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 were transferred to charity 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 shine a light on professional fundraising and help the donating public make informed decisions as to 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 is based on the information professional solicitors filed with the AGO for campaigns conducted during the reported calendar year.
The data reported in the 2018 Bulletin shows a year-over-year decrease of $104 million from the data reported in 2017. While we are not able to identify any single factor leading to this decrease in aggregate funds raised, we note that a number of solicitors included in this year’s data either ceased operations or did not register campaigns in Massachusetts in 2018. These solicitors reported raising a combined $70 million in 2017. Additionally, most solicitors included in the 2018 data reported raising less money in the aggregate when compared to the data they reported in 2017.
Consistent with data from past years, the amount of a donation solicited by a professional solicitor that may go to charity can vary widely. We urge 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.
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 2018 Professional Solicitor Bulletin, we excluded campaigns from three solicitors. While we believe that these solicitors meet the statutory definition of “professional solicitor” and have been appropriately filing as such, we excluded them 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 potentially skew the aggregate results, given that the focus of this report is on conventional solicitation. Likewise, 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 2018 (including for the three excluded solicitors) are included in the appendices.
The three solicitors omitted from aggregate results:
- Eaton Vance Distributors, Inc. is 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 $292 million in 2018, 98% of which went to charity.
- Network for Good, Inc. is an online fundraising platform that works with a related donor-advised fund with the same name. It reported raising $485 million in 2018, 98% of which went to charity.
- TVI, Inc. is a subsidiary of Savers, LLC that collects tangible items from donors, such as clothes and other household goods, and assigns a value to them. These items are then sold to Savers, LLC for the assigned value, with the proceeds going to charity. It reportedly raised $4.7 million in 2018, with 100% going to charity.
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 2018 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 2018.
- The next column states the total amount of money raised in 2018 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 2018.
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 Data Limitations webpage by following the link provided below.