The Office of the Attorney General (AGO) regulates over 22,000 public charities. Most charities rely on donations from the public to accomplish their goals. Some charities raise funds on their own, and some hire professional fundraising organizations to raise funds on their behalf. Professional solicitors are individuals or businesses that are hired by a public charity to do fundraising on behalf of the charity. A professional solicitor may also organize a fundraising event for or on behalf of a charity. In some cases they might be hired by a non-charity to conduct a fundraising campaign that includes a charitable appeal.
Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 68, § 24, each professional solicitor must register with the AGO and must file certain information about each fundraising campaign it conducts. A professional solicitor must file the following:
- Registration Statement (containing identifying information):
- $25,000 bond:
- Filing fee of $1,000, made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- With respect to each campaign,:
- a copy of the fundraising contract along with Form 10A, Registration Addendum (to be filed with registration or within 10 days or signing and prior to the commencement of any solicitation)
- Form 11A, Financial Statement (containing financial results of the campaign) (to be filed by February 28 following the calendar year in which a charitable solicitation took place)
Each year, the AGO releases a report on the amount of charitable contributions raised by professional solicitors and the amount of those contributions that went to the charity, as opposed to monies raised and retained by the professional solicitor to fund the campaign or as a fee for their service. There is no requirement that a minimum percentage or amount of funds donated through professional solicitor campaigns be passed through to the charity on whose behalf the donations are given. In fact the United States Supreme Court has held that charitable solicitation is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment and that states are not permitted to establish a requirement that a minimum percentage of funds raised through solicitors go to the charity.
Because the amount of donations going to the charity may vary widely and cannot be directly regulated by the Commonwealth, the AGO issues this report as a source of information and a reminder to the donating public that persons seeking donations may be professional for-profit solicitors and may be paid from the proceeds of charitable fundraising campaigns. The AGO compiles this information using the annual financial data provided on Form 11A. These reports outline the financial results of those individual campaigns conducted in Massachusetts during the corresponding calendar year.