Talk Like A Charity, But Do They Walk Like A Charity?
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.
Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from
the Department of Attorney General.
THEY TALK LIKE A CHARITY, BUT DO THEY WALK LIKE A CHARITY?
Beware the "Jabbertalking" Solicitor
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
-- from Through The Looking Glass
by Lewis Carroll
When Lewis Carroll wrote Through the Looking Glass in 1871, he must not have known about telephone solicitations. If he had, he might have named his creature the "Jabbertalk"! The smooth-talking, fast-acting caller who interrupts your dinner hour or your family time wants you to believe everything they tell you, but sometimes what they tell you is false. Jabbertalks, better known today as telephone solicitors, will actually lie to get you to give money, maybe because their job depends on how much money they collect in an evening of calling.
Michigan has many charities that do wonderful work in our communities and around the world. Unfortunately there are many others who jabber and talk about their wonderful work, but do little or nothing that is worthwhile. It is important that you direct your generosity to those who are using your money wisely. The donor must beware!
The next time you get a call from someone asking for a donation to a charity, be ready to ask some tough questions. Keep a note pad by the telephone and write down the answers. Never take for granted that the information you are told is accurate until you have checked it out. The solicitor's words can be the "claws that catch" if you are not careful.
Ask these questions and write down the answers:
- Are you a volunteer or a paid fund raiser?
- Do you work for a professional fund raiser or for the charity?
- Where is the charitable organization located?
- How much of my donation will go for the charitable purpose described?
(For example, if the charity says it is locating missing children, ask how much
money will be used to do that work, specifically how the money is spent and how many children have been located. Do not simply ask how much will go to
the charity; there are too many ways to give you misleading information.)
- Are you licensed by the Attorney General's office to solicit contributions?
Never hesitate to ask the caller to repeat what they said or to ask further questions. It is important that you record exactly what you are told.
Then take these steps to check out the information:
- Contact the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section by calling one of these
Charities call: (517) 373-1152
Police or Fire organizations call: (1-800) 769-4515
- Or write to:
Charitable Trust Section
Department of Attorney General
P.O. Box 30214
Lansing, MI 48909
- Contact the organization directly by telephone or mail. Ask the same specific
questions; it is preferable to get responses in writing. Be sure you are getting
answers from the organization and not their paid fund raiser; sometimes the phone number you are told to call is really the office of the fund raiser
who answers the phone as if they were the charity.
If you have been deceived by a telephone solicitor, send a written complaint to
The Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section. Your complaint will be communicated directly to the charity to try to stop the misrepresentations. If there are a number of complaints about a particular charity or fund raiser, the Attorney General may choose to proceed with further investigation. You may be contacted for further information.