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Ask Our Lawyer - April 2000

Q: Since the ABATE Rider Education Program began in 1987, is there any information on how many lives/dollars the ABATE Safety Program have saved the citizens of Indiana?

It is estimated through the Indiana Department of Education-Division of School Traffic Safety and Emergency Planning by H. John Bodecker, Coordinator, Indiana Motorcycle Safety Program, that 500 Hoosier lives have been saved as a result of motorcycle/rider education and training courses. If you use the NHTSA estimates that the average traffic fatality costs society approximately $1 million - then applying that standard, the ABATE Safety Training Program has saved the State of Indiana $500 million over the past 13 years. Obviously, anyone who has had a hand in rider education in Indiana, particularly ABATE of Indiana and its many volunteers, should be unbelievably proud of this remarkable accomplishment.

Q: As the MRF State Rep, I would like to start collecting donations on my internet site. What do I need to worry about? What are the legalities that I need to be concerned with? I would also like to host raffles, so I need the same information on this as well.
A: Lots of problems involved in this, noble as the thought is. Charitable solicitations are governed by Indiana law. If you are going to get paid by the charities to solicit contributions, you will be required to register with the state government. There are also a list of prohibited representation and practices, which I have listed for you here. These are from the Indiana Code, but similar provisions exist in most state laws. These apply to anyone, not just professional solicitors.

23-7-8-7. Prohibited representations and practices.
(a) A person who solicits charitable contributions may not:
(1) use the fact of registration as an endorsement by the state;
(2) use the name "police", "law enforcement", "trooper", "rescue squad", "firemen", or "firefighter" unless a bona fide police, law enforcement, rescue squad, or fire department authorizes its use in writing;
(3) misrepresent to anyone that the contribution will be used for a charitable purpose if the person has reason to believe the contribution will not be used for a charitable purpose;

(4) misrepresent to anyone that another person endorses the solicitation unless that person has consented in writing to the use of the person's name for the purpose of endorsing the solicitation;
(5) misrepresent to anyone that the contribution is solicited on behalf of anyone other than the charitable organization that authorized the solicitation; or
(6) collect or attempt to collect a contribution in person or by means of a courier unless:
(A) the solicitation is made in person and the collection or attempt to collect is made at the time of the solicitation; or

(B) the contributor has agreed to purchase goods or items in connection with the solicitation, and the collection or attempt to collect is made at the time of delivery of the goods or items.
(b) A person who solicits charitable contributions shall not represent that tickets to events will be donated for use by another, unless the following requirements have been met:
(1) The paid solicitor has commitments, in writing, from charitable organizations stating that they will accept donated tickets and specifying the number of tickets they are willing to accept.
(2) No more contributions for donated tickets are solicited than the number of ticket commitments received from charitable organizations.

Raffles are a separate matter. Those are regulated by the state Department of Revenue and require that you apply for a raffle license before you being selling tickets. These licenses are hard to get and very restrictive, and usually have to be obtained by the charity and not by the raffle operator. If you want to do that, you should contact the Department of Revenue, Charitable Gaming Section, for forms and details.
Also, additional questions are raised by using a website for solicitations, either for contributions or raffle tickets. Each state has distinct fundraiser and charitable gaming laws, and using a website for solicitation may require licensing/approval in all states, since the website will be available to all states. I don't know if this aspect has been covered by enforcement authorities or not, but some are very active and you could be opening yourself up to additional liability.