I just created a charity in Ohio. Do I need to register my charity? Do I need to file with the Ohio Secretary of State? Is there anything else I should be thinking about?
There are many factors to consider when starting an Ohio charity. Because of this, we strongly recommend that you seek the advice of private legal counsel to discuss whether you want to incorporate as a nonprofit corporation, whether you want to seek tax-exempt status with the IRS, whether or not you need to register with the Ohio Attorney General, and what other rules and regulations you should be aware of. Generally, all Ohio charities must register with the attorney general’s office unless they qualify for a special exemption.
In addition to seeking private legal counsel, you also may want to review the Ohio Attorney General's Starting and Maintaining a Charity in Ohio page, "Nonprofit Handbook," "Online Charitable Registration Information Sheet," and "Charitable Registration and Filing User Guide," as well as the Ohio Secretary of State’s "Your Guide to Starting a Nonprofit in Ohio."
The board of my charitable organization is changing. Do we have any reporting requirements with the Ohio Attorney General when a new board takes control?
The organization will need to report the new board members on its next annual report. Any changes to the articles of incorporation or other governing documents should be provided as soon as possible to the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section by emailing CharitableLaw@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
Can a nonprofit corporation's board members or general members request to see the charity's accounting records?
Yes. Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 1702.15 states: "Each corporation shall keep correct and complete books and records of account, together with minutes of the proceedings of its incorporators, members, directors, and committees of the directors or members. Subject to limitations prescribed in the articles or the regulations upon the right of members of a corporation to examine the books and records, all books and records of a corporation, including the membership records prescribed by ORC Section 1702.13, may be examined by any member or director or the agent or attorney of either, for any reasonable and proper purpose and at any reasonable time.”
Is the Ohio Attorney General a necessary party to actions concerning charitable trusts?
Yes. In Ohio, the attorney general is a necessary party to charitable trust proceedings that involve:
- actions to terminate a charitable trust or to distribute assets (including times where a charity is dissolving and the assets are being distributed by court order)
- actions to change the purpose of the trust (including times when the court uses its cy pres or deviation authority to find a different purpose for the charitable trust or change how the trust is administered)
- actions to determine or construe the provisions of the charitable trust
- actions to determine the validity of a will that includes provisions for a charitable trust (this comes up frequently when there is a will contest where the will awards some money or assets to charity); the attorney general must be named as a party in these instances pursuant to ORC Section 109.25
My charity wants to hold a fundraiser. What types of charitable gaming can we conduct? Can we hold a poker tournament, Monte Carlo night, or night at the races? What kinds of items can we raffle?
For questions pertaining to charitable gaming, please view our Charitable Gaming page. Also consult Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 2915 and private legal counsel to determine if your proposed activity is allowed by law. This chapter also outlines specific limitations on locations and frequency for certain activities. You also can review the Ohio Attorney General’s Policy 201 for information on games of chance.
Can my charity fundraise by holding a bake sale, T-shirt sale, or spaghetti dinner?
Generally, yes. All of these fundraising examples are considered solicitations and are governed by ORC Chapter 1716. As long as your fundraiser is conducted in accordance with ORC Chapter 1716, it is permissible under Ohio’s charitable organizations law. If your proposed activity includes charitable gaming, please consult ORC Chapter 2915 and the Ohio Attorney General’s Policy 201. Contact your local health department about restrictions on the sale of food.
My organization is a veteran or fraternal group. Do special fundraising rules apply to us?
Possibly. In some circumstances, ORC Chapter 2915 establishes different rules for 501(c)(3) organizations and other types of 501(c) organizations, including 501(c)(4), (c)(7), (c)(8), (c)(10), and (c)(19) organizations. For example, for bingo and raffles, veteran or fraternal organizations must devote a certain percentage of the proceeds to a 501(C)(3) organization. Please consult ORC Chapter 2915 and private legal counsel to determine what rules apply to your specific organization and fundraising event.
Can I have liquor at my fundraising event? If so, how do I get a permit?
Check with the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Liquor Control, to determine whether you qualify for a temporary liquor permit and which type of permit you need. Also review the Ohio Attorney General’s Liquor Permit Guide for Charities to understand the implications of signing a liquor permit application.
An individual wants to donate a specific item for a specific purpose to my charity. Are we allowed to accept the donation?
Generally yes, but you should be cautious in accepting any gift with restrictions. You need to be sure that the donation will be used for the donor’s specified purpose. Also, check the charity’s bylaws or governing documents to ensure it does not have a policy on donations.