Charitable organizations must abide by certain rules in order to solicit contributions in New York. Effective March 21, 2019, there will be two new requirements for charities engaging in solicitation. While the changes are minor, charitable organizations soliciting in New York will need to make adaptations to their solicitations to comply with these rules.
By way of background, New York has a number of requirements applicable to charities—whether in-state or out-of-state—that solicit contributions in New York.
First, New York requires charities engaging in solicitation to file an initial registration form and annual financial reports with the attorney general (although some organizations, such as religious organizations and educational institutions, are exempt from this rule).
New York also prohibits certain acts when soliciting, such as making false statements, engaging in fraud or illegal activity, or using a name or symbol similar to one used by another charity that would confuse or mislead the public. Certain rules also regulate how charities engage with professional fund raisers, fund raising counsel, and commercial co-venturers, including requiring written contracts between the parties.
In addition, New York has rules requiring that certain statements be included when soliciting contributions. Any solicitation by or on behalf of a registered charitable organization must include a statement that, on request, a person can obtain from the organization or from the attorney general a copy of the organization’s last financial report filed with the attorney general. The statement should list addresses for both the organization and the attorney general. Also, any written statement should be conspicuous and use print no smaller than ten point bold font or, alternatively, no smaller than the size used for most of the words in the document.
New York law also requires that any solicitation include a clear description of the programs and activities for which requested funds will be expended (or a statement that, upon request, a person can obtain such description from the organization). The law also provides additional disclosure requirements for endowment funds where the solicitation is by certain institutions.
The current changes relate to the rules for solicitations. Pursuant to New York Assembly Bill 2688, as signed by the Governor and effective March 21, 2019, there are two additional requirements for solicitations in addition to those above.
First, any solicitation must specify that the charity’s financial report is available from the charities registry on the attorney general’s website, as opposed to stating generally that the report can be obtained from the attorney general.
Second, any solicitation used by or on behalf of a charitable organization must identify the website and telephone number of the New York State office of the attorney general where an individual can receive information on charitable organizations.
These new disclosures are also required for solicitations by a professional fund raiser or professional solicitor on behalf of a registered charity.
These changes, although subtle, will require many charities to alter their current fundraising and donation forms and documents in order to comply with the new law. An example of proper language to include in a solicitation form is below:
You can request a copy of our most recently filed financial report from the Charities Bureau Registry on the New York Attorney General’s website (https://www.charitiesnys.com/) or by contacting us:
[insert name of organization] New York State Attorney General
[insert address of organization] Department of Law
28 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10005
Information on New York charitable organizations can be found on the New York Attorney General’s website (https://www.charitiesnys.com/) or by contacting (212) 416-8401.
Your contribution will be used to support the following programs and activities: [insert description].
You can obtain a description of the programs and activities that your contribution will support by contacting us at the above address.