Should Your Nonprofit Still Use the Unified Registration Statement?
Why and How the URS Was Created
Most states in the U.S. regulate charitable fundraising. State laws require charities to register by providing information about fundraising activities to the government.
Because nonprofits have gone online means that donors might be anywhere, calling for registration in multiple states.
To bring some order to this process, the National Association of Attorneys General and the National Charities Officials developed the Unified Registration Statement (URS). The purpose of the URS was to provide a standardized reporting form for many different states.
Why the URS May No Longer Be Useful
However, because states frequently change their regulations, the usefulness of the Unified Registration Statement may be coming to an end.
Although the URS was created in the hope that multiple states could agree on a standard protocol to register for charitable solicitation, the number of states willing to accept this form instead of their particular state form has dwindled.
Also, because states change their rules more and more frequently, the URS has not stayed current and up-to-date.
The URS form now contains dozens of errors that result in rejected registration applications for well-meaning nonprofit organizations. Updates are few and far between.
Despite what some online sources say, many states no longer accept the URS at all (and in some cases never took it, to begin with).
The gradual creation of state-specific registration databases has been no particular help to nationwide filers. Instead of mailing a single form, filers must enter necessary data over and over.
Many well-meaning filers seeking online support find out the hard way that the URS pdf includes an appendix of mostly out-of-date state forms. Even the links to the active forms (for download) may be broken, and instructions are often inaccurate.
The vision of a single form that could be used to satisfy every state’s registration requirements was a good one but it may not have been a realistic one. The work of staying on top of the individual state requirements alone may have undermined the form.
The URS is rarely useful because it has become increasingly obsolete. Its use creates more complications, loss of time, and could increase late fees for uninformed filers.
For do-it-yourself state charitable solicitation registrations, nonprofits may have a better experience by using an online service that provides current forms and instructions to meet state registration requirements at a low. There are only two such alternatives: GoSinglePortal.com and SimpleCharityRegistration.com.
When shopping for a D-I-Y registration alternative, nonprofits should consider both price and support options because multi-state fundraising registration is a dense, complicated process. If it weren’t, the URS would still be viable.
For more information about out-of-state charitable fundraising registration, see How to Register to Fundraise Out-of-State and 9 Surprising Facts about Out-of-State Fundraising Registration.