Because the success of a nonprofit organization hinges on its ability to receive donations, an understanding of the reporting and solicitation rules is vital. Charitable organizations in Georgia must register with the Secretary of State, unless they meet the narrow definition for exclusion. Certain information must be included with registration, which can vary in detail based on the size of the organization. In addition, all nonprofits should be aware of the penalties associated with fraudulent or misleading practices, and avoid solicitation efforts that do not comply with Georgia law.
Charitable Organization Registration
Georgia law requires individuals and organizations that solicit donations from the public for charitable purposes to register with the Secretary of State's office. Most organizations soliciting charitable donations must register, including nonprofits that are not incorporated and those that do not have 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service. Organizations must file Form C-100 before soliciting any donations, and include the appropriate fee. The organization or individual must renew the filing every two years.
Required Information and Financial Disclosures
Georgia law requires organizations to provide information about the nonprofit, its finances and methods of solicitation. On Form C-100, you must include the name of the organization, as well as the names of any officers, directors, executives, fundraising counselors and paid solicitors. You must also explain the purpose of the organization, how the donated funds will be used, and how you plan to solicit donations. Additionally, Georgia law requires a financial statement, which must be prepared or reviewed by a public accountant if the organization received more than $500,000 in the past year. If the organization filed Form 900 or 900EZ with the IRS over the past year, this must be included as well.
A limited number of organizations are exempt from registration under Georgia law. Generally, educational organizations, social organizations, volunteer fire departments, hunter and fisher organizations, public instrumentalities, and political organizations are exempt from registration. The organization has the burden of proving it is exempt from registration, and should carefully review the statute to avoid penalties. Further, even organizations exempt from registration must be careful to avoid fraud in soliciting donations.
Prohibited Acts and Penalties
In addition to registration requirements, Georgia law prohibits certain activities in soliciting donations. Individuals and organizations may not mislead the public or commit fraud when asking for donations, by, for example, falsely suggesting that a celebrity endorses the nonprofit. If the solicitation law is violated, the Secretary of State may issue a cease and desist order, bar a solicitor from associating with a particular organization, or impose fines. The state may also revoke the charitable organization registration, meaning that the nonprofit may no longer solicit donations within the state.