Charleston Principles

Charleston Principles - regulations, policies, and guidelines to stay in compliance with online fundraising

Most of the state statutes that require registration literally apply to traditional fundraising techniques (e.g., telephone, direct mail, in-person solicitations), however, using activities that go beyond these traditional techniques (such a internet solicitation) raise a number of issues that have troubled and perplexed state charity officials.  In an attempt to head off confusion among various states' regulators, NAAG (National Association of Attorneys General) and NASCO (National Association of State Charities Officials) proposed and published the “Charleston Principles” that provide guidelines to states as to when internet solicitations by otherwise covered charities should be required to register.  The Charleston Principles are guidelines only; they are not binding on the states and may change as laws change.

Under the Charleston Principles, a charitable organization that has its principal place of business in the state (and is thus “domiciled” in the state) and uses the internet to solicit contributions in that state must register in that state. If the organization is not domiciled in a state, it still must register if it (1) specifically targets persons in the state or receives contributions from persons in the state on a repeated and ongoing or substantial basis through or in response to website solicitations or (2) its non-internet activities alone would require registration in the state (e.g., direct mail or telephone solicitation into the state). The foregoing is a summary only.  For more information on the Charleston Principles, including a complete copy with annotations, see www.nasconet.org/ ?s=Charleston+Principles.

It is strongly recommended that charitable organizations intending to solicit contributions via the internet should seek the advice of experienced counsel concerning registration under one or more of the state fundraising laws.  Only about 17 states have officially adopted the Charleston Principles and another 7 use them as guidelines but may have additional contigencies and review online solicitations on a case-by-case basis. Charity Compliance Solutions, Inc. will help you understand just where the boundaries for online fundraising are in each state and make sure your orgainzation is in complete compliance to move forward with online fundraising.  

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