Donation data gleaned from lists of contributions to political campaigns can be a valuable source of information for your fundraising strategy, if used correctly. These simple tips should help you proceed with confidence that you are acting in compliance with fundraising ethics and relevant laws. As always, however, if you have any doubts, please consult with your own legal counsel.
There are strict federal guidelines governing the use of data related to contributions to campaigns for federal office. This includes campaigns for president, U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The data may generally be used when screening your existing donors. For example, reviewing their history of giving to political campaigns can help you understand their interests and capacity for giving, which may help you in what sort of ask you make or how you talk about your program. This data may not be used for identifying prospective donors — in other words, it may not be used as a source of leads for potential funder (for example, culling names and addresses for a direct mail campaign).
That said, campaigns for other office, which may include governor’s races, state legislature races, city commission contests and other local elected positions are not governed by FEC rules and may, depending on your jurisdiction, be legally used to solicit prospective donors. You should be sure, however, that uninvited solicitations comply with other relevant laws, like the CAN-SPAM act, which governs email solicitations. You should also check with the relevant state or local campaign regulator to ensure that your activities comply with all local laws. You may also want to review industry ethics policies to ensure you are following best practices.
For questions, please contact INN’s Network Philanthropy Prospect Researcher Emily Spranger.