Charitable Giving on Thin Ice: Navigating the Treacherous Waters of Compliance

In charitable giving, the noble pursuit of philanthropy often intertwines with a complex web of regulations and compliance measures. While the desire to make a positive impact drives many donors and organizations, navigating the treacherous waters of compliance can be challenging for most charities.

Statistics show that the total revenue generated by non-profit charities stood at approximately $3 trillion in 2023. With such high turnovers, charitable organizations face intense scrutiny, from tax implications to legal frameworks; therefore, they have to find a delicate balance between their operations and adherence to regulatory requirements. 

As a charitable organization, you need to comply with the set regulations to keep operating. Fortunately, payment processors like iCG Pay, formerly, equip donors and charitable organizations with the knowledge needed to navigate the turbulent compliance waters with clarity and confidence.

This blog post explores the types of compliance charities must follow, the challenges they face in complying with these regulations, and the practical solutions to help giving programs stay afloat.

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What Are the Types of Compliance Regualtions Charities Must Follow?

Charities navigate an intricate web of regulations designed to ensure responsibility towards donated funds.  Understanding these regulations is crucial for smooth operations. Let's explore four key areas of compliance: 

Tax Compliance

Charitable organizations are tax-exempt under the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). However, these nonprofit organizations must register for tax-exempt status with the relevant authorities. This dictates how they report income, claim deductions, and pay taxes on any unrelated business income.

Failure to register for tax-exempt status or improper filing of tax returns can lead to hefty fines, revocation of tax-exempt status, and back taxes owed. This can negatively impact a charity's fundraising efforts and erode donor trust. 

Financial Reporting

Charities must maintain accurate financial records and comply with specific accounting standards. This ensures transparency in how donations are used and allows for proper financial oversight. It also fosters trust and transparency, which are essential for sustainable fundraising.

Inaccurate or misleading financial reporting can lead to investigations, loss of public confidence, and difficulty securing grants or attracting major donors. This is why it's advisable to integrate features with your fundraising software. For instance, a secure payment processor like iCG Pay provides a platform to accept online ACH and credit card processing, increasing donations while generating reports that simplify financial record-keeping. 

Fundraising Compliance

If you accept payments, like ACH, you must comply with Nacha regulations. Your nonprofit fundraising activities should align with these regulations to protect your donors. The rise in online donations means that there's an increased risk of fraudulent transactions. Therefore, you need to follow the regulations regarding online fundraising platforms and the acceptance of online payments.

Violations of fundraising regulations can result in fines, lawsuits, and even criminal charges. This can severely damage a charity's reputation and make it difficult to raise future funds. Choosing a compliant payment processing service can help your charities avoid these pitfalls and focus on their mission.

Anti-Money Laundering (AML)

Since charities are non-profit in nature, they are categorized at a higher risk for financial crimes. Common risks include money laundering, terrorist funding, and bribery. Because of this, charities are increasingly subject to AML regulations designed to prevent these activities. This may involve verifying donor identities and monitoring for suspicious transactions.

Failure to implement proper AML procedures can lead to fines, frozen bank accounts, and even criminal charges for the charity or its leadership. Therefore, it's important for these non-profit organizations to find ways to ensure the secure handling of credit card payments and reduce the risk of financial crimes. 

What Steps Should Charities Take to Ensure Compliance?

Navigating compliance requires a proactive approach. Building a strong culture of compliance within your charitable organization is key to ensuring responsible financial management and safeguarding donor trust. Here are five practical steps charities can take to ensure they stay on solid footing:

Partner with a Compliant Payment Processor

Choosing a reputable and secure payment processing for nonprofits like iCG Pay that adheres to relevant regulations is crucial. Look for a processor that offers features like:

  • PCI Compliance: Ensure the secure handling of credit card information with PCI-compliant payment gateways. This way, the donor payment information is always protected from unauthorized access. 
  • Nacha Compliance: If you collect online donations via ACH, you must abide by Nacha security measures. Therefore, you need to partner with a Nacha Preferred Partner like iCG Pay to mitigate fraud risk in your charity. 
  • Tax Reporting Tools: Streamline tax compliance by collecting donor tax ID information and generating compliant tax receipts. This important step keeps you in line with the set regulations. 
  • Donor Verification: Charities need to ensure their chosen payment processor has proper systems in place to verify donor information and comply with any specific regulations related to online fundraising platforms. Secure payment processing with features like address verification and 3D Secure can further provide fraud protection.

A compliant payment processor becomes a partner in ensuring financial integrity and allows charities to focus on their mission.

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Develop Comprehensive Compliance Policies

To protect your charitable organization, you need to establish clear and concise policies outlining your organization's commitment to compliance in all areas, including fundraising, financial reporting, and data privacy. These policies should be readily available to staff and volunteers and reviewed and updated regularly.

Conduct Regular Audits

Schedule regular internal audits to identify any potential compliance issues early on.  This allows for prompt corrective action and minimizes the risk of major problems down the road.  Consider partnering with an external auditor for a more comprehensive review.

During the audits, you can confirm whether your non-profit charity has built-in AML features, such as identity verification tools and transaction monitoring. These features help you comply with regulations and protect the charity from fraud.

Utilize Available Resources

Numerous resources exist to help charities navigate the complexities of compliance. Here are some of the key activities you can implement:

  • Attend Compliance Workshops: You can start attending workshops offered by professional associations or government agencies to gain practical knowledge and best practices.
  • Conduct Employee Training: Approximately 59% of charity organizations do not regularly provide cybersecurity training to their employees. This can create security loopholes that lead to non-compliance. It's important to offer training sessions to keep the entire team updated. 
  • Use Online Resources: Many government websites and nonprofit advocacy groups offer free online resources with compliance information and guidance. Additionally, third-party processors like iCG Pay can provide more information about payment compliance and how you can simplify your donation process and stay compliant.  
  • Join Professional Associations: There are associations for nonprofits that provide ongoing support, educational materials, and access to compliance experts.

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Seek Legal Counsel

Don't hesitate to seek legal advice from professionals experienced in nonprofit law and compliance. They can help you navigate these complex regulations and ensure your organization adheres to the latest legal requirements.

By taking these steps, charities can build a strong foundation for responsible financial practices and ensure their valuable work continues to make a positive impact.

How Can You Select a Compliant Payment Gateway Partner for Your Charity Organization?

Online donations are a critical lifeline for many charities. To ensure the smooth flow of these donations while navigating compliance regulations, you should select a secure and compliant payment gateway partner. Here are key factors to consider when making this decision:

  • Compliance Expertise:  Partner with a payment processor that prioritizes compliance. Look for a payment gateway provider with a proven track record of adhering to relevant regulations, including PCI standards, AML requirements, and specific regulations related to nonprofit fundraising. 
  • Security Features: Choose a processor with robust security features to safeguard sensitive donor information, such as credit card details and personal data. This may include fraud monitoring tools, encryption protocols, and secure payment gateways.
  • Integration Capabilities: Ensure the nonprofit payment processing partner integrates seamlessly with your existing donation platform, donation forms, or nonprofit fundraising tools. This will simplify donation processing, reduce errors, and streamline your financial operations.
  • Multiple Payment Options: Your donors might not use the same payment method. You need a payment processor that offers secure options such as email invoicing, ACH payments, text-to-pay, major credit cards, and hosted payment portals

Choosing a compliant nonprofit payment processor is the first step in facilitating secure online donations and boosting donor trust.

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Stay Compliant with iCG Pay

iCG Pay is committed to safety. As a PCI-compliant payment processor, we help our partners reduce their PCI scope for all customer transactions. You can leverage our one-stop solution to support and manage multiple fundraising campaigns on a single secure platform. We can handle recurring payments to keep your donations coming all year round.

Our online payment solutions also leverage encryption and tokenization to protect donors’ sensitive data. 

Speak to our team today to get guidance on the complexities of compliance. 

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