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Most of my working life is spent advising on fundraising from American sources for the benefit of non-American charities. It is astonishing how much misinformation there is! Numerous non-US charities believe the first step in an American fundraising program must be to create an American Friends group. Not so; it’s only one option; it depends. And I’ve had board members of ‘American Friends’ alumni groups who won’t let an officer of their non-US university attend a Friends board meeting – conflict of interest, they say. Not necessarily – and the Friends should want input from the organisation which benefits from American gifts. Admittedly, some confusion arises because there is comparatively little ‘black letter law’ – statutes, regulations, or case law – for guidance. So we are often thrown back on corporate custom: how are these functions customarily structured and performed. Judging that takes familiarity. Advice to those setting out to raise funds in America for non-American charities: think this through; obtain advice; choose your strategy carefully; and understand it is a long term commitment where you have no explicit control over ‘your’ American Friends group – the relationship requires tending and persuasion in perpetuity.
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