For Immediate Release - November 06, 2013

AG Coakley’s Office Issues Veterans’ Charity Solicitation Report, Encourages Consumers to be Informed Donors

Only 20 Percent of Donations Raised by Paid Solicitors Went to Veterans’ Charities

BOSTON – In anticipation of Veterans Day and the holiday season, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office today issued a report examining paid solicitations for veterans’ charities and encouraged consumers to be informed donors.

AG Coakley unveiled the results of the report during a tour of the New England Center for Homeless Veterans in Boston, which conducts all of its own fundraising in-house. The AG’s report shows that during 2012, only 20 percent of donations raised by professional fundraisers went to charity.

“As always, we encourage people to give generously to organizations that honor and support our veterans and troops, but we want them to give wisely,” AG Coakley said. “The most efficient way to help these organizations is to make sure they actually benefit from the donation. We ask that potential donors keep themselves informed so that their donations go where they intend and so that they can maximize their donations to charities whose mission they support.”

“Massachusetts leads the nation in veterans services because of the commitment the Patrick Administration has made to work across agencies to ensure we are maximizing our resources to provide the finest benefits to our veterans and their families,” said Department of Veterans Services Secretary Coleman Nee.  “Attorney General Coakley and her office have been a great partner in many areas assisting veterans including home loan modifications, mental health funding and fraud protection.  I thank her for her continued efforts and diligence as we continue to bring the finest benefits and resources to veterans, service members, and their families.”

“I want to commend AG Coakley for bringing awareness to this important issue,” said Senator Mike Rush (Co-Chairman, Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs).  “After local and national news has illuminated potential fraud and misconduct involving veterans’ charities in recent years, it is our hope this legislation will ensure appropriate percentages of funds raised through the generous donations of the public are actually applied to veterans charities and organizations.”

“We greatly appreciate the Attorney General’s focus on this important issue and are pleased to join her in asking that people use care in donating to veterans’ organizations,” said C. Andrew McCawley, President and CEO of the New England Center for Homeless Veterans. “As a non-profit institution serving veterans in need, we believe that people should feel comfortable that their donations are truly supporting those they seek to help.”

Many people may be considering ways to honor and support veterans and troops at this time of year when pleas for donations are more plentiful. Potential donors should be aware that many charitable solicitations are in fact conducted by for-profit solicitors, some of which retain the majority of a donation to a charity.

During 2012, the professional solicitor campaigns of 34 veterans’ charities and 19 professional solicitors raised more than $26.3 million, but only about $5.6 million was given to the charities. On average, only about 21 percent of total donations were directed to the charities and nearly 80 percent went to professional, for-profit fundraisers. Tables in the report list the charity, the solicitor, and the details on the amount raised and how much of that amount went to the charity.

The tables reflect the information reported to the AG’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division that must be filed on a calendar year basis, for each solicitation campaign conducted by a professional solicitor. The tables include data only for military or veterans’-related charities that used solicitors in 2012 and may not capture the full results of ongoing fundraising campaigns that run beyond the end of the 2012 calendar year.

Consumers should use the following tips when considering their donations:

  • Make sure you know who you are supporting with your donation. Many charities that support military personnel have words like “troops” or “veterans” in the name.  Double-check the name of the organization you are donating to. If you want to support troops locally, be sure to ask if your donation will stay local.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no if you feel pressured. Researching an organization before making a donation or asking a telephone solicitor to provide you with more information doesn’t make you unpatriotic. A legitimate organization should always be happy to answer your questions.
  • Be aware that uniforms aren’t just worn by veterans. If the person asking for donations is wearing a uniform, do not hesitate to inquire if they are a volunteer or paid solicitor. 
  • Learn if the organization is utilizing a paid solicitor. If asked, a telemarketer, or paid solicitor requesting donations on the street, is required to disclose this. You may also wish to ask for more information on how the solicitor is compensated, and how much of your donation will go to the charity itself.

A report on all professional solicitations will be published by the Division later this year and will include financial information for all 2012 solicitation filings received from charitable organizations, not just for veterans’ charities. The 2011 Professional Solicitation Report can be found here.

While there is no requirement that a minimum percentage or amount of funds donated through a professional solicitation campaign be passed on to the charity, 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 2011 solicitation report.

In August 2012, the AG’s Office sued a Somerset charity, Bay State Vietnam Veterans, Inc. and its Rhode Island-based fundraiser, Dynamic Marketing Solutions, Inc. for using deceptive fundraising tactics in violation of state charitable solicitation and consumer protection laws. A court ordered the organizations to stop a number of alleged deceptive practices in their efforts to raise money.

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