Could your nonprofit be covering more ground with your fundraising efforts?
Just as a budding traveler gathers the right credentials to go globetrotting, your nonprofit could open up a world of possibilities by applying for charitable solicitation registration wherever you’d like to see new charitable support. You can think of your solicitation registrations as your nonprofit’s passport to an array of fundraising opportunities.
What is Charitable Solicitation Registration?
In today’s age of innovative fundraising methods, it is important for nonprofits to ensure fundraising compliance. Overseen by state charity offices, charitable solicitation registrations are designed to protect donors from fraudulent solicitations – and to protect the charitable community from the negative publicity they can cause.
Registration requires submitting an application along with supporting documents and in some states, a filing fee. Fees are modest, particularly for smaller nonprofits. As a prerequisite to registration, a handful of states require charities to register with the secretary of state, a process called foreign qualification, and the appointment of a registered agent.
Once you’ve earned your registrations, they are part of your nonprofit’s “go bag,” letting you fundraise without borders. You may discover this is the perfect passport to expanding your nonprofit’s opportunities to:
1. Fundraise Coast to Coast
Your operations may be local, but if you’re like most charities, you’re fundraising across a much wider geography. In today’s digitally connected world, you could easily attract supporters across the nation who learn about your cause through word of mouth or through your own outreach. You want to be prepared to make the most of every opportunity to nurture relationships with new donors.
Online fundraising activities such as the “Donate” section of your website, emails to newsletter subscribers, and social media campaigns have the potential to reach citizens in every state. Currently, 41 states require nonprofits to register to solicit donations from their residents. Many states also require disclosure statements to be included on solicitation materials. Our Charitable Solicitation Compliance white paper helps organizations navigate the differences in state charitable registration requirements. It breaks down requirements for exemptions, renewals, extensions, and disclosure statements.
2. Speak the Language of Savvy Donors
Consumers are inundated with solicitations today. To narrow their choices, donors are increasingly conducting research on charities before donating, and trust is key. According to a survey by Fidelity Charitable, eight out of 10 donors identify nonprofit transparency and trustworthiness as a primary factor impacting their giving decisions.*
Embracing fundraising compliance as a badge of honor will build your credibility and set you apart from the crowd. Proudly feature your charitable disclosures in solicitation materials rather than relegating them to the fine print. Point out that you are fully registered for solicitation as required by law. Including these facts in solicitations will broadcast your commitment to responsible governance and earn trust.
3. Develop New Partnerships
Partnerships often lead to even greater fundraising opportunities for nonprofits, whether it’s corporate sponsorship, a commercial co-venture, or a partnership with a fundraising professional who can take your fundraising campaigns to the next level. Like solicitation, engaging with commercial co-venturers, professional solicitors, and fundraising consultants requires registrations in many states.
When you uncover the right partnership opportunity, you don’t want to miss out on reaping these rewards by neglecting the necessary registrations. Engaging in partnerships founded on an informed agreement and a solid compliance plan for both parties can often help you reach new audiences and multiply the impact of your fundraising campaigns.
4. Become Eligible for More Grants
Did you know that requesting grant funds falls within the definition of solicitation under most state charity laws? As a result, grant applications may be subject to charitable registration requirements. A few state laws directly address grant applications. Utah, for example, specifically includes grant seeking in its definition of charitable solicitation, while Wisconsin, Washington, Florida, and Hawaii provide limited exclusions, depending on the type of grant.
If your nonprofit plans to submit a grant application in a state where you aren’t registered for fundraising, make sure you prepare by checking the state’s charity law for guidance on what steps you may need to take.
5. Keep a Good Thing Going
Whatever fundraising opportunities are ahead in your nonprofit’s journey, fulfilling your charitable solicitation registration requirements remains key to your organization’s success. Just as your organization needs to steward donor relationships, you also need to actively maintain your charitable registrations.
Registrations must generally be renewed every one to two years. Due dates vary by state and are frequently based on the organization’s fiscal year-end. In many cases, fundraising registrations fall due on the same day as 990s, which can present challenges for nonprofits that don’t have financials prepared in advance. In some states, extensions can be filed to keep a registration in good standing without penalty.
Tracking due dates and extensions is essential to avoiding late, missed, or lapsed registrations. This way, whatever opportunities come your way, your nonprofit will already be prepared with your stamped passport of fundraising compliance.
If you need assistance managing your charitable solicitation requirements, get in touch with Harbor Compliance or give us a call at 1-888-995-5895. Our compliance specialists have helped nonprofits with registrations in every state and would be happy to assist you so you can focus on your fundraising goals. We also provide dedicated compliance software, so you can stay organized and up-to-date on your solicitation registrations.
* “Overcoming Barriers to Giving,” Fidelity Charitable. Web. https://www.fidelitycharitable.org/docs/overcoming-barriers-to-giving.pdf
Harbor Compliance is not an accounting or law firm and does not provide tax, financial, or legal advice.
About the Author
Brock Klinger leads Harbor Compliance’s nonprofit services sales team. He handles charitable solicitation, professional fundraising, commercial co-venture, and charitable gift annuity client relationships across all jurisdictions and industries. Brock’s work also includes nonprofit formation services, industry-specific and occupational licensing, and corporate lifecycle services.
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