Leaders urge donors to avoid holiday charity scams

December 15, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 3 p.m. Dec. 15, 2011

Secretary of State Sam Reed and state Attorney General Rob McKenna urged consumers to beware holiday charity scams Wednesday, and unveiled a report to help people donate wisely.

The report, compiled by the Charities Division in Reed’s office, spotlights recent financial information for commercial fundraisers soliciting or collecting donations on behalf of charity clients. The causes vary and include police, firefighter and veteran organizations, medical research, animals, civil liberties, environmental issues and more.

Throughout 2011, charities using commercial fundraisers in Washington received 56 percent of total donations raised by the fundraisers — lower than the 77 percent in last year’s report. But the percentage individual fundraisers retained varied.

Some fundraisers kept less than 10 percent and sent the remaining amount to charity. Others raised less money for a charity than what the charity paid for the fundraising service.

The commercial fundraisers use many methods to solicit the public, including telephone calls and mailers. The fundraisers then take a cut of the donations before sending money to the charitable organization, or charge a fee for services.

“I’ve been so impressed with the generosity of Washington residents over the years,” Reed said in a statement. “So many people here give money to help those who are struggling in our state or elsewhere. We know that individuals will want to donate money this holiday season and beyond to help others, but we also know that they can get burned by not doing their homework before giving to a charity.”

Overall, of the 9,684 charities registered in Washington, 685 report using commercial fundraising services.

“Commercial fundraisers make money by raising money,” McKenna said. “The best way to maximize your contributions is to contact charitable organizations in your community and ask how they spend donations. Don’t be afraid to ask how much of your donation will go to the charitable purpose.”

Reed’s office offers a searchable guide to registered charities at www.sos.wa.gov/charities/search.aspx. Users can get instant financial histories and other information for fundraisers and charities. Consumers can also call 1-800-332-4483 for the information.

Victims of charity fraud should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Resource Center between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays at 1-800-551-4636 or file a complaint at www.atg.wa.gov.

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