If your nonprofit is doing fundraising in Illinois, it likely has to register with the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Trust and Solicitations Bureau.
When Registration Is Required
Registration is required whenever any nonexempt nonprofit solicits charitable contributions in Illinois. Failure to do so can result in fines and penalties.
Exemptions From Registration
Illinois exempts the following organizations from registration.
Religious organizations. All religious organizations and their affiliates are exempt. However, to obtain an exemption, the organization must file two forms with the Attorney General: Illinois Form CO-3, Religious Organization Exemption Form and Form CO-1, Charitable Organization Registration Statement, both of which can be downloaded from the Illinois Attorney General website. A religious organization with multiple affiliates or subdivisions may obtain a blanket exemption covering all of them. Thus, for example, the central body of a church or denomination can obtain a blanket exemption that covers the church and all of the affiliated agencies controlled by the church and listed in the exemption request.
Educational institutions. All accredited educational institutions are exempt, as are any charitable foundations they establish. Any other educational institution that solicits contributions only from its student body, alumni, faculty, trustees, and their families is also exempt.
Illinois libraries that file annual financial reports with a state agency are also exempt.
Membership organizations. Fraternal, patriotic, social, educational, alumni organizations, and historical societies are exempt, provided solicitation of contributions is confined to their membership. This exemption applies to any subsidiary of a parent or superior organization.
Appeals for single individuals. Volunteers who solicit charitable contributions for a named individual need not register, provided the contributions collected are turned over to the named beneficiary.
Political organizations. Any bona fide union, political organization, or political action committee which does not solicit funds for a charitable purpose is exempt.
United Way. Any charitable organization receiving an allocation from a duly registered incorporated community chest or united fund is exempt, provided it does not receive contributions of $4,000 or more from other sources during any 12-month period ending June 30th.
Veterans’ organizations. All veterans’ organizations chartered or incorporated under federal law and their affiliates are exempt, provided they file all required financial reports.
Other exemptions. The following organizations are also exempt, as long as all of their fundraising is carried on by volunteers:
- volunteer firefighters and their affiliates and auxiliaries
- any nonprofit operating a nursery for infants awaiting adoption
- local parent-teacher organizations, and
- any boys’ club affiliated with the Boys’ Club of America.
How to Register
Registering requires your nonprofit to file an application with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General Charitable Trust and Solicitations Bureau and pay a filing fee. You can use either the Uniform Registration Statement or Illinois Form CO-1, Charitable Organization Registration Statement. Copies of the following documents must be included with your application:
- articles of incorporation
- copies of IRS Form 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF for the last three years, if any
- a copy of the IRS Determination Letter or, if the IRS tax-exempt determination is pending, a copy of IRS Form 1023 or 1024
- copies of all contracts with professional fundraisers
- a Certificate of Authority to do business from the Illinois Secretary of State.
The initial registration lasts indefinitely. Thus, there are no renewal requirements. However, ubject to certain exceptions, registered nonprofits must file a financial report with the Charitable Trust and Solicitations Bureau each year. Larger nonprofits must file audited financial statements
For a comprehensive guide as well as help registering in all 50 states, see Nolo's book, Nonprofit Fundraising Registration.