If your organization has invested in meeting all of your state charitable registration requirements, congratulations! By simply registering, you’ve already demonstrated your commitment to transparency in the nonprofit sector and accountability to your donors. You may, however, still be wondering what’s next.
Meeting government requirements is an ongoing responsibility for nonprofit boards and staff. When your organization has registered properly to solicit contributions in each state, there are distinct things to do to simplify your annual reporting and to stay in compliance.
Let’s get into it!
1) Track renewal due dates and extensions, ideally with software.
Each state requires you to renew your fundraising registration, typically annually. In many states, the due date aligns with your IRS 990 due date. However, in other states, due dates are based on a fixed date for all organizations, or the anniversary of when your organization first submitted its registration. Most states also provide the opportunity to extend their due date if your tax return and financial statements aren’t complete.
In other words, it’s complicated! Many nonprofits track state due dates on spreadsheets or in their email calendars. Often, we see organizations that have lapsed simply because a requirement changed and a spreadsheet wasn’t updated. It’s only human error. The best way to reduce late and missed charitable renewals is by partnering with a compliance provider that tracks your due dates and extensions for you using dedicated compliance software, and keeps you in-the-know regarding changing requirements.
2) Make sure your fundraising materials and website contain required disclosure statements.
In 26 states, if you solicit contributions, you must provide residents of those states with more information about your charitable organization, leadership, programs, and finances. These requirements are broadly referred to as “state disclosure requirements.” Once your organization has registered to solicit, you must include certain written statements on your solicitation materials, including your mail, email, and website. These statements range from verbatim language in the statutes to general contact information.
But nobody reads the fine print, do they? Actually, they do. Certain states, like Florida, have been known to review the websites of out-of-state organizations to see whether the required language is included. Before kicking off that development campaign, be sure to read up on required state language, or contact us to provide template disclosure statements for your solicitation materials.
3) Know which states require a copy of the 990.
If your organization is required to file a 990 or 990-EZ tax return, you must list the states with which a copy of your Form 990 is required to be filed. In fact, your accountant may have asked you this question this tax season!
When it comes time to file your state solicitation registration renewal, you should know that all states except DC require either a physical copy of your 990 or financial data from it. With this knowledge, take a look at where your organization has registered to solicit, and the answer is easy.
4) Understand state audit thresholds, and have the appropriate statements prepared.
State requirements for audited and reviewed financial statements present a challenge to organizations and accounting firms alike. In addition to requiring a copy of your 990 tax return, 24 states require financial statements that have been audited or reviewed by an independent CPA.
The determining factor on which type of statements are required, or if they are required at all, is typically the organization’s total charitable contributions from all sources. The challenge is that each state’s threshold is different. For example, while California doesn’t require that an organization have its financials audited until it reaches $2 million in total revenue, Illinois sets the bar at just $300,000 in charitable contributions. The threshold for a review is typically lower, ranging from $100,000 to $300,000 in contributions. Every other state falls somewhere in between. In addition, some states like Wisconsin and Michigan enforce that financial statements conform to GAAP, and have been known to reject statements prepared using non-GAAP accounting methods.
State audit and review requirements are set by statute. While some states may grant a one-time waiver, others like New Jersey will consider an application incomplete until the organization complies with the requirement.
Many organizations already have included the cost of an annual review or audit in their annual budget. For organizations registering to solicit in a new state for the first time, or organizations that are already registered and have experienced an increase in revenue, the added cost of a CPA engagement can be surprising. The best course of action is to review your end-of-year contribution and revenue totals with your board and CPA, and compare them to the requirements in the states where your organization is or plans to be registered. Then contact your CPA to discuss your organization’s needs. You should plan to have an audit or review performed annually, as long as your organization’s revenues exceed state thresholds.
5) Track per-state donations.
Once you register to solicit and start receiving contributions, it’s a good idea to track how much you raise in each state. Not only will this help you submit accurate information to state agencies, but it could help you save on state filing fees. Several states currently ask for the amount of contributions received from their citizens, including Minnesota, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Others, like New York, Ohio, and Oregon actually use those amounts to determine how much you pay in filing fees annually. By accurately capturing per-state contribution data, you can avoid paying maximum fees to stay in compliance.
6) Understand the implications of hiring a professional fundraiser or fundraising counsel.
For many reasons, organizations may choose to engage a third-party paid solicitor or professional fundraiser to make solicitations on their behalf, or fundraising counsel to assist generally with fundraising strategy. States regulate these relationships closely so that donors know who is asking for their money, how the funds are used, and how much of the donation actually makes its way into the organization’s coffers. In many states, your organization can expect to submit contact information of the professional fundraiser or counsel and copies of current contracts with your annual solicitation registration. Overall, this adds to the complexity of information you must curate and submit annually.
Professional fundraisers and fundraising counsel must also typically maintain their own license in each state where they assist in solicitation. Your organization may need to list license numbers of the professional fundraiser or counsel on your application. If the solicitor isn’t properly registered, in many states, your application could be held up and authorities could find that you have failed to meet the requirements. In other words, before you engage with a third party solicitor, do your due diligence. Make sure they’ve properly registered, filed contracts and bonds, and have a proven track record of success with organizations like yours.
It’s a Team Effort!
Meeting all of your regulatory obligations is an achievable goal for any organization. By understanding what’s required of your organization as you solicit nationwide, and leveraging the resources available to you, you can maximize your return on investment in compliance.
For assistance managing your state fundraising requirements, contact us or call us at 1-888-995-5895 to speak with an Account Executive.