by Christina Siderius | May 20th, 2009
Rebecca Sherrell, Charities Manager for the agency’s Charities Program, explains a recent nationwide sweep against fraudulent fundraisers and gives you tips on how to protect your pocketbook.
Q). This week, the Secretary of State is joining other states in a nationwide crackdown against fraudulent charitable solicitors who claim to help police, firefighters and veteran. So does this mean I shouldn’t donate to badge fundraisers?
A). No, that is not our message at all. We want the public to be informed before they donate. It is not uncommon when people receive a telephone solicitation on behalf of a “badge” group to think they are actually talking to a firefighter, veteran or police officer. That is what the caller wants you to believe, but it’s usually a paid telemarketer which means a large percentage of the donation will be retained by the telemarketer.
Q). What are some ways I can protect myself from being a victim of a fraudulent fundraiser?
A). Don’t be fooled by a name that sounds like a well-known, respected charity. Give to familiar organizations and those you trust, and ask exactly how your money will be used. Recognize that the words “veterans” or military families” in an organization’s name do not necessarily mean that veterans or families of active duty personnel will benefit from your donation.
Ask questions and check out a charity. It’s imperative that potential donors do their homework before writing a check to any soliciting organization.
Q). How can I check to make sure the majority of my money is going to benefit the charity, instead of lining the pocket of a paid solicitor?
A). When a telemarketer raises money on behalf of a charitable organization, both the fundraiser and charity must register with the Charities Program. The information contained in the registration document includes general and financial information and will assist the donor is making an informed decision – before contributing. This information is also available on our Web site.
Q). When a paid solicitor calls me, how can I tell the difference between them and the actual charity?
A). Don’t be afraid to ask. The law requires soliciting organizations to disclose certain information, such as their name and the company they work for in addition to the charity they are raising funds for. Donors have the right and may ask detailed questions as well as request information in writing. You can always check for accuracy on the Charities Web site or call the Charities Program directly at 800-332-4483.
Q). What are some good resources that I can use to educate myself and others?
A). There are many online resources available including the American Institute of Philanthropy at www.charitywatch.org, Charity Navigator at www.charitynavigator.org, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org, GuideStar at www.guidestar.org, and AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center: 1-800-646-2283.
For more tips on how to protect your donations, visit www.secstate.wa.gov/charities