Charity Bingo/Gaming
An Association Guidebook
Charity Bingo/Gaming
An Association Guidebook
Table of Contents

Welcome & Introduction

Chapter I, Organizational Development
Getting Started
Identify an Ad Hoc Steering Committee
Identify the Purpose of Your Association
Regional Meetings
Organizational Structure Considerations
Membership Recruitment & Development
Minnesota Case Study, Chapter I

Chapter II, Government Relations
Working with your Legislature
Regulatory Relations
Working with Congress
Minnesota Case Study, Chapter II

Chapter III, Communications
Communication Tools
Media Relations
Cultivating Relationships
Media Contact
Media Opportunities
Membership Media Tips
News Release Tips
Letters to the Editor
Minnesota Case Study, Chapter III


Exhibit I-1
Exhibit I-2
Exhibit I-3
Exhibit I-4
Exhibit I-5
Exhibit I-6
Exhibit I-7
Exhibit II-1
Exhibit III-1
Exhibit III-2
Exhibit III-3
Exhibit III-4
Exhibit III-5
Exhibit III-6
Exhibit III-7
Exhibit III-8

In Memory

This Guidebook is dedicated to Hank Lindsey, charter member of the North Country Snowmobile Club of Bemidji, MN, board member and treasurer of Allied Charities of Minnesota, and a good friend.

Welcome & Introduction

The members of Allied Charities of Minnesota (ACM) and the National Association of Fundraising Ticket Manufacturers (NAFTM) have teamed up to create this guidebook to encourage and promote the development of statewide charity bingo associations.

We believe you, the service organizations and charities who have committed time and effort to conduct bingo and other games, share a common purpose. That purpose is to raise funds in order to improve the quality of life in your hometown. Yet, you also share common concerns such as bingo regulation, taxes, fees, and unfair competition.

We suggest that by forming a statewide association, you can strengthen your ability to serve the community and speak with a unified voice to protect your interests, both at the state level and in Washington DC

Benjamin Franklin, just before signing the Declaration of Independence instructed his fellow signers that they all needed "to hang together... or they would hang separately... King George would see to that."

The concept of divide and conquer still rings true at state capitols around the country. You already know that regulators and legislators are more apt to listen to 100 citizens voicing the same concerns and endorsing a common solution. However, it is all too easy for regulators and legislators to brush you off when you can't get agree or work together.

For this reason, we believe the cooperation, compromise and hard work needed to form an association is worth the effort. These tenets are the underpinnings of a successful alliance with your fellow charities.

There are three key elements in developing a successful statewide association. These elements are:
(1) organizational development
(2) government relations
(3) media and public relations.

The three chapters of this manual and corresponding exhibits break down each of the elements into workable suggestions to organize your association. We believe these three elements must be considered simultaneously when developing an association. Think of it as three gears working to make a machine operate. If any one of the gears fail or is weak, the machine will not run properly.

There are a number of states who have already formed associations. Among the oldest and most successful of these associations is Allied Charities of Minnesota.

Allied Charities of Minnesota (ACM), organized in 1985, has experienced many of the obstacles you will face when organizing an association. Since experience is the best teacher, you will find case studies and examples of how ACM achieved success and dealt with some of the biggest frustrations when organizing their association.

We hope this guidebook will be useful to you. It is not intended to respond to every set of circumstances, rather it is meant to give you broad guidance and assistance. By developing your association, you are participating in a nationwide effort to protect this industry and protect the quality of life in your communities. 

Chapter I, Organizational Development 

Getting Started

You have the commitment, the desire and the need for a statewide charity bingo/gaming association, but you also need the people power!

This first step is the most crucial of the three. It establishes the foundation for your association and enables you to share your ideas with your colleagues throughout the state.

The first step is also time consuming. It may take weeks or months to orchestrate the steps this manual outlines. You may become frustrated during this phase because there are too many competing interests. Be patient and diligent. It may take some time to find common ground. Careful planning and a tireless core group of organizers will provide you with a support group! 

Identify an Ad Hoc Steering Committee

The initial steering committee is an ad hoc group of self appointed organizers. These people share your vision of a successful association and are willing to put the time into making it happen. They also realize that as the group of committed people grows, so do the number of opinions. Remaining focused but being flexible is important.

George Bush said in his inaugural address:

I take as my guide, the hope of a saint-
in crucial things, unity-
in important things, diversity-
in all things, generosity.

Your steering committee will spend time talking about the common problems or issues you face. The committee will begin to identify other organizations that are suffering from the same problems. As the steering committee's input grows, you begin thinking about groups of organizations that may have a collective interest in your activity, such as the veterans clubs, fraternal organization, athletic booster clubs, community organizations, etc. Remember, being inclusive is critical to your success! 

Identify The Purpose of Your Association

As the steering committee meets and discusses shared problems, you will begin to identify a set of common issues. These issues will form the basis for your association's purpose and political goals. The steering committee's task is to quantify these problems and use them as an organizing tool. We have identified four areas you may want to consider when you develop your association's purpose and political goals.

Common Issues

Common issues are items such as high taxes, overly restrictive regulation, or unfair competition. Your task is to identify the common problems you face, state the problem, and articulate what your association intends to do about it.

The steering committee may quantify common issues in the following manner:


The steering committee needs to verbalize these issues and will eventually come up with a "legislative platform" for the association (see Exhibit I-1).

Lack Of Services For Charities

A vacuum is created when organizations sponsoring bingo or other games and do not understand or know when state laws change. The steering committee may consider this a potential area the association can organize around. The association can fill the void by offering to hold a series of educational seminars around the state for charities. The association can also use this issue as a way to cooperate with the state's regulatory agency, if one exists.

These problems should also be clearly identified in the association's legislative platform.

Federal Issues

While the state issues will be easily identifiable by the steering committee, do not forget to consider what is going on in Washington D.C. These items are also relevant to your association's political agenda.

In the past several years the federal government has become more involved in charitable gaming affairs. Charities in a handful of states are fighting with the Internal Revenue Service over Unrelated Business Income Tax. In addition to the IRS, Congress and President Clinton recently signed into law the National Gambling Impact and Policy Commission. Both of these issues will have a significant impact on your charities.

The steering committee may want to consider federal issues as part of the association's agenda.

Crisis Situation

Sometimes there is a crisis that will unite the community more by accident than be design. A crisis tends to put everything into proper perspective. It will also create an opportunity for organizations to set aside their differences between individuals and factions of the community for the benefit of all.

An example of a crisis is when the state legislature considers whether they should make bingo illegal. Charities will naturally gather in order to fight this kind of threat.

In a crisis situation, the development of an association will be on a fast track. The organization will have to take the lead by identifying the crisis, communicating the nature of the crisis to all charities and sharing information about how the association intends to deal with such a crisis. Professional help may be needed. The most important element to keep in mind in this situation is to communicate how this crisis will effect your charitable organizations survival, profitability, or work load in the future if action isn't taken.

In conclusion, the identification of your purpose will be your primary sales tool and reason for charities to join your association. The steering committee should take time to discuss the kinds of problems outlined above and determine the best fit for your situation. Developing a work plan and then working that plan is the best ingredient for success! 

Regional Organizational Meetings

After identifying your purpose and legislative platform, the steering committee should divide the state into regions and schedule a series of meetings. Invite all charities who conduct bingo and other games to the meeting that is closest to where they live. (You can get a list of license holders from the your state's regulatory agency.) You may want to identify potential leaders from each region to help the steering committee organize and encourage charities to attend the meeting. This allows others to share in the concept of the association and its organizational structure.

You may also want to conduct a survey of charities prior to the regional meeting to find out if they are interested in the same issues as you. The survey may also generate interest in the formation of an association.

At the regional meeting, share the steering committee's agenda and invite charities to give you their opinion of your platform/agenda. Be sure you have appropriate visual aids and handouts for your presentation. Be prepared to ask the charities attending the regional meeting to endorse the formation of the association. Pass out membership sign-up forms! Their endorsement will form the basis of the association's membership. 

Organizational Structure Considerations

When beginning the process of establishing a statewide association, be sure the steering committee is delegating organizing responsibilities (don't leave it up to one or two people to do all the work) and that a timeline is established.

For your protection the first step is researching the legal aspects of establishing your association. Consult with a lawyer (volunteer, if possible) to get the best possible advice on your state circumstances. Non-profit incorporation with federal tax exempt status under IRS Sect. 501(c)(6) is probably the best legal structure to use.

Developing an organization chart is an extremely helpful way to assist in the development of your association (see exhibit I-2 for a sample organization chart).

Voting membership in the association should be restricted to charity/gaming organizations only. By restricting voting membership, the credibility of the "charitable" factor of the association will be protected with regulators and legislators.

However, provisions can be made in the bylaws for other industry participants and interested parties to join as associate members. Associate member status would convey many of the same privileges as members, with the exception of voting rights.

The board of directors of the association should be vested with the general management responsibilities and control of the internal affairs of the association. This should include the ability to act on policy issues between annual meetings. The board should consist of at least seven directors, and be representative of the association membership.

All decisions of the board should be by majority vote of the directors voting at a properly called meeting.

The association officers should include a president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer (for a comprehensive review of sample Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws see exhibit I-3).

In addition to the broad policy setting authority between annual meetings, the board of directors should be responsible for hiring any administrative staff, electing officers, and setting the strategic direction and action plan for the organization.

The association action plan should establish organizational goals, devise objectives, and develop action items with a timetable to attain those goals (see ACM Action Plan, exhibit I-4).

The officers of the association call board meetings, keep appropriate legal records, play a leadership role in giving direction to the rest of the board, and conduct the day-to-day business of the board.

Staff perform duties as mandated by board and its officers, and conducts the day-to-day business of the association as directed by the board. While hiring staff may not be possible immediately, committed board members can carry out the day-to-day business of the association in the absence of staff. When staff is hired, the association may want to consider committed board members as candidates for staff positions.

The first step in establishing the dues structure is to draft an association budget. Dues should reflect the needs of the association, and should be fairly structured for all potential members. Under-funding of a statewide organization is a sure way to guarantee its failure. If the choice is a smaller base membership with adequate funding verses a larger base membership with inadequate funding, choose the smaller base membership and adequate funding. The larger base can be built as the credibility and success of the association develops.

When local organizations understand the benefits of the statewide association, and are confident this association is capable of delivering the promised benefits, then dues will become less of a concern for most organizations. Also, making dues a lawful expense of member organizations will be extremely helpful in promoting the association.

Standing Committees, with chairs appointed by the president, are committees organized to conduct the long term association business. Standing committees spread the work load around, and with functioning standing committees to do the work, the board of directors will be able to concentrate on larger, big picture issues and not be consumed dealing with detail issues. Detail issues should be worked on at the committee level to conserve board time. That does not mean, however, that the board rubber stamps all committee action or recommendations.

Standing committees should be organized as soon as possible. They report monthly to the board on issues before them, and return recommendations for action by the board (see exhibit I-5 for an outline of suggested standing committees and their appropriate responsibilities). 

Membership Recruitment & Development

To successfully recruit new members to the association, meaningful services will need to be offered to members to aid in their development as members. Remember, people will not support an association for very long if they don't believe they are getting anything tangible in return. Give them services they need, and they will support an association wholeheartedly because it is making a difference for their organization.

Organizations join trade associations typically because they believe that by working as a group, activities and programs will be undertaken that would be impossible to accomplish individually. Your task as an association is to define the needs of your members, and then deliver on those needs by providing the necessary services.

This is best accomplished by integrating the results of membership surveys, direct member contact, and staff and board judgment into the association action plan.

This list could expand depending on the specific membership needs. The key to providing productive membership services is giving members the services they need. 

Minnesota Case Study, Chapter I

Allied Charities of Minnesota was established in 1985 in response to concerns with the Gambling Control Board and the Minnesota Legislature. While the first half-dozen years were rocky, ACM was able to overcome many of the issues facing all fledgling organizations.

Minnesota, like many states, had competing associations. That all fell by the wayside, however, when in the late 1980's, after a bitter and losing struggle in opposition to increased taxes, ACM used the ever increasing tax burden placed on it by the state to help solidify the need for one statewide organization.

We accomplished this by individuals recognizing and then setting aside personal interest. Individual organization leadership came to the realization that in the long term it was not only better, but essential for their organizations to have one strong, unified association representing their interests in St. Paul.

After the tax increases, a new core group was elected to the Board of Directors. They increased dues to try and raise the funds necessary to be a viable organization and made one last membership mailing to revive ACM. Well, the mailing worked, and ACM started moving forward!

In the early 1990's, in addition to onerous taxes, ACM identified the need for increased training for its members. Charitable gaming had grown at such a rapid pace, state regulators were overwhelmed and not able to keep up with the demands of their own ever-increasing set of regulations.

To meet this need, ACM established a Lawful Gambling Convention & Expo around its Annual Meeting in mid-November (see exhibit I-6). Historically, the Annual Meeting was just that, an Annual Meeting. With the advent of the Convention & Expo, ACM was able to offer, working in conjunction with its regulator, twenty plus training seminars (some for needed continuing education credit) and workshops in a three day period.

These seminars offered gambling managers and CEO's, for the first time, a forum to come to and ask questions about how they should be operating legally and profitably.

ACM also effectively used the Expo as an educational tool to inform individuals and organizations involved in charitable gambling of the latest services, equipment, and games available to local organizations. The Annual Meeting also became a very important tool in developing our legislative platform for the following year.

One unexpected side benefit, the Expo proved to be an excellent way to generate additional revenues to help support association activities.

We hoped to get 300-400 participants and 25-30 booths at our first Convention & Expo. Well, we had over 900 participants and 45 booths, and it has been growing ever since! In 1996 we had over 2350 participants and 80 booths at our Expo, offered 30 seminars and roundtables in over 50 time slots, and expect it to get even bigger and better in the future.

Member organization expenses associated with attending the Convention & Expo are an allowable gaming expense approved by the regulator, which is helpful in getting member organizations to participate in the event.

Another important organizing tool for ACM was a crisis, and ACM faced a crisis of constitutional proportion. Several individuals from the hospitality industry who wanted for-profit video to replace charitable gambling sued the state and went to court to challenge the constitutionality of charitable gambling. The suit, if successful, would literally have put all of our organizations out of the gaming business overnight.

ACM mobilized, hired it's own attorney to work with the state attorney general, and was able to eventually have the case thrown out.

ACM was, during this time, able to use the litigation as a rallying point for membership, and in addition, used it to raise over $50,000 in additional funds to help pay the legal costs of the suit (see exhibit I-7).

By utilizing these opportunities, ACM went from several hundred members statewide to close to 1,000 members in less than two years. ACM continues to use these organizational tools for effective membership recruitment and development. Membership in ACM is an accepted practice by organizations around the state.

In addition to what has already been mentioned, ACM provides a regularly published newsletter to all members and associate members; prints a membership brochure; a Legislative Update published bi-monthly during the legislative session, with Legislative Alerts when needed; retains several lobbyists and works aggressively at the state legislature, Gambling Control Board, and the nation's capitol.

We also publish annually a Charitable Gambling FACT SHEET for the public and decision-makers around the state; produced a charitable gambling video to help tell the charitable gambling story in Minnesota; retain an attorney to provide advice to the association and individual members when there are broad, statewide legal implications; established an ACM Membership "hot-line"; are working to develop a WWW home page; have a series of regional meetings every year to update members around the state on the latest charitable gambling issues; and the regional directors and staff respond to the many hundreds of phone calls each year answering questions relating to charitable gambling activities. 

Chapter II, Government Relations

Depending on a state's charity bingo gaming statutes, there are typically three government relations areas that need to be monitored and worked by a statewide association. Those areas include: the state legislature, administrative and/or executive regulatory agencies, and Congress and federal agencies. To effectively impact these important policy bodies and administrative agencies, associations will need to put time and effort into developing strategies, working with individual government officials, and getting to know the issues. This section will outline actions needed to have an effective government relations program. 

Working With Your Legislature

The first step in lobbying the state legislature is to develop a legislative strategy. Define the needs and goals for each legislative session, and ensure broad membership support for the legislative program.

Keep the legislative program as concise and focused as possible, and make sure priorities in the program are clear.

After the legislative program is developed, gather evidence and data to build a case utilizing data and information assembled with the aid of your board and members. Develop issue background or fact sheets to help summarize issues, yet presents to decision makers in a concise format the basic facts about each issue.

Develop A Strong Presence

A strong presence will need to be developed to effectively represent association members at the state capitol. This can be accomplished by utilizing staff, board members, membership or professional lobbyist, or a combination thereof.

Know the process. Whether paid or not, someone will need to lead the association through the legislative maze. Although it can be done with rookies, very few are successful until they become seasoned veterans.

The association should begin by cultivating relationships with committee chairs, committee members, and staff. Meet and brief them on the association's legislative program and answer their questions to the best of your ability. Don't worry about answering all of their questions on the spot, but be sure to get back to them with any information not provided at the initial meetings.

Lobbyists deal in credibility. One of the major tenets of good lobbying is to always tell the truth, no matter how painful. If erroneous information is ever given out, make sure it is corrected as soon as possible.

Know Your Issues

One of the most effective lobbying tools is using actual, live examples of how specific legislation could effect your organizations. If possible, cite examples from the legislator's home district. For example -- how many dollars would a proposed legislative tax hike take from communities in a particular legislator's district?

Always use the lowest common denominator in dealing with elected officials because that always brings them closest to their constituents, which is where you will have the most impact.

Know the pro's and, just as important, the con's of the legislative program. Develop background or fact sheets to buttress arguments.

Know the law (and rules) under which organizations operate. Association lobbyists are expected to be the experts and have knowledge of the subject area. The association has succeeded in developing its credibility at the legislature when it gets summoned by the committee chairs and staff to testify before committees and to respond to questions by committee members.

Utilize Your Member Organizations

The best lobbyist for an association is individual members. They are closest to the legislator and can, in the end, have the greatest impact.

The lobbying team needs to know who knows whom in the legislative process. For example, one of your members may be the brother-in-law to the Speaker of the House. The lobbying team needs to know that information! It may help get a critical hearing or pass a piece of legislation.

Associations must keep members informed and up-to-date on legislative actions. Utilize a phone "hot-line", written legislative update, or even a home page on the internet -- or a combination of these or other methods. You can't do enough communicating!

Associations also need to break organizations down by legislative districts to match the right people with the right legislators.

As grass roots organizations, you have the one thing that politicians fear the most, voters! Don't be afraid to call member organizations and their membership to action when legislative help is needed. Make sure they are given the necessary tools (phone numbers, fax numbers, e-mail addresses, home break schedule with home number, fact sheets on the issues, etc.).

Every legislative session is different. A successful lobbyist pays close attention to the other issues in play during the session to determine how another, seemingly unrelated issue could effect the association's legislative effort. For example, if advocating a charitable gambling tax cut, you may want to consider the financial situation of the state's overall budget. If the state has a large budget surplus, the chances of getting needed tax relief just improved, if however, your state has a large budget deficit, the chances just went down considerably.

One tool an association may want to consider between sessions on an election year is a candidate survey. Survey candidates for office on pertinent issues and then publish the results to members. While politicians are becoming increasingly wary of election year surveys, even if they don't fill out the survey it gives associations an opportunity to educate officials on their set of issues. Additionally, if there is no response, encourage your member organizations to ask the same questions face-to-face with their legislator (see exhibit II-1). Regulatory Relations

Developing a working relationship with regulators is a must if your association is going to be an effective spokesperson for your members. Regulators are a fact of life so we all need to figure out how to work with them in our individual states.

Cultivating a working relationship with regulators will greatly enhance an association's over-all effectiveness and credibility. Getting to know regulators and the problems facing them is helpful in at least understanding their thought and decision making process, and for developing counter arguments.

This doesn't mean, however that associations can't disagree or need to defer to regulators. When disagreements arise, you do so with reasoned argument.

Establishing a professional relationship is critical to the success of your association. The association will be a much more viable and credible force to be dealt with if it presents arguments in a reasoned, professional manner.

If the association is a credible force, regulators will pay more attention to its views and concerns. Regulators also know that unhappy constituents espouse those views somewhere else (legislators). Regulators want to avoid that; if at all possible, therein lies their incentive to work with your association.

Be accessible when they have issues or questions regarding charity bingo/gaming. Encourage regulators to seek your input and work with them when they ask for public or industry input. Understand the need to compromise on issues. Half a loaf is better than none at all, and there is still life to revisit and fight the issue another day.

Sometimes there is a need to disagree with regulators. Pick your fights very carefully, and don't challenge them on everything and not in public unless you have a very good reason to do so. That approach ruins any credibility the association may have with them, other decision-makers and the public.

Work with regulators at the legislature when issues of common concern exist. Several examples could be assisting regulators with agency budget requests, supporting additional staffing when necessary for better and more efficient regulation, technological improvements, and with their legislative agenda to the extent it doesn't negatively impact charity bingo/gaming.

By communicating with your regulators, you will find ways to work with them. It will strengthen your relationship and credibility, which can only produce positive long-term results. 

Working With Congress

Because federal issues are starting to play an increasingly important role in our local organizations, statewide associations can no longer afford to ignore what is happening in Washington. Like our state legislatures, the action taken by the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can have a significant impact on our industry.

The two major issues individual states are working on at this time in Washington are unrelated business income taxes (UBIT) and the new National Gaming Impact and Policy Commission.

Both of these issues have the potential of creating havoc for our industry. Our industry must organize to monitor and advocate for communities nationwide.

Lobbying techniques for Congress aren't really any different than lobbying legislatures, so they won't be repeated. Like lobbying at the legislature, it is important that charities speak with one voice and have credibility.

Several statewide associations cannot pretend to speak for the entire charity bingo/gaming industry across the nation, that's why all state associations must band together to protect charity bingo/gaming at the national level. 

Minnesota Case Study, Chapter II

Allied Charities of Minnesota has experienced excellent success with our government relations program. In the early years of the association, plagued with competing statewide associations and a less than unified effort, the state legislature and the governor implemented tax legislation and new regulatory statutes at will.

With strong leadership from a new president and board of directors reshaping the association and bringing focus to its mission, ACM has provided a united and well funded legislative effort. Since the early 1990's ACM has been able to lobby effectively for more efficient, fair and common sense regulatory statutes, rules, and taxation.

A consultant was hired to help with the organizational issues, media relations and lobbying.

After resources were stabilized, the then president of ACM was hired as the executive director to work on a daily basis for the association, while still retaining the services of the consultant.

Since that time ACM has made dramatic strides as a statewide association representing charitable organizations.

ACM has become a very strong force at the legislature and with regulatory agencies. Strong and credible relationships have been established with legislators, regulators, and members of congress. When dealing with charitable gambling issues, ACM's opinion and support is sought by members of the legislature.

In recent legislative session we lobbied successfully to reduce taxes by $5 million dollars (just a start), changed the law to allow for more flexibility in the games we offer which has made us more competitive and increased our gross sales over 8%, and changed numerous statutory provisions to decrease our cost of regulation and improve our regulatory environment.

We also participate with our regulatory agency in the development and updating of rules which effect our industry. While we don't always get what we want, we are at the table participating and end up with a much better rule because of our input.

ACM has become the voice of charitable gambling in Minnesota.

This did not happen overnight. It has taken ACM many long hours of meetings with individual legislators, committee chairs, and staff to express and argue our issues. We've spent untold days attending committee hearings, working at the capitol months on end, and years working statewide with our members to build up the credibility to be that singular voice for charitable gambling.

How was this accomplished? By using numerous tools to bring local Minnesota organizations together as one. Newsletters, Legislative Updates and Alerts, regional meetings, Convention & Expo, training and education seminars, effective lobbying on charitable gambling issues, a strong media relations program, participating in many public committees and task forces, testifying before legislative committees and Gambling Control Board, building relationships and just plain hard work, just to name a few.

ACM has also had some successes in Washington, D.C. where we have a contract lobbyist to work with the association on the UBIT issue. We have also had success in retaining a not-for-profit tax specialist attorney to challenge the IRS on excise tax issues with great success for our members.

ACM is proof positive that charity bingo/gaming organizations, because of their unique status in the gaming industry, not-for-profit and grass-roots, can be a statewide and national force. 

Chapter III, Communications

Communications is a very broad subject area and means a lot of different things to people. Associations have need for three different types of communications; (1)internal public relations; (2) external public relations; and (3) media relations. With all three types of communications the focus of the communication is on different individuals or groups. Many times the three types can become interwoven.

For example, a video presentation could be used for all three purposes. It could be used as an educational video for new charitable gambling groups (internal); an educational video for legislators who need to know more about charitable gambling (external); or sent to a television producer for their use (media). 

Communication Tools

The key is to maximize the use of association communication tools to be most effective in getting your message out. Outlined below are some association communications tools and ideas on how you can maximize their usage. Remember -- ALWAYS THINK CREATIVE!

Newsletter: A regularly published association newsletter is critical for delivering messages, setting association themes, outlining activities, announcing programming and meetings, citing association successes, and numerous other internal uses. The newsletter can also be used for external purposes to educate decision-makers, regulators, industry participants, and others who should be kept up-to-date on the association activities and concerns.

Legislative Update: This can be as simple as a one or two page update published bi-weekly on legislative activities pertaining to charitable gambling. Don't worry about fancy graphics and appearance, what the organizations really want is good, solid information. The simpler, more concise, the better (see exhibit III-2).

Legislative Alert: This tool is an association's "call to action", and should be used only when it is critical that legislators hear from grass-roots organizations and their members. Be sure to include names, addresses, telephone numbers (phone & fax), and e-mail addresses of the legislators or decision-makers the association wants contacted.

The Alert should outline the message to be delivered, and even provide sample talking or writing points for members (see exhibit III-3).

Telephone "Hot-line": A 1-800 telephone number with a pre-recorded message for members to call to get the latest information on the association activities or legislative effort. The "Hot-line" requires frequent updating to be effective, but is a very cost effective tool to get the word out.

Internet Home Page: With the increasing number of computers in businesses and homes, a World Wide Web Home Page is quickly becoming a very popular communications tool. Not only can you provide information about your own association activities, by hyper-links you can direct your members to a plethora of information (statutes, rules, legislative activity, etc.) almost instantaneously once they are on your home page.

FACT SHEET: The background FACT SHEET is meant to provide members with current and historical information on charity bingo/gaming. It can also be used to provide decision-makers and the public with general information on the status of charity bingo/gaming in the state (see exhibit III-4).

Membership Brochure: This type brochure is developed to communicate the advantages of belonging to a statewide association and is best used in combination with a direct mail appeal letter. The brochure high-lights representation of charity bingo/gaming interests at the state capitol with a unified voice, organizational services offered to member organizations, and regular member communications.

Video: Produce a multi-purpose video such as the example noted earlier. Videos can be an effective tool to deliver the charity bingo/gaming story for members, decision-makers, the general public, and the news media. If using videos, they must be of professional quality -- no home movies. 

Media Relations 

Cultivating Relationships

Developing and cultivating relationships with state and local media is another critical aspect of the association's mission. To be the mouth piece of charity bingo/gaming in your state, you will have to promote its existence and the expert knowledge of the industry to those who cover charity gaming as part of their beat. Be available to respond to reporters questions and give them background on specific issues or situations.

Your goal as a statewide association is to be number one on the reporters phone list when a charity bingo/gaming issue arises.

In addition, other association activities(regional membership meetings, conventions, issue press releases, etc.) will help establish your credibility with the news media.

Don't expect this process to happen overnight. It will happen, however, if you pursue normal association activities and keep in contact with the media covering your issues. 

Media Contact

Whenever you speak to the media, define the message (not more than two or three items), and then work that message by keeping it the focus of the interview. Be sure to stay on the message, even when the reporter may want to drag you off in another direction.

For example, if you want to talk to the media about why you need tax reduction and he or she, after a brief discussion of your issue, wants to talk about other pending legislation, briefly acknowledge the legislation, and they talk again about why you need that tax cut.

Try it, you'll find that you can have more control over the interview process than you think.

Provide information to reporters when they ask, and just as importantly, be available for a good quote when one is needed by the reporter. Reporters like a good quote, so spend some time honing your message to give the reporter a line or two that's quotable. Good quotes beget additional quotes in future stories. If you don't give the reporter something to write, they will quickly find someone else who will supplement the article they are writing or video taping.

That doesn't mean, however, that you have a license to ramble. Figure out what you are going to say, say it, then wait for the next question. Do not ramble -- it can be very dangerous.

Another important fact in dealing with reporters, just because they call and want to talk to you immediately, doesn't mean you must talk with them. Try to find out why they are calling, and if you are not comfortable talking with them on the spot (you may need to gather more information before responding), tell them you will get back to them. If you take this approach, however, you must call them back to retain your credibility. Be sensitive to their deadlines.

One final note, never lie to a reporter. If a reporter has been given erroneous information, contact them as soon as possible and set the record straight. Guard credibility with reporters carefully. Once credibility is damaged, it will be very difficult to sell any story or message in the future. 

Media Opportunities

Always look for opportunities to get the message out to the public and decision makers utilizing the various types of media tools. These media tools include:

Straight News: Press releases informing the media of some event, issue, or action the association is taking. Another way to use straight news it to plant a story by giving a reporter an exclusive on the information (see exhibit III-6).

Human Interest: This can be done a number of different ways and still accomplish the same objective. Develop an idea for a feature story (for example, charity bingo/gaming funds used to build a home ramp for a disabled person) and try to persuade a reporter it would make a good human interest story. If the reporter likes the idea you may get a story, if he or she doesn't, shop the story idea around with other reporters until you get a reporter who likes the story idea. If a feature story idea won't fit or work, don't forget about the possibility of using a photo with a caption to help get your message out.

Informational: A press release geared to disseminate information. For example, announcing the dates of regional association meetings across the state (see exhibit III-7).

Opinion Editorials (Op-Ed): Occasionally newspapers will allow someone who is not part of the newspaper editorial page staff write an editorial on a timely issue. Either contact the editorial page editor and discuss the idea with him or her, or write the op-ed and submit it for consideration for publication. Typically, you'll need to give the paper exclusive publication rights on the article.

Letter to the Editor: This tool is usually utilized in response to an article or another letter to the editor where a response from the association is warranted. These are good opportunities to correct wrong information, set the record straight, or develop a counter argument to one put forth by another reader. On a particularly important issue, you may want to organize several people to respond to articles by letter to the editor. They can be highly effective because with many people they are the only part of the editorial page read (see exhibit III-8).

Cable TV: With more homes getting cable access everyday, it is important not to overlook this media source. Cable TV offers opportunities through talk shows, local access channels, and video presentations for charity bingo/gaming groups to get their message out to the public. Contact talk show host or their producers with ideas on issue discussions, story ideas, and presentation of any locally produced videos on charity bingo/gaming.

Industry Publications: Publications produced by manufacturers, distributors and other players in the industry can be a source for delivering messages to the industry. Industry trade publications will be interested in timely and worthwhile topics. Use your local contacts, but many times these types of publications respond very positively to such requests. 

Membership Media Tips

Statewide associations should always be encouraging member organizations to work on media exposure in their local communities. Well placed articles and photos are a tremendous aid in getting the message out in communities on your activities.

This media will help build support for your activities and programming supported with charity bingo/gaming proceeds. Don't assume communities know where proceeds are being used unless you have told them, and told them!

Below are some media tips to assist local organizations with their media effort.

News Business Tips

* The news business has an insatiable appetite, .. it can never be satisfied.
   The media are always looking for a good news story.

* Localize the news as much as possible. The more local the news and
   individuals involved the better chance of getting publicity. Hand deliver
   the news release if it is local.

* Piggy back local news stories on larger stories or trends when possible.
   For example, tie your recent contribution to a community group into a larger
   story about the decline of government aid in recent years and how charity
   bingo is helping to fill that void.

* Always be truthful, accurate, and available.

* Have a title or position with your organization to enhance your credibility.
   For example, president, gaming manager, media liaison, information officer, etc.

Media "Do's"

* Do make sure news stories are timely (e.g., presenting a recent check
   for a donation to a community organization).

* Do provide information the community or segments of the community
   should or may want to know about (e.g., findings on research paid for
   by charity bingo/gaming).

* Look for new ways to tell old stories. For example, when contributing
   to recipient organizations find a new way to present this to the media so
   they don't get the idea this is "just another check presentation". Make it
   visual for the photographers or TV, and don't forget to include sound or action.
   The media today likes to deal in visuals and sound. Be creative!

* Identify and establish relationships with local media representatives.

* Remember to use photos when it will enhance a story -- "A photo is worth a
   thousand words!". Be sure to paste a "cut-line" or caption identifying the who,
   what, where, and when on the back of every photo sent out.

* Send releases to in-house newsletters, starting with your own, recipient organizations
   and any other related organizations that may be interested (trade papers or magazines)

* Send press releases to community leaders (mayor, city council members, legislators,
   city manager, opinion leaders, etc.) so they know about the activity. The release is
   already written, maximize its usage!

Media "Don'ts"

* Don't complain about coverage unless there is evidence of actual malice.

* Don't expect coverage every time you drop off a news release.

* Don't call or drop off a news release when the media are up against their
   deadlines. Call the news desk and ask for the deadline schedule, or check the
   publication, deadlines are usually noted in the masthead. Know deadlines.

* Don't overlook sending information to the wire services (Associated Press,
   United Press International, any local news networks, etc.) In the larger media
   markets these outlets are often overlooked and shouldn't be.

* Don't exhibit blatant self interest. The media isn't your personal PR conduit. Be creative.

* Don't ask to read a story before it is printed.

* Don't be a pest, but be persistent. 

News Release Tips

Issuing a news release is the most typical way an association will use to get the word out about their issues or events, meetings, etc. Because each news release gets about five seconds of consideration at a busy news desk, they must be done properly to catch the attention of the news editor. You usually get only one chance, and if your news release doesn't capture their attention, it is in circular file 13, never to be seen again.

Below are outlined some simple guidelines to follow when writing a news release.

Writing a News Release

* Write about a topic or event, not about yourself.

* Be accurate.

* Always try to limit your release to one page (single or
   double spaced) on one side of paper.

* Date the release and put "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE".

* The headline should tell the reader the contents of the release.

* Concentrate on a strong lead and summary headline.

* Be clear and concise, and always end the release with three asterisks (***)
   or END so the editor knows they have the entire release. If the news release
   is longer than one page, always type "(more)" on every page but the last.

* Stage media events for photos, TV, or radio (sound) opportunities.

* Look for success stories.

* Look for any tie-in with the news of the day.

* Always list a contact person with phone numbers the media can call to reach
   the contact person in case they have any questions or need further comments.

Reasons to Send a Press Release

* Charity bingo start-up by local organization.

* New locations for additional gaming sites.

* When contributing to a worthwhile cause in the community.

* When reaching certain goals, i.e. first $25,000, first

$100,000, first $1 million.

* Announcing any volunteer awards, seminars, workshops in local area.

* Hometown angles on key gaming personnel and volunteer chairs, i.e.
   completion of specialized training to be a bingo manager, attendance
   at meeting or conventions.

* Year-end wrap-up release listing recipient organizations and the amounts
   from charity bingo receipts.

* Follow-up story to a donation, i.e. medical research successes, local youth sports
   team wins state championship, donated fire truck used for the first time, etc.

A Complete News Release Tells a Story

WHO? The news release subject must be revealed in the first paragraph.

WHAT? The lead paragraph should tell the reader the newsworthy items featured in the release. The news editor and the reader must be quickly informed of your contribution, special event, etc.

WHERE? Revealing the location of the activity is necessary early in the top of the story.

WHEN? The day (Saturday), date (November 13, 1997), and time (9:30 a.m.) should be revealed early in the news story.

WHY? Explain the purpose of your news story (this can be put in the second paragraph).

News Release Needs to be Newsworthy

News releases should include at least one of the following aspects if it is to be considered newsworthy;

* Out of the ordinary

* Fresh and timely

* Contains local appeal

* Contains general interest

* Quickly gets the reader's attention

* Contains conflict 

Letters to the Editor

Letters to local newspapers, as well as news releases, can provide organizations very positive PR, and provide a platform to defend or better tell the charity bingo/gaming story in communities across the state.

Letters to the editor can be signed by anyone involved in the organization (best if that person has a title) and should always stress the positive even if defending some action.

Do's and Don'ts -- Letters to the Editor

* Incorporate in letters the positive aspects of charity bingo,
   i.e. contributions, volunteerism, etc.

* While the letter should be polite, it should make definite,
   strong statements. Avoid extreme, hard to believe statements.

* Be brief! 100 to 200 words (never more than 250) is perfect.

* Include name and address and be sure to sign the letter. Make
   sure the person signing the letter has seen it and has a copy.

* Send the letter to ALL local papers, not just the home town
   paper of the local writer.

* Never attack a newspaper editor or reporter in letters to the editor.
   They always have the last word, and they buy ink by the barrel!

* Have different people in the organization write letters. Editors
   quickly tire of the same letter writer, but like to see new letter
   writers come across their desk.

* Never send in form letters. All letters should be individually written and sent.

* Type written letters are preferred, but not necessary to get your letter
   published. Many publications are using e-mail now, so don't hesitate
   to use it if available. 

Minnesota Case Study, Chapter III

Communications have been an important part of ACM's success. Regular communications with association members by the Newsletter, Legislative Update, and Hotline just to name a few, has allowed ACM to keep its membership informed and supportive of its agenda. The membership brochure has been effective for recruiting and retaining members.

Local organizations in Minnesota have been encouraged to work with their local media and get the charitable gambling message out through the use of photo opportunities and press releases on their activities. ACM prepared a MEDIA "HOW TO" KIT for all members to provide them with the expertise in dealing with the media in their communities.

Communications tools like the FACT SHEET and video have allowed ACM to push its message with decision-makers and the general public.

ACM has worked hard and successfully to become the public voice of charitable gambling in Minnesota by cultivating relationships with statewide media and being available for comment on charitable gambling stories. Credibility has been established with the media, and ACM is now always called for comment on charitable gambling stories.

ACM's media effort has also increased exposure and credibility with decision-makers. Being visible in statewide and local media, media read and seen by decision-makers, has been extremely helpful in ACM's success.

Again, this did not happen over-night. It took many hours of talking with media representatives about our issues, writing and sending out thousands of press releases and other supportive materials to the media around the state, responding promptly to their phone calls and questions. 


The development of statewide associations is critical if charity bingo/gaming is going to continue and flourish into the 21st century. All of us around the country are facing ever-increasing competition, increased state scrutiny, and new issues at the federal level.

We all must be prepared to meet the challenges of the future. Our voice must be heard loud and clear in state capitols and in Washington, D.C.

This can only be accomplished by joining together at the state and federal levels to better protect our interests throughout the country. Presently, charity bingo/gaming organizations are virtually defenseless in Washington. Ironically, with the grass-roots nature of our organizations -- it should be the most influential gaming constituency in the nation's capitol!

We hope this Guidebook will be helpful in stimulating thought and action for the charity bingo/gaming industry in this country. The National Association of Fundraising Ticket Manufacturers and Allied Charities of Minnesota stand ready to work with organizations around the country to help build strong, viable statewide organizations and a national charity bingo organization to help insure our continued existence well into the future.