We have a large email list but do not know the primary state of all of the people on it. Which states require registration before we solicit for charitable contributions and what should we do about it?
Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia require charities, unless exempted or excluded under their statutes, to register with the state prior to soliciting charitable contributions from persons physically located within the jurisdiction. But the state regulators are not totally unreasonable. In the so-called “Charleston Principles” adopted by the National Association of State Charity Officials many years ago (www.nasconet.org), the officials said that an out of state entity will have to register if it “specifically targets” persons located within the state with email solicitations. But the entity will be deemed to be soliciting in the state only if it “knew or reasonably should have known that the recipient was a resident of or was physically located in that state.”
With a lot of email addresses tied to organizations, you can probably make a reasonable guess where they are located. With an address unrelated to a physical location, such as a gmail or aol address, you can probably disregard the location—at least until you get a contribution. As we have previously said, as soon as you get a contribution, you will probably say thank you and ask for more. As soon as you ask for more, you are soliciting in the state.
By the way, in addition to the District of Columbia, the states requiring solicitation registration are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.