National Association of Attorneys General
Get To Know: National Association of State Charities Officials
The National Association of State Charities Officials (NASCO) was formed in 1979 as an association of assistant attorneys general and other state charity regulators to enhance the effectiveness of state charity regulation by providing a forum for exchanging views and fostering interstate cooperation.
NASCO was born of necessity because of the patchwork of state laws governing charities. Most Attorneys General have inherent parens patriae powers under common law to prevent the misuse of charitable assets and to ensure that trustees of charitable trusts and fiduciaries of charitable corporations fulfill their duties of loyalty and care to the charities they govern. Some states also have statutory schemes requiring charities to register and file annual financial reports with Attorneys General and other state officials, who oversee and regulate a variety of charitable activities including fundraising, bequests, asset transfers, nonprofit conversions, mergers, and dissolutions.
Although NAAG provided a forum for state Attorneys General with charity oversight responsibilities, that forum did not include Secretary of State offices and other state officials with some of the same charity oversight responsibilities. NASCO therefore was organized to represent all such charity officials. NAAG’s Charitable Trusts and Solicitations Committee operated independently from NASCO for several years, but in 1984 NASCO informally merged its activities with NAAG’s.
NASCO members communicate through a list serve, a members-only portion of a NAAG-hosted Web site, www.Nasconet.org, and through an annual educational conference co-sponsored with NAAG. NASCO has taken a leadership role in promoting uniform state charity registration and filing requirements, amicus briefs, and multistate lawsuits targeting fundraising deception. NASCO also has drafted model state solicitation laws and jurisdictional guidelines for state regulation of charitable solicitation on the Internet.
NASCO also strives to provide a national, unified voice for state regulators to communicate with the IRS, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, and other constituencies regarding national charity issues. For example, NASCO members have participated in drafting the Uniform Law Commission’s Oversight of Charitable Assets Act, which is nearing approval and seeks to articulate and clarify the common law authority of state Attorneys General to protect charitable assets.
NASCO’s most significant activity is its annual educational conference. This year’s conference will be held in Silver Spring, Md., on Oct. 3-4 with regulator-only training on Sunday, Oct. 3, and a public day on Monday, Oct. 4. The theme of the public day is: “Charities & Regulators, Doing More With Less During Hard Economic Times,” and it will include an “Inside the Beltway” update of nonprofit initiatives from federal regulators and the U.S. Senate Finance Committee as well as panels addressing the role of government in oversight of nonprofit governance, how best to measure what makes an effective charity, and the creation and regulation of innovative fundraising strategies.
Eric Carriker is an Assistant Attorney General in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division.