Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Dec 6 2016

OLYMPIA — Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are reminding Washingtonians to make smart choices when giving money to charity and avoid unscrupulous solicitors during the holiday season and beyond.

The two statewide officials who deal most closely with charities also are sharing tips on how to “Give Smart.”

“People here in Washington are very generous,” Wyman said. “Many of us give money to help those in need, here or around the world. Unfortunately, scammers can victimize donors if they aren’t careful and do their homework before giving. Our goal is to

2016 Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report at a glance
10 fundraisers returned more than 80% of total contributions to their charity clients.
On the other hand, 44 returned less than 20% of the funds raised to their charity clients.
3 fundraisers’ fees and expenses were more than the amount raised, resulting in a net loss for the charities.
More than $755,912,955 was raised in Washington and elsewhere by the 102 commercial fundraisers included in the report. This amount is about $19,464,631 more than reported in October 2015.
The average percentage of contributions returned to charity clients was 61 percent overall ($462,604,809). The percentage last October was 52 percent ($292,768,376). Compared to the average over the last decade, the amount charities are profiting from these campaigns is down this year.
The fundraiser with the highest percentage rate returned 100% percent to charity.
The fundraiser with the lowest percentage rate came in at -61% percent, meaning the charity lost money on the partnership.
There are currently approximately 11,141 charities registered in Washington. Of those, 105 (or 1%) report using paid fundraising services.

help people give smart and avoid being ripped off.”

“When you give to charity, you deserve to know that your donation is going where you intend it to,” Ferguson said. “There are people out there looking to take advantage of your kindness. Before making a donation, make sure the charity is legitimate.”

Ferguson said there are several common-sense ways to “Give Smart” and avoid being scammed by those seeking donations:

  • Don’t give in to high-pressure solicitations that demand you make an instant commitment.
  • Do your research before giving.
    • Check to see if the charity is registered with the SOS at www.sos.wa.gov/charities/.
      • If the organization is registered, you can review a summary of its federal tax exempt status and financial records.
      • If the organization is not registered, or you would like further information, contact the SOS Charities Program at 1-800-332-4483.
    • Check the charity’s rating by Better Business Bureau at www.give.org. More resources for donors can be found at www.sos.wa.gov/charities/ResourcesforDonors.aspx.
  • If a commercial fundraiser is involved, call the charity directly to make sure it has authorized the paid solicitor to collect donations on its behalf.

Secretary of State releases Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report

The Office of Secretary of State’s Charities Program has released the latest figures in its Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report. The report spotlights recent financial information for commercial fundraisers who solicit or collect donations on behalf of their charity clients. The causes vary widely and include police, firefighter and veteran organizations, medical research, animal welfare, civil liberties, and the environment.

Overall in 2016, charities that used commercial fundraisers received an average of 61 percent of contributions, higher than the 52 percent found in the 2015 report. As usual, the percentage that individual fundraisers retained was wide-ranging: Some fundraisers kept less than 10 percent and sent the remaining funds to their charity client(s), while other fundraisers’ fees and expenses were more than the amount raised.

Click http://www.sos.wa.gov/_assets/charities/FundraiserReport.pdf to see the current report, which can be viewed as a PDF or Excel file.

This report, produced since 1995, is updated weekly. Consumers can run their own reports in real time and get current registration information on commercial fundraisers.

“Potential donors should use this report — and the other registration and financial information available from my office — to give wisely this holiday season and beyond,” Wyman said.

Commercial fundraisers, who are compensated for their efforts, take a cut of the donations before sending money to the charitable organization or charge a fee for their services. They use many methods to solicit the public, including telephone, internet and mail.

“People should know that when someone asks them for a donation, there’s a chance a third party is getting paid to make that solicitation,” Wyman said. “Although most of these commercial fundraisers help important charities stay afloat, some use a large portion of donations to pay for fundraising costs and expenses — or to make a large profit.”

Need more information, or to file a complaint?

For further general questions, call the Secretary of State’s Charities Program at 1-800-332-4483.

Download the Give Smart brochure for more information here: http://1.usa.gov/1MHAupc.

To file a complaint about a charity or commercial fundraiser, visit the Attorney General’s website at www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Peter Lavallee, Attorney General's Office Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov

Brian Zylstra, Secretary of State's Office Deputy Communications Director, (360) 902-4173; brian.zylstra@sos.wa.gov