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July 2017 – Helpful Study on Oversight

One of the influential and significant organizations in our field is the Urban Institute, which houses the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. Based in Washington, DC (see www.urban.org), the Center, long led by Dr. Elizabeth Boris and currently by Sarah Rosen Wartell, published in late 2016 a most significant report—State Regulation and Enforcement in the Charitable Sector. PSI sometimes fields questions about regulations, which can be challenging to track and at times understand, so this document is of great value in ensuring NAD organizations are in compliance.

The study is the first systematic analysis of state-level oversight and regulation of charities in the U.S. and was done in collaboration with Columbia Law School and consists of three components. The first is a legal analysis of laws in the 56 U.S. jurisdictions. The second is a survey of the state and territory offices charged with oversight, regulatory and enforcement authority. Interviews with about two-thirds of the officials at these organizations comprise the third section.

A few highlights of the report, which is available on-line, are the following:

  • No single state law regarding charities exists; the laws are complex and cover many areas.
  • Organization and staffing of the offices also varies.
  • Most registration oversight is with the state attorneys’ general offices, followed by secretary of state offices, as well as other entities listed in the report.
  • Uniformity is encouraged among states.
  • Fundraising abuses, trust enforcement, and governance are the three most common areas of activities.

While the report is complex and cerebral, the astute fundraising professional would benefit from a perusal to at least develop an acquaintance of the basic information it presents, and to have this resource on hand for referral.

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