For Immediate Release - July 03, 2013

AG Coakley Offers Tips on Informed Giving to Veterans and Public Safety Groups

Also Offers Guidance to Retailers Considering Charities to Solicit on Property

BOSTON – With Independence Day approaching, Attorney General Martha Coakley is offering tips to consumers on how to be informed supporters of veterans and public safety groups and how to give wisely to these charities.

“We certainly encourage people to give generously to organizations that support our first responders and veterans,” said AG Coakley. “While most of these charitable organizations are reputable and provide valuable resources to our communities, there are always those that may not spend your donations well. As always, we encourage people to do their homework on a charity before donating to ensure their money will go to the purpose they intend.”

“Massachusetts has a strong tradition of supporting our veterans and we lead the nation in providing benefits and services to our veterans and military families,” said Department of Veterans' Services Secretary Coleman Nee.  “However, we must remain ever vigilant to ensure we are supporting reputable charities and organizations. I applaud the Attorney General and her Charities Division for the work they have done over the last few years protecting our veterans and the general public from fraudulent organizations and I encourage the public to utilize the resources available to ensure they are making informed decisions about their charitable giving.”

Many veterans, police, and fire charities will be increasing their solicitation activities this time of year. Consumers who are not familiar with a particular charity are encouraged to familiarize themselves with an organization before making a contribution. Most charities that solicit donations are reputable and worthy of financial support from the public. A few, however, may engage in questionable tactics or mislead the public about the use of donations.

In August 2012, the AG’s Office sued a veterans’ charity, Bay State Vietnam Veterans, Inc., and its professional fundraiser, Dynamic Marketing Solutions, Inc. for using deceptive fundraising tactics. The lawsuit alleges that the solicitors falsely stated that 100 percent of their donations would benefit veterans, that donations would benefit veterans living in donors’ communities, and that they were volunteers for the charity, in some cases deceptively stating that they were veterans returning from Afghanistan. A court subsequently ordered the charity and the professional fundraiser to stop the alleged deceptive practices.

Some tips and suggestions for educated charitable giving include:

General Tips for Consumers: 

  • Check it out. When solicited for a donation, don’t be afraid to verify the name, address, or phone number of the charity; to ask about how and where the charitable funds will be used; or to ask whether the donation is tax deductible as a charitable contribution.
  • Ask questions. Consumers have the right to find out where their contributions will go. They can ask how much will go to the charity, and how much goes to fundraising, administrative and general expenses.
  • Take your time. Consumers should never feel pressured to give immediately; they can always take time to research the charity. 
  • Think twice. When making a contribution to a charity that has not registered with the AG’s Office or is not current on its filings, reconsider your donation. Consumers can access a charity's information on the AG's website, or by calling (617) 727-2200, ext.  2101. Compliance or registration does not imply an endorsement by the office, but it does provide a mechanism by which the charity must account to the public for the receipt and use of its donations. 
  • Check quickly. Do a quick check online with independent organizations such as www.charitynavigator.org, www.guidestar.org, or the Better Business Bureau’s www.give.org, which provide information about how effective a charity is, and whether complaints have been made about the charity.

Tips for Giving to Veterans, Police, and Fire Organizations: 

  • With veterans, police, and fire organizations, remember that not all solicitors in uniform are necessarily veterans or first responders. The AG’s Office has received reports of charities raising funds for military veterans with professional solicitors in military uniform. 
  • Consumers should ask whether the donation will be used in the local area, and ask for specific information on how donations will be used to help area veterans, police, or firefighters.

Tips for Retailers:

  • Customers should be protected and retailers should not allow a charity that has not registered with the AG’s Office, or is not current on its filings, to solicit donations on their property. Retailers can easily access this information on our website, or by calling (617) 727-2200 ext. 2101.
  • Retailers can quickly research a charity before authorizing them to solicit on their property. There are independent organizations that can provide retailers information about how effective a charity is such as www.charitynavigator.org, www.guidestar.org, or the Better Business Bureau’s www.give.org.

Any consumer or retailer with concerns or complaints about a charity may file a complaint with the AG’s Office, or contact the Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division of the Attorney General’s Office at (617) 727-2200 x2101.  

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