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Frequently asked questions about supporting charities

Have a question about donating to charity? It may already have been answered by the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division of the Attorney General's Office. See below for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

Q: What do I need to know to tell if a charity that is soliciting is legitimate?

A: The Attorney General's Office (AGO) can only tell you if a particular charity has registered with our Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division and is in compliance with its legal reporting requirements in Massachusetts.

Registration does not imply any endorsement by the Attorney General's Office. However, it does make sure that the charity must provide information to the public so that the public can make informed decisions. 

You may also wish to review the organization's federal Form 990 filed with the IRS at GuideStar.org or check on it with an independent charity rating agency, such as the Better Business Bureau's Give.org.

Please contact the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division at (617) 727-2200, ext. 2101, to report any suspicious or misleading fundraising activities. Please keep in mind that you are not obligated to contribute to any organization, even if you have previously indicated you would do so.

Q: Where can I find financial information for nonprofit organizations which are not required to file with the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division?

A: The federal Form 990s or Form 990EZs that tax-exempt nonprofits that are not charities file with the IRS are available online at Guidestar.org, or can be requested from the IRS's Brookhaven Service Center at:

Brookhaven Service Center
P.O. Box 400
Holtsville, NY 11742
(516) 654-6766

Please note: groups with annual revenue below $25,000 are not required to file with the IRS for that year, although many do.

Q: Are the annual filings submitted by charities public records? How can the public view them? Can I make copies?

A: Yes, annual filings are public records under the law. Annual filings are available online at www.mass.gov/ago/charitiesreports. Copies of annual filings may also be obtained by submitting a request to the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division by: 

  • mail at One Ashburton Place, 18 th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts, 02108;
  • email at charities@state.ma.us
  • phone at (617) 727-2200, ext. 2101.

Please note, however, that persons requesting copies from the Division will be required to pay a fee of $0.25 per page so members of the public are strongly encouraged to use online access.

Q: If I have a complaint about a charity, what should I do?

A: If you have concerns about issues such as possible fraudulent activities, misleading fundraising solicitations, or the misuse of charitable funds, and wish to make a complaint, please visit the AGO website explaining the Oversight and Enforcement Role with Charitable Funds and Fundraising.

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