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across the state have signed up for accounts with the Ohio Attorney General’s new online charitable registration system. The new system, which was launched in December, will allow multiple people within an organization to have accounts in the system. Everyone with an account tied to a particular group will receive email reminders, confirmation of filings, and other notices linked with charitable registration requirements. “Our new online charitable registration system was designed in hopes of providing charity leaders with reminders and other information intended to help groups stay in compliance with their requirements,” said Pete Thomas, chief of the Charitable Law Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s office. Thomas suggests that at least three people with each organization set up accounts so that reminders and notices don’t fall through the cracks if one person moves away, changes an email address or encounters other situations that might interfere with getting registration information. “We wanted to take the guesswork out of registration for charities and designed the system to be intuitive. Based on the answers provided to certain questions, the system determines what additional information might be needed. This means people won’t have to guess what parts of the statutory provisions apply to them,” he said. The system was also designed to accommodate “power users” such as accountants, lawyers, bankers and others who may handle registration filings for multiple organizations. Those with accounts in the system can elect to add multiple organizations to the list of groups they will receive email notices for. All registered charitable organizations received a letter from Attorney General DeWine in December announcing the new system, along with an information sheet about the features of the system. Individuals attempting to complete annual filings through the system or attempting to register for the first time will find several tools to assist them in navigating through the system. It is hoped that most people will find the new system so intuitive that they will not have confusion or questions. However, there are orange question marks on the various screens that provide additional info about the questions on that page. There is also a user guide that can be referenced or downloaded. Frequently Asked Questions also provide clarifying information. People are also invited to email questions to CharitableRegistration@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or contact the office at 1-800-282-0515.
Public’s Ability to Research Charities Enhanced With New Online System For the first time, consumers interested in learning about Ohio charities can get information from the Ohio Attorney General’s web page. The brand new online charitable registration system was designed to assist charities in complying with state laws that require annual filings with the Attorney General’s office. But a wider-reaching change created with the new system makes that information available to the public. Visitors to the web page will find the Research Charities button at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/SpeakOutOhio/Research-charities. Basic contact information about the charity will appear when groups are searched by a federal employee identification number, the charity name, or even parts of their name. In addition to contact information, web users will learn if an organization is compliant with its Ohio registration requirements, or whether filings are delinquent. Following the first complete year of filings with the new system, additional financial information will be provided about each group. “Donors need to ask questions and seek information about a group and its activities when they are considering making a gift,” said Pete Thomas, chief of the Charitable Law Section. “We hope to add additional tools over time that will assist Ohioans in making wise donor decisions.” Thomas said that citizens can always contact the Ohio Attorney General’s office with additional questions or concerns about charitable organizations or fundraising efforts. “We rely on information from the public in order to take action against scam charities and fundraisers,” he said. “Our goal is to protect the limited resources of Ohio’s charities so they can continue offering important programs and services to the public.” Board Governance and Policies Is Critical For Every Group Charitable board members are the first line of defense in protecting charitable assets. The adoption and monitoring of policies and procedures are critical in these efforts. Charitable organizations should have policies on conflicts of interest, records retention, whistleblower protection, cash management and internal controls, to name a few. The Charitable Law Section would like to compile sample policies to share with organizations reviewing governance matters. Do you have organizational policies you would be willing to share? We might or might not redact out identifying information about your organization. Let us know if that makes a difference. So if you think your organization has some sound policies in place that might be helpful for other organizations, please email it to CharitableLaw@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov. It would be most helpful to receive the policies in Word format.
Bingo School Schedule for 2012 Set Bingo School is a training program offered each year by the Charitable Law Section that reviews legal and recordkeeping requirements for organizations that hold or are considering applying for a bingo license. The laws surrounding the operation of traditional bingo and instant bingo tickets require organizations to keep close track of proceeds in order to protect funds that are used to support charitable activities. Bingo school is an ideal way for groups considering bingo to get an idea of the various responsibilities involved. The training is also a handy refresher for new officers and members of organizations that hold a bingo license. Because the recordkeeping requirement differ for 501(c)(3) groups and non-501(c)(3) organizations, separate recordkeeping sessions are presented. Participants can register online at http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Services/NonProfits/Services-for-Bingo/Bingo-School. Be certain to register for the proper training times based on whether your organization is a 501(3)(3) or a veteran/fraternal/sporting organization. The 2012 Bingo School schedule includes the following training dates and locations: May 1, Cincinnati May 15, Columbus Sept. 5, Columbus Sept. 27, Columbus Oct. 2, Findlay Oct. 23, Independence Nov. 1, Columbus Nov. 14, Columbus AGO Adds a New Webinar Offering on Charitable Registration The monthly webinars on charitable board governance issues have been positively received by organizations throughout the state. So the Charitable Law Section is expanding its webinar offerings to include one on charitable registration and the new online registration system. Participants, who must have access to the internet and the ability to access a telephone in order to dial in to the audio, must register through the web page in advance. Participants will receive an email confirming the webinar details with a link to access the webinar. Board governance webinars will continue on the first Wednesday of each month at noon. This training provides a quick, broad overview of the responsibilities of board members. The charitable registration webinars will begin in May on the third Wednesday of each month at noon. To register for either webinar, visit http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Services/NonProfits/Resources-for-Non-profit-Board-Members
IRS Enhances Its Web-based Tools for Charitable Organizations The IRS has recently redesigned several of its web pages commonly used by charitable organizations. Its StayExempt educational website for exempt organizations, (http://www.stayexempt.irs.gov/), now has three major gateways – one for new groups considering filing for tax exemption, one for existing organizations, and a third tab for indepth topics. Do You Want to Host Other Charities For A Local Board Governance Training? The Charitable Law Section will send staff members out in the communities across the state to provide live training on the legal responsibilities of board members if there are gatherings of multiple charity representatives. Trainings can run one to three hours. Because of limited resources, staff can’t visit every individual charitable board meeting. But if you are willing to host a gathering for multiple charity leaders, drop an email to CharitableLaw@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov with some possible dates. We will check to see if a speaker is available. The integrity of the charitable sector is built on the premise that board members are providing proper oversight. These trainings include pointers on steps boards can take in reviewing their governance activities. Governor Signs Bill Updating Nonprofit Transactions Gov. John Kasich recently signed House Bill 267, which updates transactional details contained in R.C. 1702. The bill, which will not be effective until spring, adopts the Revised Uniform Unincorporated Nonprofit Association Act and addresses issues affecting unincorporated associations. Lawyers with questions about the new provisions can contact the Charitable Law Section at 1-800-282-0515.
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