Posts Tagged ‘Charitable organization’

When a solicitor calls, ask how much of your donation actually goes to charity

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted April 13, 2014, at 10:40 a.m.

 

Consumer rights and charitable solicitations

The caller was straightforward, stating up front that hewas being paid to solicit funds on behalf of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters. 

The cause: to aid the families of fallen firefighters. No argument there. However, as a consumer advocate, I had to ask the question. How much of what you raise goes to the federation?

The response stopped me cold.

“I’ve been instructed to tell people who ask that, [that] at least 15 percent of the money goes to that cause,” the caller said.

“Fifteen percent?” I asked in disbelief.

The caller thanked me for my time and ended the call.

He was being accurate. Companies that solicit Maine consumers by phone must register with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Outreach Calling, the firm making the call to our home, reported last year that during 2012, it returned exactly 15.00009885 percent of funds it raised to Maine State Federation of Firefighters.

Outreach made similar reports to Maine on the 16 other charities for which it raised funds.

“Cancer” was a key word in the names of five of those charities; other beneficiaries included veterans, children and public safety groups. Several of the groups also received around 15 percent of funds raised; in 10 instances, the return to each was almost exactly 10 percent.

Why employ a phone solicitor that gives back only a fraction of what it collects?

“We do it because it’s effective, and it raises money for us,” said William Vickerson, the attorney in Portland representing Maine State Federation of Firefighters.

He told me that most members of the Maine State Federation of Firefighters are volunteers, and fundraising is not their strong suit. If they sold cookies or calendars, they’d have overhead that would eat into any proceeds raised.

“With us, the gross profit is also the net profit,” Vickerson said when pressed on the 15 percent return.

He said Outreach has been responsive to concerns he has voiced in the past when consumers complained about particular callers or solicitation techniques. He also said most of those complaints were unfounded, based on recordings of the calls which Outreach routinely makes.

You might wonder why you receive such calls, if you’ve been placed on the National Do-Not-Call list. Charitable causes are one of those exempt classes as are political calls, which we’ll all receive soon in growing numbers.

Some consumers when called routinely say, “Put me on YOUR do-not-call list,” and some of them report success (results may vary).

Charity Navigator, a major watchdog group, rates more than 7,000 charities on its website (www.charitynavigator.org), including two dozen involved in fighting breast cancer. Together, the charities raised $1.8 billion; but the percent of its budget that each spends to raise money varies, from a low of 2 percent to a high of 91 percent.

Advocates like to see at least half of all money raised going to the cause to which they were donated; so, we think, do donors.

Charity Navigator, Guidestar and other research groups offer help in choosing which causes to support. GreatNonprofits.org offers people familiar with a charity’s operations a chance to share experiences with others.

Last year, the Tampa Bay Times and California-based Center for Investigative Reporting did extensive research and rated America’s 50 Worst Charities. Outreach Calling made the list, based on returns of 9.8 percent to 15 percent for six charities reviewed in 2010 and 2011.

William Vickerson says, so far, Maine State Federation of Firefighters has not been able to find a fundraiser that can do better in Maine.

Asked if the federation will keep looking, he replied, “We’ll do it. We always do.”

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

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Department of Professional and Financial Regulation Offers Guidance for End of Year Charitable Contributions

Charitable Scams Can be More Prevalent This Time of Year  

GARDINER  –  As many Maine families consider holiday season and end of year charitable contributions, Governor Paul R. LePage and Commissioner Anne Head from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation are encouraging Maine residents to check the legitimacy of unknown charities.  Potential donors are urged to always research charitable organizations before making a donation.  A quick check with the Department can provide information to help in determining whether a charity is legitimate or a scam.

“Maine people are well known for lending a hand to others and for supporting charities,” Governor LePage said.  “We saw that earlier this week with the successful conclusion of the Maine State Employees Combined Charitable, which has raised nearly $270,000 to help those in need.  We always encourage charitable giving and want to assist donors in directing their support to legitimate charities.”

Charitable organizations are required to be licensed with the Department’s Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, which collects information about charitable activity in Maine and makes it available to the public.

“Charitable solicitation scams aren’t new, but they sometimes increase during the holiday season, at the end of the year, and in the aftermath of tragedies,” Commissioner Head said.  “It’s important for the public to know that guidance and resources are available to assist people in making sure their contributions are going to real charities.”

Commissioner Head advises individuals to ask questions and seek printed information about unknown charities; to confirm their legitimacy with regulators; to never send cash or wire money when requested to do so; to always keep receipts of donations; and to report concerns or complaints about questionable solicitations with the Department and law enforcement.

Information about charities can be obtained through the Department’s website (www.maine.gov/pfr), specifically atwww.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/charitable. Links allow for the search of licensed charitable organizations, as well as disciplinary actions.  Questions and complaints can also be made by calling the Charitable Solicitations Program at 207-624-8525.

Additional tips and advice accompany this news release and can also be obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/charityfraud/).

The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation protects the citizens of Maine and supports the economy through the oversight of State-chartered financial institutions, the insurance industry, grantors of consumer credit, the securities industry, and numerous professions providing services to the public.  More information is available at www.maine.gov/pfr.

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Tips and Advice When Considering Charitable Giving

December, 2013

  • Always research unknown charities before contributing.  And whether the charity is new or well established, you may wish to know what percentage of your contribution is spent on fundraising, employee compensation, or expenses which do not directly support the charity’s stated purpose.
  • Not all organizations with names that sound like charities are actually charities.  Some organizations select names that are similar to those of well-known charities.
  • Be cautious when contacted by telephone for a contribution.  Ask that the request be put in writing.  You may also want to ask if the caller is a paid solicitor or a volunteer for the charity.
  • Never give your bank account information or credit/debit card numbers to a caller.  And be wary if the person soliciting the contribution is willing to have someone rush to your home or business to meet with you and pick up a contribution.
  • If you wish to receive a tax deduction, make sure the organization has a tax deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service. “Tax exempt,” “non-profit,” and “tax deductible” mean different things.  Only “tax deductible” means contributions are deductible on your income tax return.  Visit the IRS website (www.irs.gov/charities) for more information.
  • Be wary of organizations which list only post office boxes or mail drop suite numbers as their address.  You may wish to inquire about the charity’s location.

 

Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Donate?? Federal Trade Commission

December 9, 2013
by
Carol Kando-Pineda
Attorney, FTC

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, you may be thinking about donating to your favorite charities. This time of year also brings more attention to our deployed personnel, their families living stateside and our veterans. Lots of folks wonder how they can support the troops. Many organizations tout themselves as a way to give back to those who serve. But not all charities are legitimate – some are out to make a buck for themselves. Some spend more money paying their fundraisers than supporting the military community. Here are a few things you can do to prevent shady groups from cashing in on the cachet of the military.

Find out if they’re playing the name game. Just because an organization has the words “veterans” or “military families” in its name is no guarantee that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel will benefit from your donation. Some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations – or they may claim veteran status themselves as a way to gain your trust. You may see a small difference in the name of the charity from the one you mean to deal with; in that case, call the organization you know to be legitimate and check it out. The U.S. Department of Defense doesn’t endorse any charity, but recommends contacting Military One Source to get information about military relief societies.

Dig into the facts before you dig into your wallet. Check out an organization before parting with your money. Donate to charities with a track record. Scam artists follow the headlines and charities that spring up literally overnight in connection with military conflicts and related news stories may disappear just as quickly – with your donation funding their next move. In many cases, those “instant charities” don’t have the infrastructure to get donated money or products to the right place.

Trust your gut. Check your records if you have any doubt about whether you’ve made a pledge or a contribution. Callers may try to trick you by thanking you for a pledge you didn’t make. If you don’t remember making the donation or don’t have a record of your pledge, resist the pressure to give.

Confirm their registration. Call the office that regulates charitable organizations and charitable solicitations to see if a charity or fundraising organization has to be registered in your state. If so, confirm whether the organization you’re considering is registered. For a list of state offices, visit the National Association of State Charity Officials. The organization also can verify how much of each donation goes to the charity, and how much goes to fundraising and management expenses. You also can check out charities with theBetter Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar.

Ask so you shall not be deceived. If you’re solicited for a donation, ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for and the percentage of your donation that will go to the charity and to the fundraiser. You may want to take your time to research this organization and other charitable groups. Then, you can make the best decision about what groups you want to support.

Learn more about making the most of your charitable donations. If you choose to support the troops this season, don’t let your donations fall fa-la-la-la flat.

Helping Victims of the Bombing in Boston — Make Sure Your Donations Count

April 17, 2013

by

Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

After the bombing at the Boston Marathon, many people are looking for ways to help, like donating to a charity or fund.

Doing some research first will help ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised — and as you intend. Urgent appeals for aid that you get in person, by phone or mail, by e-mail, on websites, or on social networking sites may not be on the up-and-up. Unfortunately, legitimate charities face competition from fraudsters who either solicit for bogus charities or aren’t entirely honest about how a so-called charity will use your contribution.

If you’re asked to make a charitable donation to support victims of the bombing in Boston, consider these tips:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events, like the bombing.
  • Ask if a caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer — or if you don’t like the answer you get — consider donating to a different organization.
  • Don’t give out personal or financial information — including your credit card or bank account number — unless you know the charity is reputable.
  • Never send cash: you can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.
  • Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.

For more on the questions to ask and for a list of groups that can help you research a charity, go to Charity Scams.

 

Check on Unknown Charities, Especially Following Tragedies

Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation Encourages Check on Unknown Charities, Especially Following Tragedies 

Phony Charities Reported following Hurricane Sandy and School Shooting in Newtown

GARDINER  –  Citing reports of bogus charities springing up in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the school shooting in Connecticut, Commissioner Anne Head from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation is encouraging Maine residents to check the legitimacy of unknown charities, particularly those that seem to quickly appear following a tragedy.  She urges potential donors to always research charitable organizations before making a donation.  A quick check with the Department will provide essential information, such as whether the charity is authorized to raise money in Maine and whether disciplinary action has ever been taken against the organization.

Under Maine law, charitable entities and those who solicit money for charities, are required to become licensed with the Department’s Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation before soliciting contributions.  The agency collects information about charitable activity in Maine and makes it available to the public.  The Office also receives, and acts upon, complaints related to charitable solicitation.

“Charitable solicitation scams aren’t new, but those attempting to take advantage of people’s generosity in the aftermath of natural disasters and other tragedies seem especially reprehensible,” Commissioner Head commented.  “Because the victims of scams might never know they’ve been taken advantage of, or may be reluctant to report their loss of money, it’s important for government agencies to be proactive and alert the public about the very real potential for fraud.”

Commissioner Head advises individuals to ask questions and seek printed information about unknown charities if solicited for a donation; to confirm their legitimacy with regulators; to never send cash or wire money when requested to do so; to always keep receipts of donations; and to report concerns or complaints about questionable solicitations with the Department and law enforcement.

Information about charities can be obtained through the Department’s website, specifically at www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/charitable. Links allow for the search of licensed charitable organizations, as well as disciplinary actions.  Questions and complaints can also be made by calling the Charitable Solicitations Program at 207-624-8525.

Additionally, the website includes a News Alert with further guidance for avoiding scams.  Information and other resources are also available from the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/charityfraud/).

The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation protects the citizens of Maine through the regulation of State-chartered financial institutions, the insurance industry, grantors of consumer credit, the securities industry, and numerous professions and occupations providing services to the public.  In order to encourage the development of sound ethical businesses which serve the needs of Maine citizens, the Department fosters a healthy business environment through competent, impartial and efficient regulation.

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