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GuideStar: Better Data, for Better Decisions, for a Better World

GuideStar’s Nonprofit Profiles provide you with the information you need to make smart decisions, build connections, and learn from each other to achieve your missions.

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Giving Wisely to Charity

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Tips for Evaluating Charities

Every year, generous Michiganders give millions to charities that do important and much needed work in our communities, including feeding and clothing the poor, conducting medical research, and promoting education. 

As a donor, you must decide among the many charities competing for your donations. Many charities are critical organizations that strengthen our state, some are wasteful, others use telemarketers who keep up to 90% of your donation, and others are outright scams.

Michigan’s Department of Attorney General is committed to helping residents make wise donations. To help, it keeps an online database of more than 10,000 charities that solicit in Michigan. This information will help you make a choice to help your community.

  • Review the organization's information in each financial return as a starting point. We encourage you to do further research. 
  • Experts agree that a donor should not base a decision on whether to give to a charity solely on financial ratios.
  • Financial data, while helpful, may not be a true measure of a charity's achievements and effectiveness. 

Evaluate a Charity

Charity Navigator: How We Rate Charities Video

Charity Navigator: How We Rate Charities

Two objectives drive our approach to rating charities: helping donors and celebrating the work of charities. Drawing from a knowledge base of research, analysis, and constituent feedback, our team develops ratings that are both analytical and responsive to the data needs of our site users.

Learn More with Charity Navigator

Related Resources

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The Solicitations Act

The Charitable Organizations and Solicitations Act, MCL 400.271 et seq., requires an organization to register if it solicits or receives contributions in Michigan. 

The Solicitations Act also requires licensing and bonding for professional fundraisers before soliciting, planning, or carrying out a solicitation campaign in Michigan for a charitable organization.  

Read the Act

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Does my charity need to be registered?

Registration is required for most 501(c)(3) organizations. This applies if you ask for or receive more than $25,000 per year.

If you pay anyone to raise money, your organization must be registered. Even if you receive less than $25,000. 

There are exemptions for some types of organizations. The first step for a charity in determining whether it needs to register is to fill out the Request for Exemption Form

Register a Charity


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Extensions & Renewals

If your renewal application is going to be late, it’s wise to request an extension in advance.

An organization may have a 5-month extension. The request for extension must be made in writing.

The request must be received before the registration expires.

Email an Extension Request

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File a Complaint

Complaints must be received in writing. They can be sent to the charitable trust section or submitted online.

After you submit a complaint, a copy is sent to the charity or fundraiser. They are asked to respond.

Submit a Complaint

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Contact Charitable Trust

Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. ET
(Monday through Friday)

  • Phone: 517-335-7571 (Questions about charities.)
  • Phone: 800-769-4515 (Questions about police or fire organizations.)
  • Fax: 517-241-7074
  • Email Charitable Trust
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How to Submit Forms

Required forms can be submitted to the Charitable Trust Section by Efilingemail, mail or fax (517-241-7074). 

Charitable Trust Section
P.O. Box 30214
Lansing, MI 48909-7714

Address For Overnight Mail:

525 West Ottawa Street
1st Floor Williams Building
Lansing, MI 48933

Other Ways to Submit Forms