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. If you have a complaint about a charity or fundraising professional, please use our complaint form, pdf.
- 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.
- To help charities stay within the law, the Attorney General makes available various guides and publications, including the Attorney General´s Guide for Charities, pdf. Additional guidance for charities is available on our Resources page.
- 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, pdf 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. For help using and interpreting the results from the Registry Search, please review Registry Search Feature – Tips for use and definition of the codes.
Charity Research Resources
The Registry 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 this office. If you are unable to find the informational return you are looking for using the Registry Search tool, we also post a searchable database of informational returns filed directly with the IRS. PLEASE NOTE: The searchable database is not the Registry database. It is a third-party web site that scans informational returns filed with the IRS and does not include any state-specific registration data.
These tools, along with the resources posted on the Resources page of this web site, allow donors to become informed about a charity before making a decision to give. In the Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors, pdf, you will find giving tips and, at pages 9-14, a guide to reviewing the Form 990. If you have any questions regarding Registry filings, Contact the Registrar.
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.