Most states require nonprofits to file several filings every year. Nonprofits sometimes need clarification about the differences between charitable registrations, secretary of state registrations, and corporate annual reports. The purposes of each are quite distinct. Charitable registrations allow a charity to solicit contributions legally in a state. Corporate filings, such as Secretary of State registration or foreign qualification, and corporate annual reports, instead permit a nonprofit to hire employees, buy or lease property or offices in a state, or offer services or sell products in a state. Read on to learn more about each of these filing and which must generally be renewed annually.
41 states have laws mandating charitable registration. Generally, charitable registration is required in any regulating state when a nonprofit solicits funds there. Soliciting is the simple act of asking for donations. Today, solicitation can take many forms. Online fundraising via a "Donate" button or link on your website or through social media may constitute charitable solicitation. Traditional solicitation methods include fundraising events, direct mail, phone calls, emails, and radio and television ads. Other common methods include applying for grants or collecting membership dues. Once the organization has completed initial charitable registration, it must regularly renew them and provide updated financial details to the state. These renewals are generally due each year.
All 50 states plus DC require organizations within their borders to register with the Secretary of State or equivalent office. These corporate registrations are how states keep track of the organizations conducting general business within their borders. Organizations initially register with the Secretary of State in their home state as part of the formation process. When a nonprofit begins to conduct activities in another state, it may also need to register there as an out-of-state or "foreign" entity. Typical reasons for nonprofit foreign qualification include hiring an employee who is a resident of the state, purchasing property or a building in the state, opening an office or other facility there, or offering services or selling products in the state. In some states, nonprofits may also need to complete secretary of state registrations to participate in state employee fundraising campaigns.
Organizations maintain their corporate registrations by filing annual reports with the Secretary of State in each state where they are registered. Filing these informational reports on time allows the organization to maintain good standing. Annual reports keep state authorities updated on critical information regarding your organization, including your locations, contact information, and officers and directors. Due dates for annual reports vary by state.
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