Executive Director’s Message

From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

Despite repeated urgings, many historical societies in Pennsylvania have failed to inquire into their tax-exempt status. While frequently overlooked, this seemingly minor matter can be of fundamental importance to the operation of local organizations. If a society hopes to raise charitable funds for its operations, secure governmental grants, and even accept cash awards, it must be registered as a not-for-profit institution.

In no area is tax exempt status more important than in fund raising. If societies hope to raise funds legitimately, they must follow two basic procedures. All societies should contact their local Internal Revenue Service office and fill out a copy of form 1023. This form, provided under section 501-C-3 of IRS is used by “Charitable, Religious, Educational, Scientific, and Literary Organizations.”

Societies must demonstrate on form 1023 that their organization is operated exclusively for purposes (e.g. historical) which qualify for exemption. It is also mandatory that no part of a society’s earnings benefit individual members and that a substantial part of its activities not be directed toward political action. Indeed, IRS will insist that the articles of incorporation of a society limit the organization’s purposes to those directed by I RS as qualify­ing for exemption.

Secondly, in order to raise funds, societies should be familiar with Pennsylvania’s Charitable Solicitations Act and the necessity of registering with the Commission on Charitable Organizations. Pennsylvania’s ”Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act” requires the registration of every charity which intends to solicit. Under this statute, each charity must annually file an application for the privilege of soliciting in the State. Annual registration fees may be required if an organization raises over seventy-five hundred dollars a year, unless it qualifies for an exemption.

An institution can best determine its proper status by writing the Commission on Charitable Organizations, Department of State, North Office Building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120. I would urge all societies to look into these matters as soon as possible if they hope to maintain and strengthen their overall programs.

William J. Wewer
Executive Director