Northwest NEWS

November 29, 1999

Local News

Where are your charity dollars going?

   OLYMPIA--Secretary of State Ralph Munro and Attorney General Christine Gregoire recently issued figures showing that, in many cases, less than half or even a third of the money you donate through a commercial fundraiser actually gets to the charity being represented.

   The report is released annually at the beginning of the holiday season, the time of year when charitable solicitations--and donations--are most intense. The report summarizes the activities of commerical fundraisers--businesses hired by charitable organizations to solicit donations in Washington State. By law, commercial fundraisers must register with the Secretary of State and disclose certain financial information, including how much of the money raised actually goes to the client charity.

   It is not illegal for fundraisers to keep the majority or a large percentage of the dollars donated. And Munro noted that it's up to consumers to make their own judgements about whether they are getting good value for their charitable contributions.

   Consumers should resist impulse giving, ask key questions, and verify the answers with the Secretary of State's Charities Program before making a contribution. Those questions are:

   Munro and Gregoire also recommend that consumers refrain from giving money to a fundraiser or charity that refuses to send written materials. In addition, consumers should never give their credit card number to a telephone solicitor or allow a courier to come and pick up a donation.

   They also point out that many firefighting and law enforcement charities use commerical fundraisers. It is important to remember that when you receive a telephone solicitation from one of these groups, you are often talking to a paid solicitor, not an actual firefighter or police officer.

   To check on a commercial fundraiser or a charity, call the Secretary of State's toll-free Charities Information Hotline at 1-800-332-4483 (TDD 1-888-658-1485), or e-mail a request to charities@secstate.wa.gov. The Secretary of State's website at www.secstate.wa.gov offers an online lookup of charities registrations, consumer tips, and statutes governing charitable solicitations.

   To file a complaint about a charitable solicitation, you should send an e-mail to the Attorney General at protect@atg.wa.gov, or call 1-800-551-4636.