4. Donít delegate fundraising to someone else (usually the poor Treasurer). See it as everyoneís responsibility, yours most of all. If some members absolutely resist, consider creating a fundraising committee to cultivate two or three experts. Ask other members at least to brainstorm and suggest names of potential donors.

5. Compliment group members for their work. Thank them publicly, sincerely, and frequently. Your enthusiasm, patience, and sense of humor set the style for Amnestyís role in your community. Be proud of what you accomplish!

BASIC FINANCIAL RECORDS

If an IRS agent wandered in, your group should be able to show: 1. All the past statements from your bank account (unless you are a campus group and your school keeps your money). 2. An accurate bookkeeping ledger. 3. Receipts for all your expenses.

The treasurer can keep these in an Accounting Corner at her/his desk. An outgoing treasurer should ALWAYS pass on these materials to the next treasurer. Keep financial records for six years.

BOOKKEEPING LEDGER: purchase one at a local stationery store, or examine these, draw your own ledger sheet, make copies, and place in a binder. (Samples appear in the "Budget and Bookkeeping Guidelines" for local groups and clusters.)

RECEIPT FILE: use a manila envelope or (to look professional!) a multi-pocket folder to sort receipts alphabetically or by project. Start a new folder at the beginning of each fiscal year (remember it starts Oct. 1).

 

BANK ACCOUNTS

LOCAL GROUPS: Open an account as "Amnesty International USA Group #" or the name of the group Treasurer. DO NOT USE YOUR PERSONAL BANK ACCOUNT.

Always have MORE THAN ONE SIGNATORY (person authorized to transact account business). In past incidents a group treasurer has moved away suddenly and no one has been able to get access to the money without lengthy, complicated help from the New York office.

The IRS will assign an Employer ID Number CEIN) to any group which applies for one, using form SS-4 (call your friendly local IRS). You must have an EIN before opening an interest-bearing account (i.e., savings or money market). If you do not have an EIN, your account must NOT earn interest.

If your annual gross receipts are under $5,000 and youíve signed a group/cluster charter which reflects your human rights purposes and activities, the IRS automatically considers you tax-exempt.

If annual receipts are over $5,000 or if you need written recognition of tax-exempt status (i.e., to get a non-profit bulk mail permit) you should apply for Group Tax Exemption under AIUSAís umbrella. At this level of income, an interest-bearing account is advised because interest is tax-exempt under AIUSAís employer ID.

If annual receipts are over $25,000, profound congratulations are in order! You should consult Surita Sandosham at the New York office for advice--AIUSA must submit tax returns on your behalf.

CAMPUS GROUPS: Groups affiliated with schools are always tax-exempt, unless you attend one of the very few private schools which do not have tax-free status because they are racially discriminatory.

If you establish your own bank account, use the local group guidelines above. If the school requires you to keep funds in a pool managed by school administrators, keep extra-careful records of income and expenses. If you encounter problems, call your Regional Office for advice.

ALL GROUPS should ask more than one person to review the bookkeeping ledger. Bookkeeping is tough and two heads are better than one. If someone finds unresolvable accounting errors or evidence of fraud or disappearing funds, call your Regional Office immediately.

PLEDGING TO AIUSA

Pledge as much as you can to AIUSA each year. Please make this part of your plan. In case you think funds disappear into a Great Hole in the Sky, please consider:

AIUSA gives 44 percent of all income, after fundraising costs are subtracted, to the international movement. We provide more than any other section--over 20% of the global budget. Our contributions fund the basic research which enables us to act.

AIUSA pays over 80 dedicated staff people who work very long hours, often sacrificing family commitments and spare time to dedicate themselves to human rights. We owe them decent salaries and benefits. They support volunteers and keep Alís profile high in the United States.

Phone calls from regional staff, Urgent Actions, petitions, mailings--all these cost money. It costs about $650 to service a local group and at least $200 for a student group. Please help us pay the bill.

One way to give without spending an extra penny is to join Working Assets Long Distance (see "Resources").

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