Michigan charities see less than half of money raised - WNEM TV 5

Michigan charities see less than half of money raised

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State officials have released a dismal fact - they say charities collect an average of only 35 cents for every dollar raised by professional fundraisers soliciting donations in Michigan.

The information is in Michigan's first annual Professional Fundraising Charitable Solicitation Report, release by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

"Michigan citizens have generous hearts and deserve to know how much of their donation actually makes it to their intended charity, especially in these times when every dollar makes a difference," said Schuette. "Donors might be surprised to know that, on average, only 35 cents of each dollar collected through professional fundraisers are passed on to the charity.

"This new report will hold professional fundraisers accountable and make charities more transparent, so donors can do as much good as possible," he said.

Consumers may access the report directly at http://1.usa.gov/15cWQLQ or by visiting the "Charities" section of the attorney general's website at  www.michigan.gov/AGCharities.

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. This is different from a charity that hires its own staff member for development and other fundraising activities.

Michigan law requires professional fundraisers to submit the results of their campaigns to the attorney general. The data includes the type of appeal conducted (mail, telephone, etc.), gross receipts raised, the amount paid to the fundraiser and the final amount and percentage that went to the charity.

Any charity fundraising in Michigan is required to report these results, so the Professional Fundraising Charitable Solicitation Report includes data from charities across the country. The report includes the results of fundraising campaigns reported to the attorney general during the 2012 calendar year. 

Although hiring professional fundraisers and fundraising counsel may benefit certain charities, some professional fundraisers leave little of the donations for the intended charity. According to data aggregated in the report, on average, professional fundraisers pocket 65 percent of funds raised.

According to the Better Business Bureau's Standards for Charity Accountability, charities should "spend no more than 35 percent of related contributions on fund raising. Related contributions include donations, legacies and other gifts received as a result of fund raising efforts."

Schuette noted that states are limited in their ability to pass laws to regulate professional fundraisers' solicited contributions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional state laws requiring that a minimum percentage of each donation go to charity in Illinois ex rel. Madigan v. Telemarketing Assocs., 538 U.S. 600 (2003). As a result, states are limited to passing laws that prohibit fraudulent fundraising practices and require reporting from charities and their professional fundraisers. Michigan law addresses both aspects. 

The online charity search is designed as a central resource for prospective donors to perform general searches for various types of registered charities. For instance, donors may search by key words within the organization's purpose, as well as by city, county, state, name, or any combination of these. Inquiring prospective donors can visit www.michigan.gov/AGCharitySearch.

The Attorney General's Office has the primary responsibility for ensuring charitable assets are being used for the purpose for which they were donated and that organizations are acting as responsible stewards of these assets.

To fulfill this mandate, the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section registers charitable trusts, licenses charities to solicit funds, monitors charitable assets and oversees any changes that may occur in a charitable entity's form or existence. The Charitable Trust Section also serves as an important repository of publicly available information about charities, and protects citizens from illegal scams posing as legitimate charities.

For more information on the attorney general's oversight of charitable solicitation in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/AGCharities.

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