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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 require the charity to provide information to the public so that the public can make informed decisions. 

Annual filings are available online here.

You may also wish to review the organization’s federal Form 990 on the IRS website here.

In addition, consider checking on the charity with an independent charity rating agency, such as the Better Business Bureau's www.Give.org, www.charitynavigator.org, or www.guidestar.org.

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 https://www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-complaint-about-a-charity-or-non-profit.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 990 and Form 990EZs that tax-exempt nonprofits that are not charities file with the IRS are available online here.

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.

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 this webpage

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