Charities play a crucial role in meeting the needs of the less fortunate. With some organizations, though, your contributions never reach those truly in need, because you are paying for a professional fundraiser or excessive administrative overhead and expenses. You may even be asked to contribute funds to a charity that does not exist.
The Georgia Charitable Solicitations Act of 1988 regulates the solicitation and collection of charitable contributions (O.C.G.A. Sections 43-17-3 and 43-17-5). The Secretary of State is responsible for registration, investigation and enforcement of Georgia’s charity and non-profit law.
Organizations and individuals who solicit contributions from the public for charitable purposes are required to register every year with the Secretary of State unless otherwise exempt. Educational institutions and religious and political organizations are among those exempted from this requirement. Registration requires that a charity provide its name, location and a full disclosure of the program, including a financial statement (O.C.G.A. Section 43-17-8). For information and to report a possible violation of any of the provisions of this law, please contact the Secretary of State, Division of Securities and Charities.
At the Secretary of State’s web site, you can verify a charity’s registration and review all of the information charities must disclose. You will find many useful tips to help you ask the right questions of those soliciting charitable donations and to help ensure that your donated dollars benefit a good cause. Registration does not imply endorsement by the State of Georgia or assurance that you do not have to worry about unfair or unethical practices, but it can help you decide whether you want to give to a particular charity and whether it is legitimate.
Charities are exempt from the provisions of Georgia’s and the federal No-Call Law and may solicit funds by telephone. However, if you think a charity is using unfair or deceptive business practices, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.
To learn more about the standards of a national charity organization, contact the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, an affiliate of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, by going to www.Give.org.
You may also file a complaint regarding certain solicitation actions with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Although the FTC cannot intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission.
Tax-exempt or tax-deductible? “Tax-exempt” means that the organization does not have to pay taxes. “Tax-deductible” means that you can deduct your contributions from your federal income tax if you are eligible. Be sure to get a receipt for your tax records. For information concerning tax laws and a charity’s tax-exempt or nonprofit status, contact the Internal Revenue Service for your federal taxes or the Georgia Department of Revenue (404-417-4477 or 877-602-8477) for your state taxes.