California Attorney General Oversight Of Charities

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The Attorney General regulates charities and the professional fundraisers who solicit on their behalf. The purpose of this oversight is to protect charitable assets for their intended use and ensure that the charitable donations contributed by Californians are not misapplied and squandered through fraud or other means. The main elements of the Attorney General's regulatory program are:

  • The attorneys and auditors of the Charitable Trusts Section investigate and bring legal actions against charities and fundraising professionals that misuse charitable assets or engage in fraudulent fundraising practices.

  • The Registry of Charitable Trusts administers the statutory registration program. All charitable trustees and fundraising professionals are required to register and file annual financial disclosure reports with the Registry. In addition, nonprofit organizations that conduct raffles for charitable purposes are required to register and file an annual financial report. Charitable trustees, see General Guide for Initial Registration. Commercial fundraisers, see Commercial Fundraiser Forms. Nonprofits seeking to hold raffles, see Nonprofit Raffle Program Forms.

  • To help charities stay within the law, the Attorney General makes available various guides and publications, including the Attorney General's Guide for Charities. Additional guidance for charities is available on the Attorney General's Publications and Resources pages.

  • The Attorney General also offers guidance to help Californians make important personal decisions on charitable giving. These resources include the Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors and searchable databases to learn about specific charities and charitable fundraising professionals in the state. Among the databases are Registry Search, for registrants generally, and CFR Search, which provides information and documents regarding commercial fundraisers for charitable purposes.

Charity Research Resources

The Registry Verification Search tool allows a registrant's public filings to be viewed and downloaded from the Registry database. These public filings include a copy of the annual informational return (Forms 990, 990-PF, and 990-EZ) filed with the Registry, as well as registration forms and documents that organizations are required to file with the Registry of Charitable Trusts.

Notice to Attorney General in Probate Matters

The Attorney General's office must be given notice of any matter involving a gift to charity, assets held in charitable trust, disposition or gifts of assets to an unnamed charitable beneficiary or property that may escheat to the State of California. For a summary of statutes that require notice to the Attorney General, please refer to the Notice Requirements.

Notice to or Request of Waiver from the Attorney General Before Taking Certain Actions

California law requires directors of charitable corporations to give notice or obtain consent from the Attorney General before taking certain actions. The following are transactions requiring notice or Attorney General approval:

  • Voluntary dissolution. See Guide for Dissolving a California Nonprofit Corporation.

  • Sale or disposal of all or substantially all corporate assets.

  • Merger of a public benefit corporation.

  • Conversion of a public benefit corporation to a mutual benefit or business corporation.

  • Self-dealing transactions.

  • Loans to directors/officers of a public benefit corporation.

  • Sale or transfer of nonprofit health facilities.

The Nonprofit Transactions Requiring Notice or Attorney General Approval publication contains detailed information regarding each of the above-identified transactions and providing notice to the Attorney General's office.

If your nonprofit organization needs assistance in registering with or providing notice to or requesting a waiver from the Attorney General's office, please contact our office.