Report educates and empowers donors to make wise decisions regarding their charitable donations
Marquette, Mich. – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the publication of his 6th Annual Professional Fundraising Charitable Solicitation Report. Released annually each spring, this report identifies the total amount each professional fundraiser soliciting in Michigan raised, the amount that went to the fundraiser’s charitable organization, and the amount the fundraiser earned in fees or other costs.
In 2017, 59 percent of funds raised by professional fundraisers reporting in Michigan went to the fundraisers. For context, the Better Business Bureau’s fundraising standard says that fundraising spending should not exceed 35 percent of the total donated funds.
“I encourage Michigan residents to be generous and charitable,” said Schuette. “But I also encourage individuals to be wise and aware of where their money is going. That is why my Charitable Trust Division works hard to hold charities to a high standard as well as releasing this annual report.”
In the last year, Schuette has sued, fined, or banned eight professional fundraisers or charities for violating Michigan’s Charitable Solicitations Act.
WHAT IS A PROFESSIONAL FUNDRAISER?
Under Michigan law, a professional fundraiser is defined as a person or organization that solicits contributions on behalf of a charity in exchange for compensation. If a charity hires its own telemarketers or other fundraising staff in-house, they are not considered “professional fundraisers.”
While hiring professional fundraisers may be beneficial, some professional fundraisers leave little of the donations for the intended charity, with some telemarketers pocketing 80 to 90 percent of the donated funds. Besides telemarketing, professional fundraising is also done through direct mail campaigns, door-to-door solicitation, the internet, and special events.
Michigan law requires professional fundraisers to submit certain data regarding their campaigns to the Attorney General. The data includes the type of appeal conducted (mail, social media, telephone, etc.), gross receipts raised, the amount paid to the fundraiser, and the final amount and percentage that went to the charity. Professional fundraisers licensed in Michigan are required to report these results, so the report includes data from charities across the country. The report includes the results of fundraising campaigns reported to the Attorney General during the 2017 calendar year.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Section continues to highlight important measures consumers can take to protect themselves against bogus or wasteful charities:
- Know that some telemarketers and direct-mail fundraisers keep as much as 80 to 90% of your donation.
- Remember that you don’t know who’s on the other end of the phone call. Giving out your credit card or other personal information to an unsolicited caller is unwise.
- Remember that you can always hang up, research your own charities, and give directly to the charity. That way your charity will get 100 percent of your donation.
- Use online banking to begin recurring monthly donations to your favorite charities. This ensures that your charitable donation goes directly to your intended charity—not to a high-priced fundraiser.
In researching charities, donors can use the Attorney General’s online charity search or third-party websites such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar. More information, including the Attorney General’s annual professional fundraising reports can be found in the “Charities” section of the Attorney General’s website under Annual Professional Fundraising Reports.
RECENT ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS
In recent years, Attorney General Schuette’s Charitable Trust Section has become a national leader in policing deceptive charitable solicitations.
- In August 2016, following allegations of solicitations fraud by Attorney General Schuette, Wyandotte-based Firefighters Support Services agreed to dissolve and pay a fine.
- In September 2016 Schuette alleged deceptive solicitations and Utah-based professional fundraiser Corporations for Character agreed to a fine and a four-year ban.
- In January 2017, Schuette alleged solicitation violations against Florida-based Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, which agreed to a fine and a ten-year ban.
- In February 2017, Schuette settled allegations of deceptive solicitations against a Dearborn-based clothing donation bin operator.
- In March 2017, Schuette alleged over 16,000 solicitation violations against Illinois-based VietNow National Headquarters. VietNow later agreed to penalties and to dissolve.
- In July 2017, Schuette alleged thousands of violations against Texas-based Healing American Heroes and its professional fundraiser. In November, the charity and fundraiser agreed to penalties, and the charity agreed to dissolve.
- In September 2017, Schuette alleged deceptive solicitation violations against Florida-based American Veterans Foundation.In February 2018, Schuette sued the organization.
- In November 2017, Schuette sued Texas-ATRS an out-of-state clothing donation bin operator, alleging over 300,000 violations. In March 2018, ATRS agreed to a $75,000 settlement.
And while Attorney General Schuette is vigorously defending the state’s laws prohibiting deceptive charitable solicitations, donors can defend themselves by researching charities before giving and educating themselves regarding deceptive and expensive solicitation methods.
Donors can also submit complaints through the Attorney General’s online complaint form, or by mailing the Charitable Trust Section at P.O. Box 30214, Lansing, MI 48909-7714, or by emailing the Charitable Trust Section.
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