Most charitable organizations are legitimate and use donations wisely. However, some charities are either phony or spend most of the money they receive from donors on administrative expenses or more fundraising. Since the Attorney General's Office does not register charities, our office does not keep records on the amount of money a charity spends on fundraising and administrative expenses compared to the amount of money a charity spends on programs and services.
There are some independent organizations that have compiled financial information on charities, especially charities that conduct nationwide solicitation campaigns. The Attorney General's Office has included links to such organizations. Before making a contribution to a charity, especially a national charity, you should consider contacting the following organizations:
BBB Wise Giving Alliance
American Institute of Philanthropy
Public Safety Organizations
You may be solicited to contribute to an organization claiming to represent police officers or firefighters. Many of these organizations use professional solicitors to solicit on their behalf. You should be aware that having the words “police,” “law enforcement,” “trooper,” or “firefighter” in an organization's name does not necessarily mean your local police officers or firefighters belong to or are represented by the organization. Any donations received from these types of solicitations normally go to a police or firefighter association, such as a union or other fraternal organization, and not to a police or fire department. If a caller tells you a local police or fire department has authorized a solicitation on their behalf or will somehow benefit from the solicitation, you should call your local police or fire department to determine whether they have authorized a solicitation on their behalf.
Helpful Tips for Charitable Giving:
Always pay by check, not by cash. Always make contributions by check and make the check payable to the charitable organization, not to the solicitor. Beware of solicitors who want to send couriers to your home to pick up your donation. Indiana law does not allow solicitors to collect or attempt to collect a contribution in person or by the courier unless the solicitation is made in person and the collection or attempt to collect is made at the time of the solicitation, or the contributor has agreed to purchase goods or items in connection with the solicitation, and the collection or attempt to collect is made at the time of delivery of the goods or items.
Don't be pressured into making a contribution. Ask the caller for written information on the charitable organization, including the charity's name, address, and telephone number. A professional solicitor or charity should be willing to send you materials outlining the charity's purpose and how your donation will be used. You should check out the charity with some of the independent organizations that provide information on charities.
Watch out for charities with similar-sounding names. Some charitable organizations use names that are very similar to those of respected organizations. You should check with some of the independent organizations that provide information on charities to make sure you are donating to the correct charity.
Beware of callers who claim endorsement by the state. Under Indiana law, a person who solicits charitable contributions may not use the fact of registration as an endorsement by the State of Indiana.
Be suspicious if a caller thanks you for making a pledge that you didn't make. If you have any doubt about whether you made a pledge, check your records. Beware of invoices claiming you've made a pledge when you know you have not.
You can cancel a pledge prior to making a contribution. Under Indiana law, a contributor has the right to cancel a pledge for monetary contributions at any time prior to making the contribution.
What to Know About Paid Fundraisers
The Attorney General's Office enforces the Professional Fundraiser Consultant and Solicitor Registration Act. This Act requires all professional fundraiser consultants and solicitors to register with the Attorney General's Office prior to beginning a fundraising campaign. A professional solicitor solicits contributions for, or on behalf of, a charitable organization. A professional fundraiser consultant is hired to plan, manage, advise, or act as a consultant in connection with soliciting contributions for, or on behalf of, a charitable organization. Unlike a professional solicitor, the professional fundraiser consultant does not actually solicit contributions.
*A charitable organization that solicits on its own behalf does not have to register with the Attorney General's Office.
Many charitable organizations use professional solicitors to raise money on their behalf. The fact that a charity uses a paid solicitor does not mean you should not contribute to the charity. However, it is something for you to take into account when you are considering making a donation.
Professional solicitors usually either keep a percentage of the money they collect on behalf of the charity or receive a set amount of money from the charity. In many cases, the percentage of the total gross amount of money the charitable organization keeps is low.
Before engaging in a fundraising solicitation campaign with a charity, Indiana law requires professional solicitors to provide the Attorney General's Office with information about the fundraising campaign, including the percentage of the gross contributions or revenue the charitable organization will receive. Indiana law also requires professional solicitors to disclose the following information to a consumer at the time of the solicitation and before the consumer agrees to make a contribution:
- The name and, upon request, the address of the charitable organization that is being represented;
- The fact the person soliciting the contribution is, or is employed by, a professional solicitor, and the fact the professional solicitor is compensated;
- The full name of the professional solicitor and, upon request, the telephone number the person being solicited can call to confirm the information provided; and
- The charitable purpose for which the funds are being raised.
If a professional solicitor solicits in writing or in person, the disclosures required by (1) and (2) shall be in writing. If a solicitor solicits by telephone, the disclosures required by (1) and (2) shall be made verbally. Additionally, any written confirmation the professional solicitor mails to consumers must also contain the disclosures required by (1) and (2).
Anytime you are solicited for a donation, ask the caller if they are working for a paid solicitor. If the caller is working for a solicitor, tell the caller you want to know the percentage of gross revenue the charity will retain after the professional solicitor has been paid and all other expenses of the fundraising campaign have been paid.
In order to ensure that your donations count, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Research your intended cause. Find out what you can about the needs of those impacted, and do research to determine the best place to direct your donation.
- Donations to individuals are not tax deductible. If tax deductions are important to you, keep that in mind.
- Don’t assume solicitations on crowdfunding sites are legitimate. It might be impossible for you to know if the cause is real and if the money actually gets to the intended recipient. Even if posts have been shared on social media or liked by your friends, don’t assume that the fundraiser is legitimate or that the hyperlinks are accurate. Do your own research. Call your friends or contact them offline to ask them about the post they shared.
Any concerns that a campaign is not legitimate can be reported to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. Consumers may file a complaint online by visiting indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516.