The Finance Committee of our 501(c)(3) is dragging its feet on a proposal to offer our fundraiser on a shopping cart web site (cost of which is being donated to the group) which we would tie in with our regular web site. The site would also allow members to pay dues, as well as offer the public the option to make donations with their credit or debit cards. They feel it would jeopardize our 501(c)(3) standing. Is that true?
No. Many charities sell things, including tickets to fundraisers, collect dues and offer opportunities for donors to contribute on Internet sites, often using separate “shopping carts” and “stores.” It is simply a different method of doing what charities have done for years by direct mail or personal solicitation.
If you are soliciting contributions on the Internet, you have to consider where you may need to register for solicitation. Under the “Charleston principles” established by the National Association of State Charity Officials years ago, (see: www.nasconet.org) you don’t have to register in all 39 states and the District of Columbia which require registration in advance of solicitation if it is a “passive” site which only accepts contributions. But you do have to register in any state where you are driving traffic to the site or specifically asking for contributions.