Charitable Organizations Frequently Asked Questions

The following is designed to answer common questions you may have regarding registration and annual reports of a charitable organization.

Registration Questions

Annual Financial Report Questions

Registration FAQ's

What is a Contribution?

A contribution is a grant or pledge of money, credit, property, or other thing of value, except food, used clothing or used household goods, given to a charitable organization.

When does a charitable organization need to be registered in Wisconsin?

A charitable organization needs to register if it solicits in Wisconsin and either has a paid employee(s) and/or receives $25,000 or more in contributions in a fiscal year.

  • A Charitable organization with a ‘home’ office outside of Wisconsin needs to be registered if it solicits in Wisconsin or has contributions solicited in Wisconsin on its behalf.

What is NOT a contribution?

A contribution does not include

  • income from bingo or raffles,
  • a government grant, or
  • a bona fide fee, due, or assessment paid by a member of a charitable organization, except that if initial membership in a charitable organization is conferred solely as consideration for making a grant or pledge of money to the charitable organization in response to a solicitation, that grant, or pledge of money is a contribution.

What is a solicitation?

A solicitation is an act or practice of soliciting, including any of the following: an oral or written request or an announcement to the news media through any communication(s). It also includes any advertisement, other tangible item that requests financial support, uses the name of the organization as a reason for making a purchase, or says that a portion or all the proceeds from the sale will benefit a charitable organization.

Are there any prohibited acts?

Yes, a charitable organization, fundraising counsel, or professional fundraiser may, not do any of the following: (Also see s.202.16(1))

  • Use an unfair or deceptive act or practice.

  • Imply that a contribution is for or on behalf of a charitable organization or use any emblem, device or printed matter belonging to or associated with a charitable organization without first being authorized in writing to do so by the charitable organization.

  • Use a name, symbol or statement so closely related or similar to that used by another charitable organization that the use of the name, symbol or statement would tend to confuse or mislead a person being solicited.

  • Represent or lead anyone in any manner to believe that the person on whose behalf a solicitation or charitable sales promotion is being conducted is a charitable organization or that the proceeds of the solicitation or charitable sales promotion will be used for charitable purposes if that is not the fact.

  • Lead anyone in any manner to believe that another person sponsors, endorses, or approves a solicitation or a charitable sales promotion if the other person has not sponsored, endorsed or approved the solicitation or charitable sales promotion in writing.

  • Use the fact of registration to lead any person to believe that the registration constitutes an endorsement or approval by the state.

  • Represent or cause another to represent that contributions are tax-deductible unless they so qualify under the federal Internal Revenue Code.

  • Represent or cause another to represent that the person has previously approved or agreed to make a contribution when in fact the person has not given this approval or agreement.

  • Represent or cause another to represent that the person has previously contributed to the same organization or for the same purpose when in fact the person has not so contributed.

  • Fail to apply contributions in a manner substantially consistent with the solicitation or the purposes expressed in the solicitation.

  • Represent in any manner that registration constitutes an endorsement or approval by the department or the department of justice.

Is my charitable organization exempt from registration?

There are 12 reasons that qualify a charitable organization to be exempt from registration. See reasons below:

  1. We are not a charitable organization, as defined in Wis. Stats. § 202.11(1).
  2. We are a charitable organization, but we DO NOT SOLICIT CONTRIBUTIONS in WISCONSIN.
    1. NOTE: A private foundation, IF IT DOES NOT SOLICIT contributions, also falls under this exemption. See Wis. Stats. § 202.11(8) & Wis. Stats. § 202.11(9), for the definition of "solicit" and "solicitation".
  3. We are a religious entity that is exempt from filing a federal annual IRS 990.
  4. I am or we are a candidate for national, state, or local office or a political party or other committee or group required to file financial information with the federal elections commission or a filing officer under Wis. Stats. § 11.0102.
  5. We are a charitable organization which does not intend to raise or receive contributions of more than $25,000 during a fiscal year and has no paid employees at your organization.
    1. NOTE: If a charitable organization raises or receives more than $25,000 in contributions or pays someone to do fundraising functions, it must, within 30 days register with the division.
  6. We are a fraternal, civic, benevolent, patriotic, or social organization that solicits contributions solely from our membership.
    1. NOTE: An initial membership, when conferred solely as consideration for making a grant or pledge of money in response to a solicitation, is a contribution.
  7. We are a veterans organization incorporated under Wis. Stats. Ch. 188 or chartered under federal law or the service foundation of a veteran’s organization recognized in the bylaws of the veterans organization.
  8. We are a nonprofit, postsecondary educational institution accredited by a regional accrediting agency or association approved under 20 USC 1099b, or an educational institution and its authorized charitable foundations which solicit contributions only from its students and their families, alumni, faculty, trustees, corporations, foundations, and patients.
  9. I am or we are a person soliciting contributions for the relief of a named individual and all contributions, without any deductions, were or will be given to the named individual.
  10. We are a state agency, as defined in Wis. Stats. § 20.001(1), or a local government unit, as defined in Wis. Stats. § 605.01(1).
  11. We are a private school, as defined in Wis. Stats. § 118.165.
  12. We are a corporation established by an act of the United States Congress that is required by Federal law to submit to Congress annual reports, fully audited by the United States Department of Defense, of our activities including itemized accounts of all receipts and expenditures.

Does my organization need a special permit to conduct a raffle or to hold a bingo event?

Yes, Contact the Division of Gaming of the Wisconsin Department of Administration for instructions on how to apply for a raffle or bingo license. The Division of Gaming’s website address is

Are there any other Wisconsin state agencies or federal government agencies that my charitable organization may have to register with?

While not a complete list, other agencies you may want to contact include:
  • Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions – Corporate and Consumer Services Bureau: Registers business entities that are conducting business in Wisconsin, including non-stock corporations.
  • Wisconsin Department of Revenue – Tax Operations Bureau: Issues Certificates of Exempt Status to non-profit organizations.
  • Wisconsin Department of Administration – Division of Gaming: Issues bingo and raffle licenses.
  • Wisconsin Department of Administration – Division of Administrative Services: Approves charitable organizations to participate in the State Employee Combined Campaign.
  • Wisconsin Department of Justice: Receives copies of the IRS form 990-PF from Private Foundations. This is an IRS requirement. See Federal Income Tax Regulation 1.6033-3 for more information.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Processes charitable organization applications for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Must I notify the department before using a new trademark (doing business as name)?

Yes, A registrant must notify the department of the new trademark at least 30 days prior to using the name. If the trademark is not available or acceptable the department will notify the registrant of such.

Annual Financial Report FAQs:

Why must I file an annual financial report?

Every charitable organization registered in Wisconsin must file an annual financial report. The Charitable Organization Annual Report is designed to provide a complete and full financial reporting of the organization's charitable and non-charitable activities in sufficient detail to permit public evaluation of its operations.

When must I file my annual financial report?

It must be filed within 12 months after your fiscal year-end.

What form should I use to file my annual financial report?

There are three different reporting forms available on the forms page, please review the qualification(s) on which one you must file.

  • Form #1943 - Affidavit in Lieu of Annual Financial Report
    • A charitable organization must submit this form if it received $25,000 or less in contributions during its most recently completed fiscal year. OR
    • A charitable organization received less than $50,000 in contributions during its most recently completed fiscal year and only solicited contributions in the county where its principal office is located.
  • Form #1952 - Wisconsin Supplement to Financial Report
    • A charitable organization should submit this form if it files an IRS 990, 990-EZ, or 990PF and doesn't qualify for Form #1943.
  • Form #308 - Charitable Organization Annual Report
    • A charitable organization must submit this form if it does not qualify for Form #1943 or Form #1952

What do I need to submit with my financial report?

All requirements are listed on the financial report forms.

Note: if your organization is required to submit a Reviewed or Audited financial statement it must be prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), which have been reviewed by an independent certified public accountant (Special purpose frame works such as cash basis and modified cash basis does not meet the requirements).

Can the requirement for an audited or reviewed financial statement be waived?

Yes, A charitable organization may apply to the department in writing, within 90 days after the charitable organization’s fiscal year-end for a waiver of the requirement for audited or reviewed financial statements, if you meet the following requirements:

  1. The charitable organization's contributions were, during each of the past 3 fiscal years, less than $100,000
  2. During the fiscal year for which the waiver is being requested, the charitable organization received one or more contributions from one contributor that exceeded $200,000, if seeking a reviewed financial statement waiver, or that exceeded $400,000, if seeking an audited financial statement waiver.

Is there a fee to file an annual financial report?

No, there is no fee

Is there a difference between an annual financial report and a registration renewal?

Yes.  The annual report and the renewal are two different annual requirements.

  1. The online renewal registration must be filed before July 31st of each year. The online renewal involves answering a few online questions and paying the renewal fee.    
  2. The annual financial report must be submitted to the division within 12 months after the organization's fiscal year-end.  The annual report does not have a fee associated with it and there are three annual report forms to choose from A description of each form can be found on the division's website at
    • Note: The annual report form cannot be submitted online.

How do I update my organization's phone number/email address/mailing address, etc.?

The online renewal provides you with an opportunity to update these items; however, you can also change this information at any time by logging on to your organization's online account through our website.  Simply go to and click on "Name & Address Change".

Contact Us

Phone: (608) 267-1711
Mailing Address:
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Division of Corporate and Consumer Services
PO Box 7879
Madison, WI 53707-7879
Physical Address:
Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Division of Corporate and Consumer Services
4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower
Madison, WI 53705