SSFs may solicit funds in writing; however, no matter which method is used, the rules specific to all SSF solicitations must be observed. Moreover, the required recordkeeping information on contributors must be obtained when accepting contributions.
Solicitations by mail
The SSF or connected organization may mail its requests for contributions. A pre-addressed, stamped return envelope may be included with the solicitation. However, the mailed solicitation materials may only be sent to members of the restricted class and must include all requisite notices.
Solicitations in publications
An SSF or its connected organization may solicit contributions through a publication that is directed only to members of the restricted class (provided that the requisite notices are included). If a connected organization’s publication is circulated to persons outside the restricted class, the organization may generally not include an SSF solicitation in that publication.
A solicitation in a publication that is circulated outside the restricted class may be permissible under the following conditions:
- The article includes an explicit caveat stating that contributions will be screened and those from persons outside the restricted class will be returned;
- The SSF must actually implement this return policy; and
- Both the number and the percentage of unsolicitable persons receiving the publications are incidental or de minimis as compared to the entire circulation. See, e.g., advisory opinion (AO) 1999-06. The Commission has said in advisory opinions that up to three percent of the circulation (representing 1,000 persons outside the restricted class) was incidental, whereas 10 percent of the circulation (representing 8,000 persons outside the restricted class) was not. See, e.g., AOs 1994-21, 1980-139, 1979-50 and 1978-97.
An article about the SSF published in a publication could constitute a solicitation if it:
- Publicizes the SSF’s right to accept unsolicited contributions from any lawful contributor;
- Provides information on how to contribute to the SSF; or
- Encourages support for the SSF.
For example, an article that commends employees who have contributed to the SSF is considered a solicitation because it encourages support. See AO 1979-13.
When an article in a publication is not a solicitation
A communication concerning the SSF is not a solicitation if it:
- Does not encourage support for the SSF; and
- Does not facilitate the making of contributions to the SSF.
If an article would not be considered a solicitation, then it may be circulated outside the restricted class to the general public. In such an article, an SSF or its connected organization could:
- Announce the existence of the SSF and explain the legal requirements that apply to its activities;
- Provide information about how much the SSF has raised, the number of contributors and the number of candidates supported; and
- Identify federal candidates who have been supported by the SSF, as long as the communication does not suggest that support for the SSF would help elect or defeat those candidates.