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Monday, November 29, 2021

AG’S OFFICE OFFERS GUIDANCE ON DONATING TO CHARITIES AHEAD OF GIVING TUESDAY AND HOLIDAY SEASON

 AG’S OFFICE OFFERS GUIDANCE ON DONATING TO CHARITIES AHEAD OF GIVING TUESDAY AND HOLIDAY SEASON

Releases Bulletin About Professional Solicitation in Massachusetts

BOSTON — 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 is advising residents to make informed decisions when donating to charities.

Today, the AG’s Office released a new bulletin showing that only 43 percent of the funds that conventional professional solicitors raised on behalf of charities were transferred to charitable organizations in 2020. More than half of charitable contributions collected were retained by the professional solicitors.

“Thousands of charities in Massachusetts rely on donations to help provide critical services and resources to individuals and communities, especially as we continue to face challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said AG Healey. “If you are in a position to give, be sure to do your research and make informed decisions in order to maximize the impact of your donation.”

While some charities raise funds on their own, others 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 2020 Professional Solicitor Bulletin outlines the financial results that solicitors and charities report from campaigns conducted in Massachusetts in 2020, a year where many charities faced fundraising challenges due to the pandemic, with new restrictions around in-person events, along with cancelations and solicitations that were limited. 

In calendar year 2020, 44 conventional professional solicitors collected $93 million through campaigns conducted in Massachusetts. While the amount kept by professional solicitors varied widely among solicitors, only approximately $40 million ended up with the actual charities. The 2020 report is consistent with campaign reports from the last five years, in which conventional professional solicitors transferred less than 50 percent of funds they raised to charities. However, the total revenue that all professional solicitors reported as having raised in 2020 campaigns conducted in Massachusetts increased from approximately $950 million in 2019 to $1.2 billion in 2020. This increase is largely due to three professional solicitors that employed unconventional methods – an investment management firm fundraising for a donor-advised fund, an online fundraising platform that works with a related donor-advised fund, and a fundraising firm that targeted major donors. 

These three professional solicitors reported raising $1.12 billion for charities in 2020 and transferred nearly 99 percent of those funds to the charities.

The AG’s Office encourages potential donors to ask questions 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 AG’s Office has a variety of tools to address deceptive practices in charitable solicitation, the most effective means of preventing fraud is an educated donating public.

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.

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.

For more information on the AG’s 2020 Professional Solicitation Bulletin, click here

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