AG Coakley's Office Releases Report on Professional Solicitations for Charity in 2012
Report Finds that Charities Received 34 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 34 percent of the proceeds collected during charitable campaigns in 2012, 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 2012. 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.
“As always, we encourage donors to give generously to the Massachusetts charities that benefit those in need,” said AG Coakley. “However, we also advise that potential donors do some basic research to ensure that their donations are going to a worthy cause. During this holiday season, make sure you know where your donation is going, what it will be used for, and how much will ultimately benefit the charity whose mission you support.”
In 2012, professional solicitors collected more than $266 million, which is $122 million less than in 2011. Of the amount collected by professional solicitors in 2012, about $91 million ended up with the actual charities. This means that, on average, only 34 cents of every dollar that a professional solicitor collected was returned to the charity. In 2011, an average of 49 cents of every dollar that a professional solicitor raised went back to the charity.
The AG’s Office has examined the practice of professional solicitation to better understand why some charities may receive a low percentage of the money raised by professional solicitors. Information that illustrates how some organizations view their use of solicitors is summarized in the “Behind the Numbers” section of the report . Often, charities view the return on investment from professional fundraising campaigns in a broader perspective than that reflected by the percentage of funds raised going to the charity in a particular year.
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:
- Is the solicitor calling your home a volunteer or a professional fundraiser?
- 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 also required by law to disclose certain information when asked and, in general, are not allowed to mislead prospective donors or misrepresent facts. While the most effective tool in preventing fraud is an educated donating public, 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 .
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.
The AG’s Office 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 617-963-2315.