Providing oversight of the charitable sector is one of the oldest responsibilities of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. And while booster groups and parent-teacher organizations have long been required to abide by the basic rules of sound management and asset protections, these organizations now need to file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office like most other charities in the state.
“Booster and parent-teacher organizations had been exempted from this filing requirement for many years because they are often small organizations,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “But there are significant assets in some of these groups, and all too frequently, we see examples of fraud and theft that hurts the children who are supposed to benefit from the activities of these organizations.”
More than 30,000 charitable organizations complete annual filings each year with the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section. This filing, required in most states throughout the country, provides basic contact and organizational information about the group and helps promote transparency and accountability within the charitable sector.
Attorney General DeWine hopes the act of filing, in addition to providing valuable information for the public and the state, conveys to leaders of school-related organizations how vitally important board members are in protecting resources. Attorney General DeWine encourages the use of the multiple training and support materials available on his office’s website
to educate leaders about the legal responsibilities of board members.
The charitable registration requirements for booster and parent-teacher organizations formally kick in for fiscal years ending after Sept. 1, 2012, although organizations are free to file for earlier periods.
All filings must be completed on the online charitable registration system available at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/Business/Charity
. Users of the system must create an account, and it is suggested that at least three representatives from each organization create an account. Users can connect their accounts to the data files of multiple organizations and receive e-mail reminders of filing deadlines, notices whenever a change is made to the account, confirmations of activities, and other services. Having multiple people connected to the accounts helps ensure that information and deadlines don’t fall through the cracks. In addition to the parent leaders of these groups, school officials can also choose to connect with organizations linked to their school in order to provide oversight.
The system prompts the filer with questions and, based on the responses provided, determines what information is needed. Most questions can be found on the organization’s IRS Form 990. For organizations not already in the Attorney General’s system, the articles of incorporation, bylaws, IRS determination letter, and other documents may also be requested.
The due dates for charitable registration filings are identical to the IRS filing deadlines, and all IRS extensions are honored. Staff members in the Charitable Law Section are happy to respond to any questions or concerns. They can be reached at 800-282-0515 or via e-mail at CharitableRegistration@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
. Because the filing requirements for booster and parent-teacher organizations are new, groups should contact the section if the system indicates that filings for years prior to 2012 are requested.
“Our staff is eager to get organizations on the right track, so everyone should feel welcome to call if questions arise,” Attorney General DeWine said.
One of the biggest benefits of the online registration system is the ability to share information about registered organizations with the public. Using the Research Charities function
on the Attorney General’s website, the public can check whether an organization is in compliance with filing responsibilities and receive basic information about the group, including financial information. Over time, the information available online will expand. This is a convenient way for leaders of an organization to direct potential donors to confirm details about the organization.
“Without a doubt, the activities of booster and parent-teacher organizations help enhance the learning experience of students throughout the state,” Attorney General DeWine said. Adding these filing requirements will also help add a measure of safety to help protect those resources and the children who are intended to benefit from them.”
Staff members from the Charitable Law Section are available to provide training to groups of charitable leaders on their legal responsibilities as board members. To host a training session in your district, contact CharitableLaw@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
. People can also register online to participate in monthly webinars on board governance or using the charitable registration system. Additional resource materials are available online at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov