RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — When people donate to a charity they want to know that most of the money goes to help people in need — and not to the company raising the funds.
How is it possible to tell if that’s happening?
The North Carolina Secretary of State has an online tool to let people do just that, so donors can give wisely.
This time of year, the Salvation Army is one of the most visible and legit charities out there.
When people drop money in their kettles they know where it’s going.
But what about other charities — especially those who solicit over on the phone or via the internet?
“There are charities that are very inefficient that are not scams,” said North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. “They are not doing anything totally fraudulent, but doing things that are inefficient.”
To find out where the donated money’s going, people can consult the secretary of state’s annual report which shows how much money is raised by a charity and what percentage is taken by a fundraiser.
Donors should look for a charity that has a high amount of return, as opposed to a charity which only received a small percentage of the money that was donated to it.
“It’s constantly a red flag to me when it’s below 50 percent going to a charity,” said Marshall.
If solicited by phone, the secretary of state has a printable, online checklist with questions possible donors should ask the person who is trying to get a donation. If they don’t answer the questions right, don’t give any money to them. Possible donors can use to quiz the telemarketer to make sure they’re legit
Marshall says as a consumer, the best way to give to a charity is to give locally.
One of those local charities her office highlights is the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
The food bank consistently scores high in use of donations. In past reports, on average, 91 percent of the money it collected went to help the people it serves.
The food bank also encourages people to see what they do with the money and invites volunteers to help.
“With local charities, you can see how they run their operation,” said Marshall.
Marshall also encourages people to check back on a charity past two- or three-year record by looking over past reports to see if the charity has had a good consistent ratio of fundraising-to-use-of-donations.
The secretary of state is not allowed by law to shut down underperforming charities in which fundraisers keep most of the money.
That’s because courts say giving money to a charity is considered free speech, so it’s up to donors to give where it will do the most good.
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