By Maj. Clinton Ross, 17th Force Support Squadron commander
/ Published March 20, 2009
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
With summer just around the corner, many private organizations are beginning to plan various fundraising events in support of normally, their holiday parties. The majority of the POs will support these events by soliciting gifts and contributions from off-base businesses in San Angelo.
While this article can shine some light as to the do's and don'ts, it should not be construed as legal advice. Guidelines are in accordance with Air Force Instructionss 36-3101 and 34-223 as final authorities on what activities are permitted with some license on what is approved on Goodfellow Air Force Base.
First and foremost, organizations must send their constitution and by-laws to the legal office outlining exactly what their organization wants to accomplish by being a PO. Keep in mind that these organizations should be a benefit to Goodfellow personnel and not towards a personal hobby or charity.
Next, ensure that the establishing group understands that a private organization is a self-sustaining special interest group, set up by people acting outside the scope of any official position they may have in the federal government. This includes organizations like the Top 3 Council, the American Patriots Motorcycle Group, etc.
Any group with average monthly assets exceeding $1,000 over a 3-month period must apply through the 17th Force Support Squadron and Legal Office for formal PO status. After being authorized, these POs are overseen by the 17th Force Support Squadron.
If the organization takes in assets less than $1,000 over a 3-month period, it will likely be considered an unofficial activity. Regardless, unofficial activities are subject to the same restrictions as POs when soliciting and conducting their fundraisers.
When planning a fundraiser, these are the things you should ask yourself as a PO: who, what, when and where?
First, "who" are you going to solicit and who is going to conduct the solicitations? The Joint Ethics Regulations prohibits federal employees, even when acting in their personal capacity, from soliciting from organizations that do business with or seek to do business with the Department of Defense.
On Goodfellow, there is a letter formatted to assist POs in soliciting off-base businesses. This letter cannot be deviated from except where noted. Also, POs should never solicit from organizations with inherently suspect practices because these organizations could prejudice or bring discredit upon the Air Force. POs, their officers, and their members should be mindful to stay away from these "prohibited sources."
Next, consider who from your organization will be conducting the off-base solicitation. Be careful when making this decision.
No DoD employee may knowingly solicit from persons who are junior in rank, grade or position, whether on or off duty. Private Organizations and their affiliates may not solicit in uniform or wear any article of clothing or items that implies that you are from Goodfellow or the branch of service in which you serve.
Here are the restrictions on PO names and letterhead: (1) you cannot use the term Department of Defense, its seal or the acronym DoD; (2) you cannot use the name, abbreviation, or seal of any military department or military service, and; (3) you cannot use the seal, insignia or other identifying device of the local installation (e.g. Air Force base, wing, squadron, group), without approval from the installation commander.
This area of the law can be confusing, so make sure you refer to the examples in AFI 34-223, paragraph 10.1.4. Our strong recommendation is that organizations be creative and come up with icons that relate, but do not specify, to your organization.
Your next question should be "what" the basis for the solicitation is. You may be seeking to raise money for something that it is a prohibited activity.
As a PO, you are prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages, or from conducting games of chance, lotteries, raffles or other gambling-type activities, except in very limited circumstances. Private Organizations are also prohibited from soliciting funds for activities that will directly duplicate or compete with AAFES or the 17th Force Support Squadron activities.
Third, ask yourself "when" you plan to conduct your solicitation. Federal employees may not engage in fundraising for a PO while on government time. You must be in a leave status or off duty and cannot create the appearance that you are on duty, which means no soliciting while in uniform. Members who solicit while on duty or as though on duty send a message that the Air Force endorses the solicitation.
Thus, all off-base solicitations must clearly indicate that they are for a PO or an unofficial activity/organization, and not the base or any official part of the Air Force or Goodfellow.
Once the off-base entity agrees to support your organization, the PO cannot publicly recognize the donation/gift. Recognition can only be made to members of the PO or those present at an event benefiting from the donation/gift. Unfortunately, this is where most POs run into trouble.
EXAMPLE: A solicitation sent off base reads as follows: "We are asking you, as a friend and supporter of Goodfellow Air Force Base, to help us with the cost of the event. In return for your cash donation, we will provide free advertising. Your name, or the name of your business, will be displayed on promotional materials such as t-shirts, banners, etc."
You should not make such promises because they require public recognition of the donation outside of the event. Moreover, by making such promises you are engaging in commercial sponsorship. The 17 FSS is the only Air Force organization on Goodfellow authorized to use commercial sponsorship to offset program and event expenses.
The 17 FSS relies heavily on commercial sponsorship to be able to afford events for troops and their families. These programs have lost thousands of dollars in commercial sponsorship opportunities because POs have already offered "free advertising" or have saturated the community so much, there is little to no opportunity left for programming. The base-wide events that 17 FSS provides cannot be held without business support. Thus, the more POs that provide unauthorized advertising, the fewer events 17 FSS can offer to base personnel.
The fourth and final question you should ask is "where" you will solicit. This one is easy because POs are prohibited from soliciting on base. That means the mailing list for the solicitation should not include the BX or the Commissary.
While there are more topics to cover on this subject, we have allowed certain licenses to occur on Goodfellow to assist as much as possible. We encourage all POs to understand fully the do's and don'ts of operating a PO and follow the field experts in the 17 FSS to help you succeed in hosting your events.
It is important that we conduct ourselves professionally when interacting with our San Angelo friends and be conscientious of their business. Remember, the wing commander retains the authority to disband any and all POs. To assist further, there will be a mandatory Private Organization briefing held on Friday, April 10, 2 p.m. in the Goodfellow Event Center.
For further information, call 654-3336 or 654-4899.