Charity Registration In The News: Mary J. Blige Foundation

Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now's logo
Performer Mary J. Blige’s, Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now is under investigation for not filing its annual charity registration with the New York attorney general, among other things.

The NY Post story doesn’t go into detail, but that’s not newsworthy. (Though I love their headline: “Mary J. Bilk.”)

A search of the the NY AG’s charity bureau database shows there hasn’t been a registration filing by the organization since 2009. The form for charity registration annual renewal is the CHAR 500. The Foundation requested multiple extensions for filing the federal IRS form 990, and those extensions are quite common.

The 990 is part of New York state’s annual renewal, so the failure to prepare the 990 may have led to the lack of filing of the New York renewals.

Here is a sample of other charities that made news by not keeping up with charity registration laws:

Georgia foundation
Connecticut police charity
New York charity caught by New Jersey attorney general (third from last paragraph)

You’ve got to keep up with registrations in each state where you solicit donations. (Here’s a video from an AFP conference to explain that if you’ve got a “Donate Now” button on your site, you are soliciting in many states.)

By not complying, you open your charity up to investigations and public scrutiny. And your board members, as fiduciaries, suffer the risk of personal liability for the organization’s failures to comply with laws. In a lot of states there are civil and even criminal penalties, including fines. Plus, it’s just bad business.

I offer compliance motivation to the Direct Marketing Association in this video.

If you want help getting into compliance, let’s talk. If you want to do it yourself, I wrote Charity Registration: State-by-State Guidelines for Compliance.

One way or another, get into compliance and keep up with renewals.

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