It seems like second nature to many of us. We are all on this Earth together. We have achieved our current level of skill because of the help of countless other teachers, authors, YouTubers, friends, family, and strangers who gave us that incentive to keep plowing ahead. We therefore want to donate a portion (or all) of our own proceeds to help a good cause.
Makes sense, right?
Depending on where you live, your charitable goals may run into a HUGE brick wall.
Take note that this is critical to understand. If you don’t do this properly, not only can Amazon shut down your sales account, so could iTunes, Nook, and other organizations. Also, violating your state law on charity could be prosecuted as a serious crime.
Here’s the issue.
Some states, like Massachusetts, have laws in place to protect innocent people from unscrupulous con men. You’ve probably seen the scams. Criminals will create an organization called “Massachusetts Police Charity Fund” and start calling every number in the book asking for donations. Those who are called think the organization is a part of the police department, but the con men are just out for themselves. They keep all the money and use it to go on wild vacations.
That’s why Massachusetts (and other states) put in place laws to regulate charity donations of ALL sizes. There is no minimum amount. I spoke directly with the Massachusetts Attorney General office, to a paralegal in the Division of Public Charities. I asked a variety of questions to see if an author could get by with saying only a portion of proceeds went to charity, or wording it in other ways. The answer is NO NO NO. If you are claiming ANY portion of the funds go to a charity, you absolutely must register.
In Massachusetts, in 2019, that means you pay an ANNUAL (every year) $200 fee to get started on a given project. PLUS you have to get yourself a $25,000 bond. Here’s the details. You are considered a “Commercial Co-venturer”.
Here’s the text, down to the asterisks.
An individual or business, which for profit or other commercial consideration, advertises that an event or sale to the public of a good or service will benefit, to any extent, a charitable purpose is considered a commercial co-venturer. A commercial co-venturer must file the following:
- Registration Statement: Form 10 (RTF);
- $25,000 bond: Form 9 (RTF);
- Filing fee of $200, made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts;
- A copy of each fundraising contract along with Form 10B (RTF) to be filed with registration or within 10 days of signing and prior to the commencement of any co-venturing activity); and
- Form 11B Commercial Co-Venturer’s Annual Financial Report: This form is to be filed for each Form 10B filed, and covers the financial activity for a single calendar year. It is due by February 28 of the year following the reporting year.
Commercial co-venturers conducting multiple campaigns need only file one Form 9, Form 10, and filing fee for the calendar year. Separate Forms 10B, contracts, and Forms 11B must be filed for each campaign conducted.
Commercial co-venturers should ensure that the charities for whom they are conducting campaigns are registered and in possession of a valid Certificate for Solicitation prior to commencing co-venturing activities. If the charity in question is not required to register with the AGO, then no Form 10B/contract/Form 11B is required for this campaign.
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Again, I spoke with the Massachusetts Attorney General office. They made very clear that there IS NO MINIMUM AMOUNT for which this does not apply. If you are doing an activity to solicit funds for a charity, you MUST pay the filing fee of $200 and get the $25,000 bond. It says on there that this is for ANY extent of donation, no matter how small.
Amazon is taking this very seriously. They are actively writing letters to authors who make charity claims in their books and asking for proof that the author is properly registered. If you are doing this with a book and have not been caught yet, it’s only a matter of time. If you are not in Massachusetts it could be that your location has no regulations at all about charity donations, but in our modern day and age that is highly unlikely. With the number of scammers growing by the day, the regulations are only getting more strict.
Protect your assets – your ability to market your books on all platforms. That means either you register properly for any charity work you do, or you remove all reference to the charity from any books, content, and marketing.
Ask with any questions. I’m not a lawyer, but I’ll do the best I can.