Op Ed with Bob Branco – Fund Raising Obstacles

As of this writing, I run two nonprofit organizations. In order for me to run these organizations properly, I had to learn about all the rules and regulations, especially about how to raise money. For example, I was told that I had to wait two years to file for a raffle permit, and once I was approved, I would have to pay a lottery tax. I was also told by a prominent local attorney that even though many organizations run 50-50 raffles, it is illegal to do so in Massachusetts. I checked this information out with the Attorney General’s office, and it was verified. The reason why 50-50 raffles are recognized as illegal is because this type of activity fits under the category of pooling, which is illegal. Second of all, according to Massachusetts legislation, the value of the raffle prize has to be known before the raffle begins. In the case of 50-50 raffles, the winning amount of money is not known until the raffle is done, because the concept behind a 50-50 raffle is for half the profits to go to the organization, while the other half of the profits go to the person with the winning ticket.

Though there are certain things that I was told not to do in order to raise money, I hear about many other organizations that do them anyway. Without going into detail, I heard of one organization that recently created its own fund, and is doing a 50-50 raffle. The organization is not two years old, and it is based in Massachusetts. If I am to believe the legislation which verified what the local attorney told me, this other organization shouldn’t be conducting any raffles at all, let alone a 50-50 raffle.

Regarding this subject, I came to a conclusion. I hardly think that my nonprofit organizations are being singled out, or that someone is out to get me, so therefore I believe that a lot of organizations in Massachusetts are not aware of the law. To prove my theory, I will tell you what the attorney said when I asked him why 50-50 raffles are held on a daily basis even though they’re against the law. He said that the law is so unrecognized that one day someone went to a town clerk to file for a raffle permit, and the clerk thought it was strange that anyone would want to apply for a permit, because raffles are assumed to be legal.

I’ve even been met with strong and abrasive opposition when I suggested that a 50-50 raffle is illegal in Massachusetts, but I also know why there is strong opposition. As far as I’m concerned, either the legal profession needs to educate us more about raffle guidelines, or they should do away with the law altogether.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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