Charitable Solicitation Registration: What You Need to Know

Charitable solicitation registration can be a confusing and daunting task for any nonprofit organization. In fact, many nonprofits are unaware of the requirements.

What is Charitable Solicitation Registration?

Charitable solicitation registration is a state’s way of regulating fundraising activities within its jurisdiction. Generally, a nonprofit organization must register for charitable solicitation in the states in which it plans on soliciting donations. It is important that these registrations are completed before any fundraising occurs within that state, though some jurisdictions allow for exemptions and registrations are not required until certain revenue thresholds are met. Fundraising activities can include requesting donations through Twitter, making personal asks, or hosting fundraising events. Although your organization may not specifically plan on soliciting donations from a particular state, seeking online donations may also require registering your nonprofit within certain states. If you have compliance questions about which states your nonprofit must register for charitable solicitation, contact Cheshire Law Group.

Charitable Solicitation Registration in Pennsylvania

Most nonprofit organizations planning to solicit donations within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania must register with the Pennsylvania Department of State – Bureau of Charitable Organizations; however, there are some exemptions from registration for nonprofit organizations. Your organization may be exempt from charitable registration in Pennsylvania if your organization’s gross national contributions are less than $25,000 annually; and/or your organization falls under one of the following categories:

  • Organizations of law enforcement, firefighters, or other public safety personnel
  • Religious institutions
  • Educational institutions
  • Hospitals and hospital foundations
  • Veteran’s organizations
  • Library organizations
  • Senior Citizen centers and nursing homes
  • Parent-Teacher associations

You can find a complete and comprehensive list of exemptions on the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website under “Business & Charities Registration Information”. If you have any questions about whether or not your organization qualifies for exemption from registration, contact Cheshire Law Group.

If your organization is not exempt, your nonprofit organization should complete Pennsylvania form BCO-10, which can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website under Business & Charities Registration Forms. As part of your organization’s initial registration, you should include a copy of your organization’s IRS Form 990, financial statements for the previous fiscal year, IRS determination of exemption letter, organizational documents, and bylaws. This registration needs to be renewed annually. The renewal due date can be found on your certificate of registration, which your organization will receive once you have been approved for registration. We recommend having a tax professional or lawyer review before filing, especially if you are a first-time filer.

Charitable Registration in Other States

The forms and requirements for charitable registration differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some states do not require charitable solicitation registration, while others require extra forms and information in addition to the primary form. Most jurisdictions also require that organizations make written disclosures on solicitation materials.

Commercial Co-Ventures and Hiring Professionals to Assist with Fundraising and to Provide Fundraising Advice

Many jurisdictions also have special registration rules and contractual requirements for entering into commercial co-ventures (e.g., corporate sponsors that contribute a portion of their sales to your organization) and when working with paid professionals in connection with fundraising activities. Checking in with legal counsel before engaging professionals and before entering into these promotional fundraising ventures can help your organization (and your corporate donors) stay in compliance.

For any questions or additional information about registering your nonprofit organization for charitable solicitation, please contact Cheshire Law Group.   This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be, nor does it constitute, legal advice.

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