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Charities, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern.
are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the
Department of Attorney General.
Sorting Out The Good
From The Bad and The Ugly Charities
-- A Practical Guide to Wise Charitable Giving
You want to give generously to the many organizations in your community that help citizens and do charitable work. Most charitable organizations that solicit your support provide valuable services from feeding and clothing the poor to helping find cures for devastating illnesses. But, unfortunately, there are so many groups asking for money that do little, or nothing, that is charitable. How do you tell the difference?
You may be shocked to learn that sometimes only 10%, or even less, of the money you give actually is spent on charitable work. Solicitors for charities and for police and fire organizations often call on the telephone or send material in the mail telling you that your contribution will serve a noble purpose. What they do not reveal is that much of your contribution may go to pay costs of fund-raising, with little left to spend on the charitable purpose they describe.
Many promises and claims are made by mail and telephone solicitors. Organizations promise to: help locate missing children, grant wishes for terminally ill children, help cancer patients pay the cost of treatment, send children to camp, help veterans, the poor, the homeless. . . . The list goes on.
For every charitable effort, there are organizations that actually do carry out the work, but there are others who only claim to do good. Every week the Attorney General's office hears of cases where profit hungry professional fund-raisers or unlicensed scams steer your money away from charitable causes. Here is a method to sort out the "good from the bad and the ugly."
To avoid the trickery and deception of those who call you or solicit through the mail:
Watch For The Following Warning Signs:
Bills or invoices sent to you even though you never pledged money;
A charity name that sounds or looks like a widely recognized organization, but isn't;
A caller that insists on a pledge or donation without first sending information;
A caller who will not, or cannot, tell you how the money will be used;
Charities or fund raisers that use emotional appeals without providing financial information to back up their good work.
Get the exact name of the charity and the fund-raiser that is soliciting for the charity.
Ask the caller who is paying them.
Ask if the charity and the fund-raiser are licensed with the Attorney General's office.
Ask where and how your donation will be used and what percentage of donations goes directly to carry out the charitable purpose described by the solicitor.
Ask if your contribution will be tax deductible.
Keep paper and pencil by the telephone to write down the answers.
Call the Charitable Trust Section of the Attorney General's office to check answers and find out if the organization is authorized to solicit donations in Michigan. Fund raisers do not always know the answers, and sometimes they purposely deceive the public to get a donation.
Call the charity directly; ask for financial accountings if you feel you need more information.
Once you know enough to make a wise decision, choose the charities you want to support and give generously.
DO NOT MAKE A PLEDGE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE FACTS.
Write or call the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section at:
Department of Attorney General
Charitable Trust Section
PO Box 30214
Lansing, MI 48909