Our 501(c)(3) organization receives occasional donations (primarily through our website) from people in states in which we are not located or operating. Registering under each state's charitable solicitation law would cost more (in fees and time) than the donations are worth. Can we act in a way that does not trigger the requirement to register in those states?
Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have statutes that require charities, except those that are excluded or exempted, to register with the state before soliciting charitable contributions within their jurisdiction. Although state laws differ, the concept of soliciting normally requires a request – an ask – for a contribution. Therefore, if you don’t ask for contributions from anyone in the state, you probably won’t have to register.
The National Association of State Charity Officials has recommended in its Charleston Principles that charities that receive contributions over a “passive” website, i.e. where the charity is not attempting to drive traffic to the website by emails, letters, phone calls, advertising or otherwise, should not be required to register merely because they receive a few contributions from the state.
The problem with that principle, of course, is that any fundraiser doing the job will want to thank the donor and ask for more. If you have the discipline not to ask for more, and not to ask others in the state to contribute, you may be able to avoid registration. You can find out about this and everything else you wanted to know about charitable solicitation registration but were afraid to ask in our special webinar on charitable solicitation registration. For more information and to purchase the pre-recorded program, visit our bookstore.