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FAQ: Internet fundraising

Resource Center - Foundation

Q. What are the requirements regarding state registration, related to Internet fundraising?

A. States have not shown any special urgency to address this issue but may begin to in the next couple of years. The lack of clarity on this issue can be a minefield for nonprofits that don't watch where they step. But some guidelines do exist.

The National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) has released its Internet fundraising guidelines, the Charleston Principles. The principles are not binding and are simply meant to help states develop their own regulatory approach to the Internet. Organizations should note that email solicitations automatically trigger registration requirements, just as a letter or fax would.

Under the Charleston Principles, organizations that are domiciled within a state and use a website to solicit contributions must register with that state. Organizations located outside a particular state must register if they use their website to specifically target people in that state or receive contributions from the state on a repeated and ongoing basis or a substantial basis through its website. The principles don't specifically define "ongoing" or "substantial" -- that's left up to each individual state.

Q. What are the steps (and the costs) in getting started?

A. Methods and costs of getting online vary widely. If you don't have a dynamic, user-friendly website, you'll need to create one and keep it updated. Securing online donations (if you want to offer that service) is expensive, but a 'must.' You will also need to decide on the scope and type of your program, and whether the operation will be in-house or contracted to a third party. All of these variables can have an impact on the time, staff and financial resources needed.

To get you started AFP has published these Internet Guidelines:

See also:

For more FAQs, please visit the AFP Fundraising Resource Center FAQ Blog at

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