Frequently Asked Questions for this Division

Catastrophic Illness Trust

  • What is a Catastrophic Illness Trust

    A “Catastrophic Illness Trust” is defined as a trust or custodial account established to benefit those with a catastrophic illness, or a severe illness requiring prolonged hospitalization and/or doctors and medicines. Trustees or a bank or trust company acting as trustee are required to provide notice to the Division of Charitable Solicitations on establishment of the trust. This notice is required before soliciting donations in the State of Tennessee.

    The trustees, other than a bank or trust company acting as trustee, are also required to file with the Division of Charitable Solicitations an annual accounting of the trust on the anniversary of the establishment of the trust. This accounting must include all revenue and expenditures of the trust. The trustees must keep true and accurate financial records of the trust for no less than three (3) years. In addition, the Secretary of State may compel additional production of documents, exhibits, or things by any person which the Secretary believes to be pertinent in conducting any investigation.

Existing Charities

  • Does your office grant extensions on filing a renewal application? 

    Yes, for good cause shown (e.g. application for extension to file an exempt organization return that was filed with the IRS), the division may extend the time for filing a renewal application for a period not to exceed ninety (90) days, during which time the previous registration remains in effect.   An organization may request a second extension of time for a period of sixty (60) days, as long as it provides proof that it has been granted an extension of time to file with the IRS.

  • How can I check the status of a charity?

    The Tennessee Secretary of State offers an online search of charities.  Please note, if you do not locate the organization, please consider the following:

    • Organization could be exempt from the registration process by statute. Click HERE to learn more.
    • Organization may file as a $50,000 and Under organization. To search those organizations, please click HERE.
    • Make sure you are searching under the official legal name of the organization.
  • How much does it cost to renew a charitable organization?

     The fee for renewing your registration is based on the following scale:

    GROSS REVENUE REGISTRATION FEE

    $0 – $48,999.99                                 $10
    $49,000.00 –   $99,999.99                 $10
    $100,000.00 – $249,999.99               $10 
    $250,000.00 – $499,999.99               $10 
    $500,000.00 and above                    $10

  • What are the penalties if an organization violates the Charitable Solicitations Act? 

    A civil penalties up to $5,000 may be imposed for each and any violation.  Further, anyone who willfully and knowingly violates any provision of the Charitable Solicitations Act, or willfully and knowingly gives false or incorrect information in filing statements or reports to the division commits a Class B misdemeanor.  A second or subsequent offense is a Class E felony. 

  • What is a contribution?

    “Contributions" means the promise or grant of any money or property of any kind or value, including the payment or promise to pay in consideration of a sale, performance or show of any kind which is advertised or offered in conjunction with the name of any charity.  “Contribution” does not include bona fide fees, dues or assessments paid by members; provided, that membership is not conferred solely as consideration for making a contribution in response to a solicitation.  See T.C.A. §48-101-501(3).

  • What is a solicitation?

    "Solicit" or "solicitation" means any oral or written request, however, communicated, whether directly or indirectly, for a contribution.  See T.C.A. §48-101-501(11).

  • What charitable organizations are exempt from registration? 

    Organizations that are exempt from the registration requirements of the Act include bona fide religious institutions, as defined by T.C.A. §48-101-502(c); educational institutions and supporting organizations as defined by T.C.A. §48-101-502(b); volunteer fire departments, rescue squads and local civil defense organizations; political parties, candidates, and Political Action Committees; hospitals; nursing homes; any corporation established by an act of congress of the United States that is required by federal law to submit annual reports of its activities to congress containing itemized accounts of all receipts and expenditures after being fully audited by the department of defense; and organizations that do not intend to solicit and receive and do not actually raise or receive gross contributions from the public in excess of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) during a fiscal year. Organizations that do not intend to solicit and do not actually raise or receive gross contributions from the public in excess of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) during a fiscal year must file an Exemption Request annually.

  • When is my charitable renewal registration due?

    Yes, the organization must renew its registration by the last day of the 6th month after the end of its accounting year.

Gaming

  • Are accounting reports or post event financial data required?

    Yes. A financial report is due 90 days after the annual event date stated in your application. If gross revenue from an event exceeds $50,000 an audited financial statement is also required. Also, organizations must return at least 25% of its gross proceeds of the event back to its stated charitable purpose or program.

  • Are political candidates and campaigns allowed to conduct raffles or other games of chance?

    No. The law only allows qualified 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations to hold gaming events. Political candidates and campaigns for public office are not considered 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) tax exempt organizations.

  • Are there individuals who are not allowed to purchase tickets?

    Yes. The individuals who are not allowed to purchase tickets include:

    • Any member of the board of directors of a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization authorized by the general assembly to operate an annual event for such organization.
    • Any officer or employee of a 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization authorized by the general assembly to operate an annual event for such organization.
    • Any immediate family member residing in the same household as the board of directors or an officer/employee of the organization. (The Charitable Gaming Law defines immediate family as spouse, child, step-child, brother, sister, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, parent or grandparent)
    • Any member of the general assembly during such member's term of office as a member of the general assembly.
    • The Secretary of State or any employee of the Secretary during the Secretary's term of office and such employee's term of employment with the Secretary.
    • Any vendors including employees, agents, or subcontractors (also includes immediate family members of the same household) who provide printing services, telephone services, and any records, devices, or other gaming-related supplies and those who provide prizes for the authorized annual gaming event.
  • I am not raising money for a charity; I can conduct a raffle, right?

    No. Only qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organizations that have applied and been approved are allowed to hold a raffle. Holding a raffle would be a violation of law and subject to criminal prosecution.

  • If 25% is not returned to the charitable purpose or program, what does the organization need to do?

    The nonprofit must file a notice with the Division stating the reason less than 25% was returned to its charitable purpose or program. If this happens in two (2) consecutive years, the nonprofit will be disqualified from applying or holding future gaming events for a period of five (5) years.

  • If the political candidate or campaign asks for a donation to be entered into a drawing, is that allowed?

    No. If someone is required to pay for a chance to win a prize, it is considered a raffle. Only qualified and approved 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations may hold a raffle. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

  • May two 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organizations jointly operate an annual event?

    Yes, however each participating organization must file an application and each pay the required fee. All applicants must qualify.  If one organization fails to qualify, then participants will be rejected.

  • What are the consequences for holding an unauthorized event?

    If the Secretary of State is notified of an unapproved event, the Division will notify the local district attorney general. Conducting an unapproved game of chance may be a violation of the criminal gaming statute, and local law enforcement has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for the event.

  • What happens if the reports are not filed?

    An organization that fails to submit the report by 90 days will be responsible for a $10.00 per month late fee. If a report is not filed at all, action may be taken against the organization. Failure to timely file in 2 of 3 consecutive gaming event periods could result in disqualification from conducting future events.

  • What is a raffle?

    A raffle is a game of chance in which a participant is required to purchase a ticket for a chance to win a prize, with the winner to be determined by random drawing.

  • When can an organization begin selling tickets?

    Organizations with an approved gaming event can begin selling tickets 120 days before the event.

  • Who is allowed to hold a raffle?

    Only a qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization that has submitted an application to the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and that has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly can hold a raffle.

  • Whom do I contact if I find out about a game of chance that is not approved?

    Please contact the district attorney for the county in which you believe the game of chance is taking place or contact Charitable Solicitations at (615) 741-2555 and the Division will notify the appropriate authorities.

New Charities

  • Does it matter which officers sign the Charitable Organization registration form?

    Yes, the initial registration and renewal forms shall be signed by two (2) authorized officers of the charitable organization, one of whom shall be the chief fiscal officer

  • How do I get a 501(c)(3) letter?

    The IRS grants federal tax exempt status. Contact information and detailed explanations of the tax exemption approval process can be found on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

  • How does an organization register as a charity?

    An organization must file an Application for Registration of a Charitable Organization, along with its organizing documents (e.g. a charter) and, if it has obtained one, a letter of determination of tax-exempt status from the IRS.  If an organization has completed an accounting year, it must file also file a Summary of Financial Activities form, an IRS form 990 (if the organization is required to file such), and an audited financial statement if its revenues exceed $500,000, excluding government grants and grants from private foundations.

  • How much does it cost to register a charitable organization? 

    The initial registration fee is $10 dollars.

  • What can I do if the application for registration is denied? 

    You can edit and resubmit the registration again and include those items for which the previous application was denied.  Additionally, if you believe the application was denied in error, the organization can ask for a hearing.  The request must be made within 7 days of the date you receive notification that your application has been denied.  A hearing shall occur within 7 days of receiving your request for a hearing.  A determination shall be reached within 3 business days of your hearing.

  • What is a charitable organization?

    “Charitable organization” means a group which is or holds itself out to be a benevolent, educational, voluntary health, philanthropic, humane, patriotic, religious or eleemosynary organization, or for the benefit of law enforcement personnel, firefighters, or other persons who protect the public safety, or any person who solicits or obtains contributions solicited from the public for charitable purposes.  “Charitable organization” does not include any authorized individual who solicits, by authority of the organization, solely on behalf of a registered or exempt organization, or on behalf of an organization excluded from the definition of a charitable organization.

  • What is a contribution?

    “Contributions" means the promise or grant of any money or property of any kind or value, including the payment or promise to pay in consideration of a sale, performance or show of any kind which is advertised or offered in conjunction with the name of any charity.  “Contribution” does not include bona fide fees, dues or assessments paid by members; provided, that membership is not conferred solely as consideration for making a contribution in response to a solicitation.  See T.C.A. §48-101-501(3).

  • What is a solicitation?

    "Solicit" or "solicitation" means any oral or written request, however, communicated, whether directly or indirectly, for a contribution.  See T.C.A. §48-101-501(11).

  • What charitable organizations are exempt from registration? 

    Organizations that are exempt from the registration requirements of the Act include bona fide religious institutions, as defined by T.C.A. §48-101-502(c); educational institutions and supporting organizations as defined by T.C.A. §48-101-502(b); volunteer fire departments, rescue squads and local civil defense organizations; political parties, candidates, and Political Action Committees; hospitals; nursing homes; any corporation established by an act of congress of the United States that is required by federal law to submit annual reports of its activities to congress containing itemized accounts of all receipts and expenditures after being fully audited by the department of defense; and organizations that do not intend to solicit and receive and do not actually raise or receive gross contributions from the public in excess of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) during a fiscal year. Organizations that do not intend to solicit and do not actually raise or receive gross contributions from the public in excess of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) during a fiscal year must file an Exemption Request annually.

Professional Solicitor

  • Is a Professional Solicitor required to make any disclosures when soliciting?

    Yes, a professional solicitor shall, prior to orally requesting a contribution and at the same time a written request for a contribution is made, clearly and conspicuously disclose at the point of solicitation the solicitor’s name as on file with the Division of Charitable Solicitation and Gaming and that the solicitation is being conducted by a “paid solicitor”.  In the case of a solicitation campaign conducted orally, professional solicitors are required to send written confirmation to each person who has contributed or pledged to contribute within five (5) days after that person has been solicited.  The written confirmation shall include the above disclosure.

  • May a Professional Solicitor sell tickets to a fundraising event for a charity?

    Yes, however, in the case of events to which tickets are being donated to a charitable organization, the professional solicitor is responsible for attaining a written commitment from the charitable organization stating that they will accept donated tickets and specifying the number of tickets they are willing to accept.  No more contributions for donated tickets that will be accepted may be solicited by the professional solicitor.

  • What is a commercial co-venturer?

    A commercial co-venturer is any person who is organized for profit; is regularly and primarily engaged in trade or commerce, other than in connection with soliciting for charitable or civic organizations or charitable purposes; and conducts an advertised charitable sales promotion for a specific limited period of time.  The charitable organization being promoted by the co-venturer must be duly registered or be exempt from registration with the Division of Charitable Solicitations.  Commercial co-venturers are required to have a written agreement with the charitable organization on whose behalf the sales promotion is to be conducted.  Such co-venturers are also required to keep all records in connection with the charitable sales promotion for no less than three (3) years after the end date of the promotion.

  • What is a professional fundraising counsel?

    "Professional fundraising counsel" means any person who, for compensation, plans, manages, advises, consults, or prepares material for a charitable organization for the solicitation of contributions in this state, but who does not solicit contributions and does not employ, procure, or engage any person to solicit contributions on behalf of a charitable organization. "Professional fundraising counsel" does not include an attorney, investment counselor, bona fide salaried officer, employee, volunteer, or banker who in the conduct of such person's profession advises a client.  See T.C.A. §48-101-501(6).

  • What is a professional solicitor?

    "Professional solicitor" means any person who, for a financial or other consideration, solicits contributions for, or on behalf of, a charitable organization, whether such solicitation is performed personally or through such person's agents, servants or employees or through agents, servants or employees specially employed by or for a charitable organization, who are engaged in the solicitation of contributions under the direction of such person, or a person who plans, conducts, manages, carries on or advises a charitable organization in connection with the solicitation of contributions.  Any independent marketing agent or entity to whom a professional solicitor assigns fundraising or solicitation responsibilities shall be deemed to be a professional solicitor for purposes of this part.  A salaried officer or permanent employee of a charitable organization is not deemed to be a professional solicitor.  However, any salaried officer or employee of a charitable organization that engages in the solicitation of contributions for compensation in any manner for more than one (1) charitable organization is deemed a professional solicitor.  A professional solicitor does not include an attorney, investment counselor, or banker who in the conduct of such person's profession advises a client.  See T.C.A. §48-101-501(7).