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Dealing With Charities and the Charitable Solicitation Licensing (CSL) Division

Tips for Dealing With Charities and the Charitable Solicitation Licensing (CSL) Division

Information available from CSL:

Charitable organizations have to provide extensive information to us in order to become licensed and renew their licenses. G.S. §131F-6.

Practice Tip: If you or your client are dealing with a charitable organization, you may find it useful view the wealth of information available on our CSL Division’s website. For example, information available includes license applications. Contracts between charitable organizations and fundraising consultants and solicitors are also available. To search for the information, go to Charities.

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Searching the CSL Registry:

Practice Tip: Unless you are absolutely certain that you have the business entity’s correct legal name in North Carolina, you may get better results if you search using either “Name starting with” or “Name contains all words”. The reason is that North Carolina is a “distinguishable upon the record” state. G.S. § 55D-21(b). For practical purposes, this means that names of business entities may differ only slightly – just that little bit makes them distinguishable from other entities.

Practice Tip: Foreign entities (created outside NC) may have more than one name in our database. You can find both the home state/country legal name and the fictitious foreign entity name in our database. Look for the term “Home State”. The reason is that sometimes foreign entities have legal names in their state or country of creation that are not distinguishable from other entities in the records of the Secretary of State. In those instances, the foreign entity may use a “fictitious name” that is distinguishable from other entities’ names for use in North Carolina, G.S. § 55D-22.

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Advising Clients About Working with Charitable Organizations:

Practice Tip: When advising clients, recommend that they ask for charitable organizations’ and sponsors’ legal names on record with the Secretary of State. And, recommend that they use those names in contracts. The reason is that because North Carolina is a “distinguishable name” state, even small differences in entity names can create significant issues when legal problems crop up. Remember that some “foreign” organizations may be exempt from obtaining a certificate of authority to do business in North Carolina. Call the Secretary of State’s Business Registration Division if you have questions about this issue. NOTE: You may also want to tell your clients that it may be helpful to also obtain business entities’ assumed or “d/b/a” names, as well.

Practice Tip: Consider advising your clients that they should exercise care when sponsoring charities or donating to them. They should consider whether they want to deal with charities unless they are licensed and in good standing with the CSL Division of the Secretary of State. A search of the CSL website will show you an entity’s license status, including:
  • Current Active
  • Expired
  • Cancelled
  • Current Active - Filing Extension Granted
  • In-Process
  • CSL Exempt
  • Expired Exempt
Practice Tip: If a charity says it is exempt, your client may want to ask if they have filed an exemption letter with the Secretary of State. If not, you may want to ask why.

Practice Tip: If your clients have knowledge of possible violations of the Charitable Solicitation Act, please encourage them to contact the CSL Division and make a complaint or referral.

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Charity Fraud and Other Violations:

Practice Tip: You can file a complaint with us if you think there is fraud or other violations of the Charitable Solicitation Act. You can file a complaint about: a charitable organization, a sponsor, a fundraising consultant or a solicitor that may have violated the Charitable Solicitation Act. Complaint forms can be found at Charities Complaint Forms.

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Protect Yourself, Clients and Family:

As you may have seen in news reports, crooks often use a façade or pretense of charitable purpose. Crooks may even say that they are affiliated with legitimate (or not-so-legitimate) charitable organizations to steal from good-hearted people.
  • Do not give to a charity you know nothing about.
  • Get the name of the charity and confirm if a charity is registered with the Secretary of State’s office before making a gift.
  • Visit the charity’s website.
  • Determine if the person asking for your gift is a volunteer or a paid fundraiser.
  • If the person is a paid fundaraiser, exercise your legal right ask for something in writing regarding the fixed % of the gross revenue that the charitable organization or sponsor will receive as a benefit from the solicitation campaign.
  • Ask who will benefit from your donation.
  • Never give cash.
  • Don’t assume when you hear the words “police” or “fire fighter” in an organization’s name that your gift is going to your local police or fire department.
  • Ask if your donation is tax-deductible. Exercise your legal right to ask for something in writing that states the % of the contribution that you can deduct as a charitable contribution under federal income tax laws. Request the Tax ID # of the organization.
  • Never give because you feel pressured, guilty, or scared.
  • Be cautious about giving out personal information.
  • Be wary if a solicitor suggests you will receive special treatment in return for your donation.
  • Telephone solicitors should also be registered in North Carolina.
  • Contact the CSL Division if you see a collection receptacle in public view for the purpose of collecting donated clothing, household items, and other items for resale AND you do not see a prominently displayed permanent sign indicating either:
    • The name of the charitable organization or sponsor for whom the solicitation is made and the phone number or electronic mail address of a contact at the charitable organization or sponsor, OR
    • The phone number or electronic mail address of a contact for the person and this statement: "This is not a charity. Donations made here support a for-profit business and are not tax deductible."

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Tools for Evaluating Charities:

There are a number of organizations that are trying to help people evaluate whether charities are legitimate and how charities spend and raise money. We have been told that some people use sites other than ours to help look at charities. Here are some links that may have useful information on charities:
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