Attorney General Bonta Announces Sponsorship of Legislation to Provide Oversight of Charitable Giving on Online Platforms
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced his sponsorship of AB 488, legislation that would provide critical oversight of charitable fundraising on internet platforms. The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin and sponsored by Attorney General Bonta, would authorize the California Department of Justice to exercise supervision over charitable fundraising occurring on internet platforms to protect donors and charities from deceptive or misleading solicitations.
“AB 488 would create the framework to oversee online charitable fundraising platforms by providing my office, which already oversees charitable organizations and fundraisers, the tools to match today’s virtual market,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Supervision of third-party online platforms is essential in order to make sure that donations go towards their intended purposes. This measure will give California’s generous donors and charities the peace of mind we all seek as we support one another amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Over the past year we have learned just how much our society relies on support from the non-profit sector. Whether it’s passing out food to hungry families or grants to the undocumented population, the pandemic shined a light on their tireless work. With online fundraising, there are more opportunities than ever to give to your favorite charity,” said Assemblymember Irwin. “However, it has also opened the possibility for fraudulent actors to operate. AB 488 will update California’s already strong charitable giving laws to provide clear rules for online fundraising.”
The California Department of Justice is responsible for regulatory supervision of charities, trustees, commercial fundraisers, and other legal entities that hold or solicit donations for charitable purposes. In recent years, charitable fundraising on internet platforms has changed the landscape of charitable giving. Internet companies have developed methods for individuals to donate to charities through websites and phone applications that serve as “charitable fundraising platforms.” California’s solicitation laws do not specifically reach these online platforms, resulting in instances of deceit and mistreatment of charitable donations that the Attorney General’s Office is not able to address through enforcement of existing charity oversight laws.
If signed into law, AB 488 would:
- Create a level playing field for all charitable giving platforms, regardless of business model, by defining two new groups of entities, “charitable fundraising platforms” and “platform charities” that are subject to the Attorney General’s supervision;
- Require covered entities to provide meaningful and transparent disclosures on their internet platforms, promptly distribute donations, and prohibit solicitations for charities not in good standing with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts;
- Permit some instances of soliciting for a charity without prior consent if certain criteria that safeguard against harm to charities and the public are met; and
- Authorize the Attorney General’s Office to implement regulations to require donor notification and reporting requirements, and to encourage transparency and accountability.