Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Christine Gregoire today released their annual financial report on paid solicitors who ask Washingtonians to support charity.
"Paid solicitors are hired by charities worldwide because of the money they generate is for a good cause," said Reed. "This information is intended solely to help consumers make wise decisions---choices that will stretch donations and have the greatest impact on our communities."
The Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report assists consumers in learning more about their charitable contributions made through paid solicitors. Specifically, it reveals how much of the total revenue raised by these solicitors is actually returned to or retained by their respective charity client(s).
Commercial fundraisers soliciting in Washington are legally required to register with the Secretary of State and disclose general and certain financial information. Some of this information is used to complete the Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report and released during the holidays when fundraising is at its peak.
In this year's report:
- There are a total of 82 registered commercial fund raisers who solicited almost $334,000,000 (exactly $333,697,768).
- Fundraisers registered in Washington returned roughly half of their solicited contributions (exactly $163,916,309 or 49.1%) to their respective charity clients.
- More than 20 percent (or 17 of 82) of Washington's registered commercial fund raisers returned only 15 percent (or less) of their solicited contributions to their respective charity clients.
"The law does not require paid solicitors to give charities a specific percentage of the money they collect in the charities' names," Gregoire said. "That means donors have to be especially careful to give wisely. This report will help educate them about the questions they should ask before they write a check."
Consumers in Washington should:
- Contact the Secretary of State's Charities Hotline at 800.332.4483 with any questions.
- Ask if the solicitor is a charity volunteer or a paid commercial fundraiser?
- Find out, of the total funds raised by the commercial fundraiser, the amount returned to or retained by the charity.
- Find out specifically how the donation will be used and how much will be applied to the charitable cause.
In addition, Reed and Gregoire advise consumers:
- To carefully consider the charity's name. Certain charities, including for-profit companies, have sympathetic sounding names, or names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate charities.
- To ask for written material from the commercial fundraiser and charity.
- To insist on sufficient time to make their decision.
- To pay with a check made out to the charity using its full name, not initials. Consumers should not write a check to a fundraiser or give a credit card number.
- To ask for identification if the fundraiser comes to the door.
"The Attorney General's Office will vigorously pursue legitimate claims of charity fraud to protect the public," said Gregoire. "But no court of law will replace education. The most useful advice we can give consumers is to stay informed."
Anyone who witnesses something suspicious regarding a charitable donation should contact the Attorney General's Office at 800.551.4636 or online at http://www.atg.wa.gov/consumer/complain.html