Make the Most of Your Charitable Donation Decisions
The Department's Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations administers the state's charitable solicitation law and maintains registration and financial information on over 12,500 charities soliciting in the Commonwealth, as well as over 400 professional solicitors and fundraising counsels.
Every legitimate charity shares a mutual goal with the department: to protect the public from fraudulent and unscrupulous organizations. With this in mind, the Bureau continues its ambitious public awareness campaign to promote informed charitable giving and aggressively pursue fraudulent solicitation in the Commonwealth.
Most charitable organizations deserve our generous support. However, there are also many unscrupulous organizations soliciting in Pennsylvania that employ fraudulent or deceptive fundraising tactics to prey upon those who willingly extend a helping hand.
Through education, registration and enforcement, the department has encouraged thousands of charitable organizations to come into compliance with state law and register with the bureau. Investigation and audit staff in the department conduct detailed financial reviews, conduct investigations and refer findings of fraudulent fundraising schemes to the Bureau's prosecuting attorney or the state Attorney General.
The Department has participated in senior expos and consumer fairs across the Commonwealth, distributing posters, brochures and magnets to Pennsylvanians. The Department also produced and distributed copies of a public service announcement to television stations for broadcast in Pennsylvania. Each of these outreach tools lists the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organization’s toll-free telephone hotline (1-800-732-0999) that Pennsylvanians can call to learn more about a particular charitable organization, or to report a fraudulent or deceptive solicitation practice in Pennsylvania. Additionally, consumers can use the online search feature (www.charities.pa.gov
) to find detailed financial information on organizations currently registered with the Bureau.
With the addition of investigation and audit staff, the Department has initiated detailed financial reviews, conducted investigations and referred findings of fraudulent fundraising schemes to the state Attorney General’s office for prosecution.
REGISTRATION OF CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS
There are over 12,500 charitable organizations and over 400 professional fundraising counsels and solicitors registered in Pennsylvania. The Bureau's operations are fully funded by registration fees and fines that are collected for violations of the Act.
Depending upon its level of contributions, an organization may also be required to file reviewed or audited financial statements with its registration.
PUBLIC AWARENESS AND EDUCATION
The Bureau's primary function is to preserve the public's confidence in the charities that solicit funds in Pennsylvania.
The public can obtain basic information about how a charitable organization spends its contributions by calling the Bureau toll-free within Pennsylvania at 1-800-732-0999 or at 717-783-1720. They can also call these numbers to register complaints about improper conduct by charitable organizations, professional fundraising counsels, or professional solicitors.
INVESTIGATORY PROCEDURES AND ENFORCEMENT
With the merits of charitable organizations getting more attention nationally, the Bureau retooled its resources in late 1995 to expand its investigative capabilities as permitted by statute.
In the past, the Bureau had a limited investigatory role regarding violations of the Act, concentrating mainly on the registration component of its statutory responsibilities. Enforcement was primarily limited to matters related to failure to properly register.
To more closely scrutinize registration and financial materials filed with the Bureau and to enhance investigative and prosecutorial capabilities, the Bureau added four auditors, five investigators, and a prosecuting attorney to its complement to assist with more detailed audits and investigations triggered by both complaints and annual reviews. The Bureau works closely with the Attorney General's Office, Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section, on enforcement matters. In the most severe cases, the Secretary of the Commonwealth has the authority to issue Cease and Desist Orders; refuse to register or revoke or suspend the registration of any charitable organization, professional fundraising counsel or professional solicitor; and impose fines of up to $1,000 per violation and additional penalties of up to $100 per day.