California Fundraising Registration

Charitable Solicitation Registration and Compliance


Charitable solicitation is regulated on the state-level and the requirements vary by state. 41 states require charitable solicitation registration. Asking for donations by phone, mail, in person, and online subject a charity to registration requirements. Fundraising online is generally considered solicitation, including use of a "Donate Now" button on an organization’s website.

In nearly every state, charities are required to register before soliciting donations, regardless of whether funds are actually received. Some states require nonprofits to qualify with the corporations division and appoint a registered agent. In addition, most states require charities to include disclosure statements in their solicitations.

Overview of California Requirements

California requires charitable solicitation registration. Charities must register with the California Attorney General in order to solicit donations in the state. As a prerequisite for charitable registration, organizations are required to qualify as a foreign nonprofit corporation with the California Secretary of State - Business Programs Division and appoint a registered agent. California requires charities to include disclosure statements in their solicitations.

Initial Registration

Organizations that have never registered for charitable solicitation in California will file an initial registration. This section contains an overview of completing an initial charitable solicitation registration.

Agency:California Attorney General
Exemptions:

Not many. Even small nonprofits must register. If you believe you are exempt, make a request in writing to the California Attorney General's Office prior to soliciting. You will receive an exemption letter in return. The most common exemptions are:

  1. Religious institutions
  2. Educational institutions

Check the law for the full list of exemptions and exemption criteria.

Form:

Form CT-1: Initial Registration Form or URS

Instructions:

Guide for Initial Registration with the Attorney General's Registry of Charitable Trusts and California Attorney General's Guide for Charities

Filing method:

Mail

State fee:

$25

Due:

Your organization must register within 30 days of receiving assets (property, funds, etc) that are held in a trust.

Law:

California Government Code §§ 12580-12599.7; California Code of Regulations, Title 11, §§ 300-307,311,999.1

Notes:
  • Note the list of attachments required.
  • Any authorized or director may sign. Signature need not be notarized.
  • Some California counties and municipalities may require charities that solicit in-person to register prior to fundraising.
URS:No

Renewal Filing

Organizations that have already registered for charitable solicitation in California are required to renew their registrations to maintain good standing. This section contains an overview of renewing the charitable solicitation registration.

Penalties:

Failure to submit renewal prior to 4 months and 15 days after your fiscal year end can result in loss of tax exemption and assessment of minimum tax of $800, plus interest, and/or fines or filing penalties. The Attorney General will notify the California Franchise Tax Board to disallow your state tax exemption. Directors, trustees, officers, and return preparers are personally liable for these fees and penalties - you cannot use charitable assets to pay them, they must be paid out of of pocket!

Agency:California Attorney General
Form:

Form RRF-1: Annual Registration Renewal Report

Filing method:

Mail

State fee:

$0-300, depending on gross annual revenue

Due:

Renewal is due annually 4.5 months after the close of your organization's fiscal year. If your fiscal year closes December 31st, then renewal is due May 15th. 

Law:

California Government Code §§ 12580-12599.7; California Code of Regulations, Title 11, §§ 300-307,311,999.1

Notes:
  • Note the list of attachments required.
  • Any authorized or director may sign. Signature need not be notarized.
URS:No

Common Questions

Is the URS accepted in California?
The Unified Registration Statement (URS) is a consolidated multi-state registration form.
For initial filing: Yes
For renewal filing: No
Does California requires disclosures?
Disclosure statements are specific language required by the state when communicating with donors.

No.

How does California treat online fundraising?
Online charitable solicitation can quickly trigger the need to register in states where you ask for or receive donations online.

In general, California requires registration only if the nonprofit is purposefully soliciting California residents. The rules in California get complex - review the law if you have a website and accept donations online or offline from California residents. Learn more about online fundraising here.

Is foreign qualification required? Required
Is maintaining a registered agent required? Not explicitly required as a prerequisite for charitable solicitation registration.

Webinar

Charitable Solicitation Compliance
What does it take to be compliant?

Presented by:
Brock Klinger in partnership with Neon (https://www.neoncrm.com)

Wednesday, August 23rd
2:00 - 3:30 EDT

Register now

Free White Paper:
Charitable Solicitation Compliance

An explanation of increasingly complex state charity requirements.

Request White Paper
Fundraising Compliance Guide
Fundraising Compliance Info by State

Fundraising Compliance

We provide a full range of charitable registration and compliance services. Learn how we can help your organization.

Stay compliant

Check out our infographic for a quick overview of the requirements.

Free White Paper:
Charitable Solicitation Compliance

Learn how your nonprofit can stay compliant with increasingly complex state requirements.

Request White Paper

Learn about charitable registration in other states:


This page was last fact-checked October 22, 2015.
© 2012 - 2017 Harbor Compliance. All rights reserved. Harbor Compliance is not an accounting or law firm and does not provide tax, financial, or legal advice.