2020 Professional Solicitor Bulletin

Find the 2020 bulletin on professional solicitation by charities in Massachusetts, prepared by the Attorney General's Office.

Here, you can find the 2020 bulletin on professional solicitation by charities in Massachusetts, prepared by the Attorney General's Office (the “AGO”).  Charitable donations can be key sources of income for the more than 23,000 charities operating in Massachusetts, many of which rely on donations from the public to accomplish their goals. Some charities raise funds on their own, and some hire professional fundraising organizations to raise funds on their behalf. This bulletin, and the accompanying appendices, break down the portion of funds raised by professional solicitors that was transferred to charities as opposed to the portion retained by the solicitor to fund the campaign or as a fee for its service. The purpose of this bulletin, in addition to the annual filings charities and professional solicitors make, is to help the donating public make informed decisions about which charitable causes – and through which mode – they should donate. 

Generally speaking, professional solicitors are companies or individuals that raise funds on behalf of charities and sometimes organize fundraising events. Each professional solicitor must register with the AGO and file certain information about each campaign it conducts, including a copy of the fundraising contract and a financial statement detailing the results of the campaign. The data represented in this bulletin are based on the information professional solicitors filed with the AGO for campaigns conducted during the reported calendar year.

2020 was – at best – an unusual fundraising year for charities and challenging for many as pandemic restrictions took effect and in-person events and solicitations were canceled or significantly limited.  That said, the total revenue that professional solicitors reported having raised in 2020 increased from approximately $950 million in 2019 to $1.2 billion in 2020.  This reported increase was from campaigns conducted by professional solicitors that (1) are known to solicit funds outside the conventional phone, mail and/or face-to-face methods and (2) raised enough funds to potentially skew the aggregate results, given that the focus of this report is on conventional solicitation.  These few “outliers” reported raising $1.12 billion in 2020, whereas more conventional paid solicitors reported raising only $93 million.  The 44 conventional paid solicitors reported retaining – on average – 57% of all donations they raised for charity – and provided only 43% of the donations to the charities donors intended to benefit.  The 3 outliers retained an average of only 1% of all funds they raised for charity – and provided 99% of such donations to charities. 

Consistent with data from past years, the amount of a donation solicited by a professional solicitor that goes to charity can vary widely, particularly for the majority of professional solicitors that employ more conventional fundraising methods (phone, mail and/or face-to-face).  No matter the mode of solicitation, we urge members of the donating public to ask questions when someone is soliciting them for a donation and consider whether they are donating directly to a charity and, if not, how much of their donation is going to the charity itself. 

2020 Professional Solicitor Bulletin

View the 2020 Professional Solicitor Bulletin here.

Data Limitations

The data presented in this bulletin have certain limitations. First, pursuant to statute, professional solicitors report campaign results on a calendar-year basis regardless of the dates that the campaign spans. For campaigns that straddle two (or more) calendar years, professional solicitors might only incur expenses during one of the years.

Second, some campaigns can yield recurring annual “sustainer” donations, or reach new audiences of donors who will give for years to come. These sustainer donations might not be reflected in reports professional solicitors file with the AGO. Thus, where reports to the AGO reflect only the initial gifts from those donors, the fundraising campaign may bring in more funds to the charity than the annually reported numbers would indicate.

Finally, in calculating figures for the 2020 Professional Solicitor Bulletin, we reported campaigns conducted by three solicitors separately from what we have categorized as “Conventional Paid Solicitors.” While we believe that these solicitors meet the statutory definition of “professional solicitor” and have been appropriately filing as such, we report on them separately because they (1) are known to solicit funds outside the conventional phone, mail and/or face-to-face methods and (2) raised enough funds to skew the aggregate results, given that the focus of this report has historically been on conventional solicitation. Please note that some solicitors included in the aggregate results may engage in unconventional fundraising; however, the amounts these solicitors raised were not significant enough to impact the overall data. Individual results from all campaigns reported to the AGO for 2020 are included in the appendices. 

The three solicitors excluded from the “Conventional Paid Solicitors” category are: 

  • Eaton Vance Distributors, Inc., an investment management firm that offers its own donor-advised fund, The US Charitable Gift Fund, as a way for its clients to support charitable causes. It reportedly raised $377 million in 2020, 99% of which went to charity.
  • Network for Good, Inc., an online fundraising platform that works with a related donor-advised fund with the same name. It reported raising $683 million in 2020, 99% of which went to charity.
  • Kauffman Group, Inc. is a fundraising firm that reported 2020 campaigns only for Priorities USA Foundation, a public charity exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”), and affiliated with Priorities USA, a nonprofit exempt under section 501(c)(4) of the IRC, and Priorities USA Action, a Political Action Committee exempt under section 527 of the IRC.  Kauffman Group Inc. reported its 2020 solicitation activities as soliciting from potential major donors via telephone calls, meetings and videoconference.  It reportedly raised $59 million in 2020, 99% of which went to charity. 

Appendix I

View Appendix I here.

Appendix II

View Appendix II here.

Notes on Appendices

  • Appendix I reports campaign results by the name of the professional solicitor. The first column on the left lists the professional solicitors alphabetically by name, and then lists alphabetically the charitable organizations that benefitted from the campaigns they conducted. Appendix II reports the same data but is organized alphabetically by the name of the benefitting charitable organization.
  • The “Interim” column indicates whether or not the filing covers an entire campaign. If checked, the report covers only the 2020 portion of a multiyear campaign. Note that if it is an interim report, the figures may reflect the costs associated with the entire multiyear campaign while reporting only the proceeds received in 2020.
  • The next column states the total amount of money raised in 2020 for each of the charitable solicitation campaigns. Please note that this amount can reflect the results of a regional or national solicitation effort and not just the results of activity conducted in Massachusetts. In addition, it may only reflect the funds received or pledged during the reporting period which, for sustainer campaigns, may be only a portion of the funds likely to result from the solicitation.
  • The next two columns indicate the amount the charity received, as both a dollar amount and as a percent of the total revenue generated, from the campaign.
  • Appendix I includes a final column that reflects the average percent of revenue the solicitor transferred to charity for all campaigns that they conducted in 2020.

Notations within the Appendices:

*     Denotes solicitor excluded from aggregate results in report because solicitor is (1) known to solicit funds outside conventional modes of solicitation and (2) raised enough funds to potentially skew the aggregate results. For more information, see the note on Data Limitations above.

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