From time to time, we share previous content that has enduring significance for nonprofit organizations. The following blog post was originally published on 12/22/14 and has been lightly refreshed.
If your nonprofit intends to solicit donations from residents of your state, you need to know about the fundraising registration process. Read on to find out who needs to register, how to register, and what might happen if you don't register properly.
Do I Need To Register My Nonprofit?
Most states require nonprofits to register before they can solicit donations in that state. “Soliciting donations” means asking for funds in person, online, or through phone calls and mail. If you have a national or multi-state fundraising platform, it can be difficult to determine which states you may need to register in. But generally, a nonprofit should register in its state of incorporation, any state in which it has physical presence, and any state that has targeted fundraising campaigns or regular, recurring contact with state residents.
Many states require registrations to be renewed on a regular basis. Some states provide exemptions for various reasons such as nature of the nonprofit, total revenue, etc. If you’re unsure if you need to register, it’s best to check with state officials. But with a few exceptions, if you are raising funds you do need to register your nonprofit with the state.
How Do I Register My Nonprofit?
The registration process usually consists of completing an initial form and sending it in to the appropriate state agency along with your nonprofit’s financial documents, and possibly supporting documents (such as your IRS determination letter). You also may need to pay a filing fee. However, each state has its own rules which, again, can make registration in multiple states tricky.
A helpful resource when registering your nonprofit is the Unified Registration Statement (URS) which summarizes requirements for each state as well as providing a registration document which is accepted by most states that require registration. The URS provides a master checklist of requirements by state, links to state specific documents, and contact information for each state. The URS is a great organizational tool to use when managing registration in multiple states, but you still need to ensure that you are following all state-specific requirements.
When Should I Register My Nonprofit?
Registration must be completed before solicitation begins. Once your initial registration is complete, the renewal period varies from state to state. Some states require a renewal after one year, while other states do not require any renewals at all. In addition to registration, most states also require separate financial reporting which is generally due annually.
What If I Don’t Register My Nonprofit?
Failure to register can result in additional fees and penalties – some pretty hefty. It’s best to stay on top of your registration and renewals.
If you need more information, the National Council of Nonprofits has many great resources on charitable solicitation registration. The accounting firm that prepares your organization’s Form 990 can also help with your charitable registrations and renewals.