Attorney General Offers Guidance On Donating To Charities Ahead Of Giving Tuesday & Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Below is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office:

BOSTON, MA — In anticipation of “Giving Tuesday” and the upcoming holiday season, and as people across the state continue to struggle amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Maura Healey advises residents to make informed decisions when donating to charities. The AG’s Office released a new bulletin showing that only 47 percent of the funds that professional solicitors raised on behalf of charities were transferred to charitable organizations in 2019. More than half of charitable contributions collected were retained by the professional solicitors.

“Massachusetts charities are providing critical services and resources to individuals and communities during a challenging time as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our state,” said AG Healey. “If you are in a position to give, be sure to do your research and make informed decisions about your giving in order to maximize the impact of your donation.”

Charitable organizations sometimes pay professional solicitors to solicit donations from the public, and solicitors are required by statute to register with the AG’s Office. Conventional professional solicitors fundraise through phone, mail and door-to-door campaigns. The 2019 Professional Solicitor Bulletin outlines the financial results conventional solicitors and charities report from campaigns conducted in Massachusetts.

In calendar year 2019, conventional professional solicitors collected more than $127 million in Massachusetts. While the amount kept by professional solicitors varied widely among solicitors, only approximately $60.2 million ended up with the actual charities. The 2019 report is consistent with campaign reports from the last five years, in which professional solicitors transferred less than 50 percent of funds they raised to charities. The 2019 report reflects a slight increase over 2018, when an average of 45 percent of every dollar that a professional solicitor raised went to charities.

The AG’s Office encourages potential donors to consider the following points when they are contacted by a professional solicitor:

  • Is the solicitor calling your home a volunteer or a professional fundraiser?
  • How much of every dollar donated will go to the charity?
  • Confirm the charity’s name and the services it offers.

Professional solicitors are required by law to disclose certain information when asked and may not mislead prospective donors or misrepresent facts. While the most effective means of preventing fraud is an educated donating public, the AG’s Office has a variety of tools to address deceptive practices.

The AG’s Office maintains annual financial reports from charities and professional solicitors that operate in the Commonwealth, which are available for public inspection online.

For additional tips on donating, consumers may also review our Giving Wisely Advisory and the Donating Dos and Don’ts: A Guide to Charitable Giving.

In April 2020, AG Healey sent out an advisory to residents urging them to make informed decisions when specifically donating to charities that support people affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AG Healey also has information about COVID-19 relief efforts that are sponsored by charities registered and in compliance with the AG’s Office.

Individuals with inquiries or complaints about charitable solicitations should call the Attorney General’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division at 617-963-2101, or access the complaint form online.

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