Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – May 24, 2012 - The Better Business Bureau has received inquiries from Western Pennsylvania consumers regarding recent charitable solicitations sent through the mail. With there being an abundance of worthy causes for generous donors to make charitable contributions, it is important for consumers to evaluate the charities they are considering and to do their homework prior to donating.
One such inquiry received by the BBB involves a solicitation mailed throughout the Johnstown, PA area from “The Alzheimer’s Disease Fund;” a program of Project Cure Inc., which also raises funds under “The National Diabetes Fund” and “Prostate Cancer Fund.” This solicitation included a $2.50 check made payable to the recipient and an Annual Fund Drive Voluntary Reply Form. The form offers recipients a choice to return the $2.50 check to The Alzheimer’s Disease Fund along with an additional donation or to just return the $2.50 check to the organization.
The Better Business Bureau is informing consumers that they are not required to return this check. BBB is also urging potential donors to thoroughly research a charitable organization prior to donating, as the charity may not represent what it initially seems. For instance, The Alzheimer’s Disease Fund’s reply form includes the statement, “2012 Johnstown Area Annual Fund Drive.” Though this is a general description of the solicitation’s area of distribution, potential donors may misconstrue this as meaning that their donations will benefit those in just the Johnstown area or that the fund is locally affiliated. The Alzheimer’s Disease Fund of Project Cure Inc. is not actually associated with any Johnstown Alzheimer’s foundation though.
Before making a charitable donation, BBB recommends checking out a charity’s review at www.bbb.org and seeing if it meets the BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s Standards for Charity Accountability. Organizations that comply with these accountability standards have provided documentation that they meet basic standards in how they govern their organization, spend their money, truthfulness of their representations and willingness to disclose basic information to the public.
In order to meet these standards, a charitable organization must spend at least 65% of its total expenses on program activities and spend no more than 35% of related contributions on fundraising. A study done in 2011 shows on average in the state of Pennsylvania, the percentage of donations paid to hired fundraisers is 60.5% and out of $904 million donated to 383 campaigns, only $394 million was actually retained by the charities.
According to The Alzheimer’s Disease Fund’s mailed solicitation, only 5.91% is actually spent on program services, while 75.43% of contributions are spent on fundraising. Based on these statistics, it is important for donors to ask and verify how much of their donation will actually benefit the cause in which they are donating.
BBB also offers the following tips for charitable donors to utilize when making wise giving decisions:
- Check to see if a charity is licensed or registered with the Bureau of Charitable Organizations, by searching the online database. The Bureau of Charitable Organizations administers Pennsylvania’s charitable solicitation law. It also maintains registration and financial information on over 11,000 charities soliciting in the Commonwealth, as well as more than 400 professional solicitors and fundraising counsels. It is important to note that the Bureau of Charitable Organizations does not evaluate the non-profit organizations.
- Ask if your contribution is tax deductible. Keep records of your donations so you can document your charitable giving at tax time. These records include receipts, donation confirmations and bank statements.
- Do not feel pressured to donate immediately or give in to high-pressure sales tactics. A solicitor should allow you time to research the organization and even reconsider your donation.
For more helpful tips and information on charitable giving or to file a complaint against a national charity, visit www.bbb.org.
About the BBB System
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 116 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.