For Immediate Release - December 11, 2012

AG Coakley’s Office Releases Report on Professional Solicitations for Charity in 2011

Report Finds that Charities Received 49 Percent of the Proceeds from Charitable Campaigns; AG Coakley Offers Tips for Consumers to Give Wisely

BOSTON – Massachusetts charities that hire professional solicitors received an average of 49 percent of the proceeds collected during charitable campaigns in 2011, according to a report released today by Attorney General Martha Coakley. Professional solicitors are paid by organizations to solicit donations from the public and are required by statute to register with the AG’s Office.

The Report on Professional Solicitations for Charity outlines the financial results reported by fundraisers and charities regarding campaigns conducted in Massachusetts during calendar year 2011. The Report is published annually and is designed to assist residents in making informed decisions regarding their charitable giving by providing the public with information by calendar year on how much, on average, of every dollar raised by professional solicitors ends up with charities.

There is no requirement that a minimum percentage or amount of funds donated through a professional solicitation campaign be passed on to the charity. The amount of donations going to the charity may vary widely and cannot be directly regulated by the Commonwealth. As a result, the AG’s Office issues this report as a source of information for consumers and a reminder that those seeking donations may be paid professional solicitors.

“It is important to support the Massachusetts charities that benefit residents of the Commonwealth who are in need, especially during the holiday season,” AG Coakley said. “We encourage consumers to ask questions and do basic research in order to know exactly where their money is going and how it is going to be used to ensure that every dollar is spent appropriately.”

In 2011, professional solicitors collected more than $388 million, almost $21 million more than last year. Of this amount, about $190 million ended up with the actual charities. This means that, on average, only 49 cents of every dollar that a professional solicitor collected was returned to the charity. This represents an increase from 2010 when an average of 45 cents of every dollar that a professional solicitor raised went back to the charity.

In this year’s report, the AG’s Office made an effort to more closely examine the practice of professional solicitation and to better understand why some charities may receive a low percentage of the monies raised by professional solicitors. Information from phone interviews with charities and professional solicitors illustrates how some organizations view their use of solicitors, and is summarized in the “Behind the Numbers” section of the report.

In addition to looking at the results of the report, potential donors should consider asking basic questions when they are contacted by a professional solicitor, including:

  • How much of every dollar donated will go to the charity?
  • Confirm the charity’s name and the services it offers to the public.

Professional solicitors are required by law to disclose certain information when asked and, in general, are not allowed to mislead prospective donors or misrepresent facts. The AG’s Office has a variety of tools to address deceptive practices, which are outlined in the “Deceptive Practices in Solicitation” section of the report.

The AG’s Office also maintains annual financial statements from charities and professional solicitors that operate in this state, which are available for public inspection online. Consumers with concerns about solicitations they have received should contact the AG’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division at 617-963-2101.

For additional tips, consumers can also review our Give Wisely Advisory.

The AG’s Report on Professional Solicitations for Charity in 2011 and accompanying documents can be found at www.mass.gov/ago/2011prosolicitreport. The AG’s Report on Professional Solicitations for Charity in 2010 is also available on the Attorney General’s website.

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