Regulation of Nonprofits and Philanthropy Project

The Regulation of Nonprofits and Philanthropy Project is an initiative of Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. Organized in conjunction with the Tax Policy and Charities Project at the Urban Institute, the project will focus on empirical research that addresses the current status of the regulatory system and the effects of regulations on nonprofit organizations and philanthropy.

Using a mix of research methodologies and data sources, the project will fill gaps in knowledge and host discussions that will begin to address the strengths and weaknesses of the current regulatory framework and make recommendations to promote a regulatory framework that is elastic enough to encompass the significant changes taking place in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector.

Download the project description.

Legal Compendium

The Legal Compendium is a downloadable Excel spreadsheet with statutory citations showing the following information for each of the 56 jurisdictions featured in this research: the grant of jurisdiction to attorneys general and other state agencies, the registration and reporting requirements applicable to charitable entities and their fundraisers, the oversight responsibilities of state charity regulators in connection with certain transactions involving charitable entities, the obligations of charities to notify the attorney general of those transactions, and some enforcement remedies available to charity regulators.  Download the Legal Compendium

Contact a project team member:

Elizabeth T. Boris, Institute Fellow
Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy

Cindy M. Lott, Senior Fellow
Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy
Program Director, Nonprofit Management Programs
School of Professional Studies
Columbia University


State Regulation and Enforcement in the Charitable Sector
This study is the first systematic analysis of state-level oversight and regulation of charities in the United States. Conducted by the Charities Regulation and Oversight Project at Columbia Law School and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, the analysis has three components: a legal analysis of laws pertaining to charities in 56 US jurisdictions; a survey of all state and territory offices with oversight, regulatory, and enforcement authority over charities (with at least one office within 47 jurisdictions completing the survey); and interviews with officials in over two-thirds of those offices. Among the findings are that the organization of state charity offices and their jurisdictions vary greatly, with staffing that is often less than one full-time equivalent, and total 355 people across the states.


Data and Technology: Resources and Implications for Nonprofit Regulation and Oversight
March 25, 2021 - March 26, 2021

The event focused on data and technologies state and federal charities regulators require to succeed in their oversight roles. Researchers, leaders from data-providing organizations, and state and federal charities regulators explored how to promote data-informed nonprofit regulation. Meeting agenda available here.

State Regulation and Enforcement in the Charitable Sector
September 26, 2016

In this event participants discussed the report: State Regulation and Enforcement in the Charitable Sector. This report is a primer and road map for all who wish to gain insight into the state regulatory structures that oversee the charitable and nonprofit sector, toward the goal of more effective and efficient charity regulation. Topics include: a summary and discussion of the report findings, the status of state charitable regulatory and enforcement activity, and next steps in formulating a research agenda. Meeting materials available Here.

Data Collection, Sharing, and Transparency in the Tax-Exempt Sector
December 1, 2015

The goal of this convening was to discuss the ripple effect of regulatory changes regarding data collection, sharing, and transparency; discuss opportunities and challenges in the nonprofit sector due to these challenges; and explore inefficiencies and redundancies in data transfer that might be eliminated in the future among the sector’s stakeholders.  Meeting materials available Here.

Project Publications

Regulatory Breadth Index: A New Measurement  of State-Level Charity Regulation (Presentation)
November 2019
Cindy, M. Lott, Mary Shelly and Nathan Dietz.

Testing Nonprofit State Culture: Its Impact on the Health of the Nonprofit Sector (Subscription required)
November 2018
Sarah L. Pettijohn and Elizabeth T. Boris

Bifurcation of State Regulation of Charities: Divided Regulatory Authority Over Charities and Its Impact on Charitable Solicitation Laws
April 3, 2018
Cindy M. Lott, Mary L. Shelly, Nathan Dietz, and Marcus Gaddy

State Regulation of the Charitable Sector: Enforcement, Outreach, Structure, and Staffing
February 16, 2018
Shirley Adelstein and Elizabeth T. Boris

State Nonprofit Culture: Assessing the Impact of State Regulation on the Government-Nonprofit Relationship (Presentation)
November 2017
Sarah L. Pettijohn and Elizabeth T. Boris

Exploring the Relationship between State Charitable Solicitation Regulations and Fundraising Performance
October 23, 2017
Nathan Dietz, Putnam Barber, Cindy M. Lott, and Mary Shelly

Reflections on Challenged Regulators (Subscription required)
April 7, 2017
Elizabeth T. Boris and Cindy M. Lott

State Regulatory and Legal Framework (Chapter 5 from Nonprofits and Government: Collaboration and Conflict, 3rd Edition)
April 7, 2017
Cindy M. Lott and Marion Fremont-Smith

State Regulation and Enforcement in the Charitable Sector
September 13, 2016
Cindy M. Lott, Elizabeth T. Boris, Karin Kunstler Goldman, Belinda Johns, Marcus Gaddy and Maura R. Farrell

Legal Compendium to the Regulation of Nonprofits and Philanthropy Project (Updated 2019)
Cindy M. Lott, Elizabeth T. Boris, Karin Kunstler Goldman, Belinda Johns, Marcus Gaddy and Maura R. Farrell