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A bill that went into effect July 1 alters the way nonprofits report funds raised, and seeks to prevent fraud and abuse by providing increased transparency. It also allows the public to make informed decisions about where their charity dollars should go.
Senate Bill 1070 was authored by state Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, after two years of combined efforts of educators, state officials and leaders in the nonprofit sector. It was signed by Gov. Brad Henry in 2010. In addition to promoting enhanced professionalism and integrity for nonprofits, the bill amended reporting requirements tracked by the Secretary of State’s office, and established a charitable solicitors enforcement revolving fund through the office of the Oklahoma Attorney General.
Nonprofits now will be assigned identifier numbers that anyone can plug in on the Secretary of State’s website to view financial information about the organization. Prior to the bill, Paddack says those seeking information on a nonprofit literally had to dig through files at the Secretary of State’s offices at the state Capitol.
“It was just not accessible before,” she says. “Now you can find out about your favorite charitable organization online, day or night.”
For those doing their job and accurately reporting money raised, Paddack says they have nothing to worry about.
“This bill was brought forward to make sure that those who are doing a professional job are recognized,” she says. “It only takes that one story once a year that says ‘such-and-such nonprofit are not doing what they’re supposed to do’ that taints it for all the rest.”
Language in the legislation amends definitions of “charitable organization,” “professional fundraiser” and “professional solicitor.” In addition, it increases the fees to file as a charitable organization to $65 annually. The last increase was in 1980. Of that $65, $15 goes to general revenue, $34 to the attorney general enforcement fund, and $16 to the Secretary of State revolving fund.
Paddack says those fees that go to the Secretary of State pay for the enhanced website.
Paddack took her show on the road to let nonprofits around the state know about the changes. She told attendees at a session in Oklahoma City that the legislation would be beneficial to them, and to their donors.
“The hope of this bill was that it would help you do what you do better,” she told attendees.
One new requirement is that charitable organizations that plan to raise $10,000 or less must file. Those that meet that criteria must only pay a $15 filing fee, of which $10 goes to the attorney general’s enforcement fund, and $5 to the Secretary of State’s revolving fund.
So far, Paddack has found support for her efforts from nonprofits around the state.
“It is a very positive thing for the entire nonprofit sector,” says Marnie Taylor, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. “It is an opportunity for those who are doing things ethically – and most people are – an opportunity to shine.”