Do your homework before donating the charities this holiday season


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – This is the time of year when we open our wallets to give to those in need.

But it’s also the time when those claiming to collect for charities can take advantage of your giving nature.

That’s why the North Carolina Secretary of State ranks charities annually and makes a public report available.

Triangle Family Services of Raleigh depends on charitable donations and without that money it’d have a lot smaller budget.

“Our charitable contributions last year ran 18 percent. So we would have $750,000 dollars less,” said CEO Alice Lutz.

In that agency’s case, only 11 percent of what they collect goes to overhead and administrative costs which is reasonable according to the Secretary of State’s annual report on charities.

The report helps you determine exactly where your money goes.

For example, how much goes to charity, and how much goes to overhead, like administrative or fundraising costs.

 This year’s report found North Carolina charities collected almost $44 million this fiscal year.

That’s about $2 million less than the year before.

But, despite the fact the charities collected less money, the report says more money than ever went to charities because many are becoming more efficient.

“Overall charities received 74.29 percent of every dollar donated,’’ said Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

She says that is almost a 4-percent increase over last year.  It’s also a record high for the percentage of money going to charities after deducting fundraising and administrative costs.

The report also shows who raised the money for a charity, how much it collected and what percentage went to the charity.

Here are just two examples consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia found in the report.

According to the report, a solicitor named Grassroots Campaigns raised $36,000 for the ACLU, but none went to the organization.

Another soliciting agency named Donor Services Group LLC raised $20,000 for the ACLU and again—nothing went to the organization.

The report indicates the fundraisers kept it all.

But, it’s legal.

“The law is clear, we cannot penalize charities for using the bulk of their donations for fundraising and overhead,” said Marshall.

So, that’s why it’s up to you to check how your charitable donation is being used.

In addition to the Secretary of State’s charity report, the office has a donor’s telephone checklist which you can use to help you check on an organization before you write the check.

The Better Business Bureau has a wise-giving Donor Handbook as well as a searchable database of national charities you can access here.

And, if you come across a charity that’s fake—or seems sketchy to you—file a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office.

They have investigators who can check it out and take legal action if necessary.  

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