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The Not-So-Charitable Truth about Charitable Solicitors

December 7, 2007

Olympia, WA – Every disaster is an opportunity, if you're a scam artist. Washington residents are being warned that the recent floods may bring bogus fundraisers out of the woodwork.

Holidays are the prime time for tugging at heartstrings as well as pursestrings, and when solicitors call asking for money, you have a right to ask some questions, too, such as what percentage of your donation actually makes it to the charity and if their company is registered with the Secretary of State's office. Doug Shadel of AARP Washington says if you're going to give, give wisely.

"Always ask for their registration number. And I'd ask for their phone number so you can call them back. I recommend that prior to making any donation, call the Secretary of State's toll-free hotline and check out the charity."

That toll-free number is 800-332-4483. A new report on fundraising in Washington shows paid solicitors raised a record $640 million this year, but only about half of the money made it to the charities.

Shadel says the recommended amount solicitors should be able to retain to cover their overhead is no more than 35 percent, but that is often not the case.

"On average, professional fundraisers keep 52 percent of the money they raise. There are some fundraisers keeping 90 percent. And it isn't illegal to keep that much, provided people are not mislead when they ask that question."

He says the solicitors count on one thing, and that is the fact most people won't ask, and don't take the time to check up on them.

The Secretary of State's new "2007 Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report" can be found online at www.secstate.wa.gov. AARP Washington also runs a "Fraud Fighter Call Center" to keep tabs on scams against seniors. That number is 800-646-2283.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA