Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


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 upcoming holidays and afterward.

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

“Washington residents are so generous and caring,” Wyman said. “Whether it was the Oso tragedy last year or the wildfires throughout much of our state this summer, 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 help people give smart and avoid being ripped off.”

“As you look to provide assistance to help those in need, first investigate the charity to understand how your hard-earned dollars will be used,” said Ferguson. “A little research can go a long way to avoiding being scammed. If you are scammed or suspect a scam, file a complaint with my office. I won’t tolerate crooks who prey upon the generosity of Washingtonians to make a quick buck.”

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 tax 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.
  • Call the charity directly to make sure it has authorized the 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 2015, charities that used commercial fundraisers received an average of 52 percent of contributions, slightly higher than the 48 percent found in the 2014 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 charity, 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 smart 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 realize 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 administrative 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.