American Charities for Reasonable Fundraising Regulation (ACFRFR)

Combating excessive regulation of nonprofits and fundraising by means of litigation.

The American Charities for Reasonable Fundraising Regulation is a 501(c)(3) public foundation sometimes informally known as the "Nonprofit Litigation Coalition." It is a coalition of nonprofit organizations, their national associations and their supporters.


Pinellas County, Florida

After extensive discussion in 1996, the Board unanimously agreed that the first lawsuit should be against the City and County of Los Angeles and focus upon the compelled speech requirement of the Los Angeles mandatory disclosure form. It was further agreed that the second lawsuit should be against either the City of Columbus, Ohio or Pinellas County, Florida and focus upon the requirement of dual registration in a state and a city or county as well as the issue of the necessary "nexus" between a city or county acting as a regulator of an out of state charity or fund-raiser. In 1997 another lawsuit against Los Angeles successfully struck down major portions of the Los Angeles ordinance and the decision was made to proceed immediately with the suit against Pinellas County.

Pinellas I

On August 25, 1997, the litigation coalition filed suit in Federal District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Pinellas County, Florida. Joining ACFRFR were a full service direct mail fundraising agency and a copywriter, both based in Virginia. ACFRFR sued both in its own name (having been assigned the rights of a fundraiser) and in a representative capacity. The Pinellas County Attorney represented the defendant. The lawsuit alleged that the requirement of registration in Pinellas County by all charitable fundraisers was unconstitutional for several reasons. In summary they were because:

  1. fundraisers without offices, business dealings, or other connections to Pinellas County are forced to submit to the jurisdiction of the county and to regulation of their out-of-state transactions. This is a violation of the Commerce clause and due process clause of the U.S. Constitution; and
  2. the regulation is unnecessary, burdensome, redundant with the State of Florida, and not narrowly tailored to accomplish legitimate municipal governmental interests. This is a violation of the 1st Amendment rights of the charities with which the fundraisers work, as well as the 1st Amendment rights of the citizens of Pinellas County.

    This lawsuit was won by ACFRFR after it successfully won an appeal and reversal in the Federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and on November 13, 2001 an order granting summary judgment to ACFRFR was entered. Since that date, litigation has continued to force Pinellas County to pay the costs of the litigation including attorneys fees. Lead counsel in the case was ACFRFR's General Counsel, Geoff Peters, who donated his time. When attorney's fees for Peters' time are collected from Pinellas County those funds will belong to ACFRFR.

Post-remand Order on Motions For Summary Judgement

Filed on November 13, 2001 with the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division
Case Number: 8:97-CV-2058-T-17-TGW





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