The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) is an association of state offices (attorneys general, secretaries of state and other offices) charged with oversight of charitable organizations and charitable solicitation in the United States. NASCO provides a forum for states to communicate and collaborate on matters of common interest related to charities oversight and enforcement. NASCO has taken a leadership role in promoting uniform state charity registration and filing requirements, amicus briefs, and multistate lawsuits targeting fundraising deception . NASCO also has drafted jurisdictional guidelines for state regulation of charitable solicitation on the Internet and worked with the Uniform Laws Commission in drafting the Model Protection of Charitable Assets Act.
NASCO also strives to provide a national, unified voice for state regulators to communicate with the IRS, the Senate Finance Committee, and other constituencies regarding national charity issues. For example, NASCO has provided comments to Congress in support of mandatory Form 990 e-filing to enable resource savings for charities in complying with government filing requirements and to enable state regulators to more efficiently identify and prevent fraud in solicitation and use of charitable gifts.
The requirements and procedures for forming charitable organizations differ from state to state, as do the registration and filing requirements for organizations that conduct charitable activities or solicit charitable contributions. Please consult the resources listed on this website for links to both national and state-specific information.
NASCO invites the public, charities and their professional advisors to participate in it annual conference held in October each year. In 2018, the NASCO Conference will be held on October 1st, 2018 at the Sheraton, Baltimore Inner Harbor, in Baltimore Maryland. Agenda and registration materials will be posted on this site in July 2018.
NASCO does not provide legal advice. We encourage you to consult your own legal counsel.
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October 1-3, 2018
Sheraton Inner Harbor
This year’s NAAG/NASCO Conference will be held in Baltimore, MD at the Sheraton Inner Harbor from October 1 – 3, 2018. The NASCO conference is the only annual event at which state charity regulators and nonprofit organizations and their attorneys and accountants have the opportunity to meet, hear about and discuss issues of interest to this community.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Charities in a World of Change.” Monday’s program will include sessions on developments in governance and accounting, updates from state regulators and discussion of both state and federal laws that affect regulators and the regulated community.
Monday’s session is open to the public and provides an opportunity for representatives of the nonprofit sector to meet and participate in discussions with state regulators. Download the 2018 NASCO Public Day Agenda. Tuesday and Wednesday’s sessions are for regulators only, providing significant opportunity for state charity regulators to discuss the latest topics and learn from each other.
FTC/NASCO Give & Take: Consumers, Contributions, and Charity: Event materials from the FTC/NASCO conference focusing on consumer protection concerns in the nonprofit sector, including available data on donor expectations and perceptions, deceptive fundraising practices, the regulatory and enforcement environment, and new charitable giving options.
Charleston Principles: Guidelines on charitable solicitations using the internet. These guidelines were approved by the NASCO Board as advisory guidelines on March 14, 2001.
Operation Donate with Honor
FTC and States Announce National Initiative to Combat Fraudulent Charities That Falsely Claim to Help Veterans and Servicemembers:
The Federal Trade Commission, along with NASCO and law enforcement officials and charity regulators from 70 offices in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, announced more than 100 actions and a consumer education initiative in “Operation Donate with Honor,” a crackdown on fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and servicemembers.
“Americans are grateful for the sacrifices made by those who serve in the U.S. armed forces,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Sadly, some con artists prey on that gratitude, using lies and deception to line their own pockets. In the process, they harm not only well-meaning donors, but also the many legitimate charities that actually do great work on behalf of veterans and servicemembers.”
The FTC planned this ongoing effort with the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO). The initiative includes an education campaign, in English and Spanish, to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said, “Time and again, state attorneys general have come together on matters of national importance to enforce, educate and advocate on behalf of our residents. Charities fraud of any kind is abhorrent, and veterans charities fraud is especially upsetting. This campaign will offer important resources to help donors identify charities that match their own values.”
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said, “While the enforcement actions announced today represent some truly bad actors in the charitable sector, the vast majority of charitable organizations do good and important work. I urge donors to use the resources highlighted in today’s announcement and to donate with confidence in support of our military and veterans.”
“Not only do fraudulent charities steal money from patriotic Americans, they also discourage contributors from donating to real Veterans’ charities,” said Peter O’Rourke, Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “The FTC’s Operation Donate with Honor campaign will help educate citizens on how to identify organizations that misrepresent themselves as legitimate veterans charities, and those who, by contrast, truly help our nation’s heroes. I commend the FTC and its state partners for taking strong action on this important issue.”
Help the Vets
Neil G. “Paul” Paulson, Sr. and Help the Vets, Inc., (HTV) will be banned from soliciting charitable contributions under settlements with the FTC and the states of Florida, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon, for falsely promising donors their contributions would help wounded and disabled veterans.
Operating under names such as American Disabled Veterans Foundation, Military Families of America, Veterans Emergency Blood Bank, Vets Fighting Breast Cancer, and Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer, HTV falsely claimed to fund medical care, a suicide prevention program, retreats for veterans recuperating from stress, and veterans fighting breast cancer. It also falsely claimed a “gold” rating by GuideStar, which provides information about nonprofits.
One letter signed by Paulson stated, “But for thousands of disabled veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving an arm and a leg isn’t simply a figure of speech – it’s a harsh reality. . . . Your $10 gift will mean so much to a disabled veteran.” But according to the FTC’s complaint, HTV did not help disabled veterans, and 95 percent of every donation was spent on fundraising, administrative expenses, and Paulson’s salary and benefits.
The defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act, the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, and laws of the six states.
In addition to the ban on soliciting charitable contributions, the proposed settlement orderbans Paulson from charity management and oversight of charitable assets. To ensure that donors to HTV are not victimized again, HTV and Paulson must destroy all donor lists and notify their fundraisers to do so.
The order imposes a judgment of $20.4 million, which represents consumers’ donations from 2014 through 2017, when HTV stopped operating. The judgment will be partially suspended when the defendants have paid a charitable contribution to one or more legitimate veterans charities recommended by the states and approved by the court. Paulson must pay $1.75 million – more than double what he was paid by HTV – and HTV must pay all of its remaining funds, $72,000.
Veterans of America
The FTC charged Travis Deloy Peterson with using fake veterans’ charities and illegal robocalls to get people to donate cars, boats and other things of value, which he then sold for his own benefit.
The scheme used various names, including Veterans of America, Vehicles for Veterans LLC, Saving Our Soldiers, Donate Your Car, Donate That Car LLC, Act of Valor, and Medal of Honor. Peterson allegedly made millions of robocalls asking people to donate automobiles, watercraft, real estate, and timeshares, falsely claiming that donations would go to veterans charities and were tax deductible.
In fact, none of the names used in the robocalls is a real charity with tax exempt status. Peterson is charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.
At the FTC’s request, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Peterson from making unlawful robocalls or engaging in misrepresentations about charitable donations while the FTC’s enforcement action is proceeding.
State Enforcement Actions
In the state actions announced today, charities and fundraisers sought donations online and via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores, falsely promising to help homeless and disabled veterans, to provide veterans with employment counseling, mental health counseling or other assistance, and to send care packages to deployed servicemembers.
Some actions charged veterans charities with using deceptive prize promotion solicitations. Others targeted non-charities that falsely claimed that donations would be tax deductible. Some cases focused on veterans charities engaged in flagrant self-dealing to benefit individuals running the charity, and some alleged that fundraisers made misrepresentations on behalf of veterans charities or stole money solicited for a veterans charity.
Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith said, “Scam artists are on the prowl, ready to take advantage of donors who want to help veterans. Make sure your donations go to reputable, well-established charities.”
Nationwide education campaign to help consumers donate wisely
The FTC and its state partners are launching an education campaign to help consumers avoid charity scams and donate wisely. The FTC has new educational materials, including a video (link is external) on how to research charities, and two new infographics. Donors and business owners can find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity. New and updated guidance includes:
The Commission wishes to thank the National Association of Attorneys General and the NAAG Charities Committee for supporting this effort.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and proposed stipulated final order against Paulson and HTV was 5-0. The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. The proposed order is subject to court approval. The Commission vote approving the complaint against Peterson was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, Central Division, entered a temporary restraining order on July 10, 2018.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court. Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.