Nonprofit Fundraising Registration Rules for Pennsylvania

If your nonprofit is doing fundraising in Pennsylvania, it likely has to register with the Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Charitable Organizations.

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If your nonprofit is doing fundraising in Pennsylvania, it likely has to register with the Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Charitable Organizations and renew the registration each year, unless it falls within one of the exemptions.

When Registration Is Required

Unless exempt, all organizations soliciting charitable contributions from Pennsylvania residents must register with the Bureau of Charitable Organizations.

Exemptions From Registration

The following types of organizations are exempt from Pennsylvania's registration requirements under its charitable solicitations law. You are not required to apply for an exemption.

$25,000 exemption. Any charitable organization that receives gross national contributions of $25,000 or less annually is exempt as long as it does not pay anyone to conduct solicitations. When calculating your $25,000 limit, you don’t need to count government grants or contracts or membership dues or similar payments.

Religious institutions. Any religious institution, and any separate group or corporation that forms an integral part of a religious institution, is exempt provided it is primarily supported by government grants or contracts, funds solicited from its own membership, congregation, or previous donors, or fees charged for services. These religious organizations are excluded from Pennsylvania's definition of a "charitable organization." Thus, the state's charitable solicitations law does not apply to them at all.

Educational institutions. Accredited educational institutions and auxiliary associations, foundations, and support groups that are directly responsible to educational institutions, are exempt. Publicly supported nonprofit libraries are also exempt if they file annual reports with the Pennsylvania State Library System.

PTAs. Local parent teacher organizations are exempt if they are recognized in a notarized letter from a school district.

Law enforcement, firefighters, public safety organizations. Any bona fide law enforcement or firefighter organization, or other organization that protects public safety is exempt, provided that its stated purpose in the solicitation does not include benefits to any person outside the organization's active membership.

Hospitals. Hospitals and hospital foundations are exempt if they are regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health or the Department of Public Welfare.

Other exemptions. The following organizations and their auxiliaries or affiliates are exempt if no one is paid to do fundraising:

  • veterans' organizations chartered under federal law
  • volunteer firemen
  • ambulance associations
  • rescue squad associations, and
  • nonprofit, tax-exempt senior citizen centers and nursing homes.

How to Register

Registering requires your nonprofit to file an application with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth Bureau of Charitable Organizations and pay a filing fee. You can file your application online or file the Uniform Registration Statement or the state application Form BCO-10, Charitable Organization Registration. Copies of the following documents must be included with your application:

Renewal Registration

You must renew your registration annually for each fiscal year you solicit contributions from Pennsylvania residents. An annual financial report must be included with the annual renewal. Your renewal must be filed within 135 days (4 1/2 months) after the close of your nonprofit's fiscal year. If you use the calendar year, it is due by May 15th. This is the same deadline as for filing IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Other Requirements

If your nonprofit is located in Pennsylvania and is exempt from registering under the state's charitable solicitations laws (see “Exemptions,” above), you may still be required to register annually under another Pennsylvania law called the Purely Public Charity Act, 10 Penn. Statutes, Sections 371 through 385. This law requires a nonprofit organization receiving or claiming exemption from Pennsylvania property or sales taxes to file a one page annual report and a copy of its IRS Form 990 with the Department of State's Bureau of Charitable Organization and pay a $15 fee. You must file the report with the Bureau within 135 days after the close of your nonprofit's fiscal year, unless you are granted an extension. See the state website for the report form and instructions.

Your nonprofit need not file this report if your nonprofit has already registered under the state charitable solicitations laws.

You should still file the annual report, but need not provide copies of any IRS forms or pay a fee if your nonprofit is a religious organization or receives less than $25,000 in contributions per year.

Further Information

The Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Charitable Organizations has a website with charity registration information.

For a comprehensive guide as well as help registering in all 50 states, see Nolo's book, Nonprofit Fundraising Registration.

May 2013

by: , J.D.

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