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Choose wisely when donating (on the phone) to charities

Does the money you give to a charitable organization make a difference? Of course, it does! The more important question is: How much of a difference does it make?
That depends on how your money gets to your chosen charity. Did you know that some professional solicitors keep as much as 99 percent of the donations?
I hadn’t given much thought to how much of my money actually reaches my charity of choice until I got a telephone call one night recently.
The caller asked me to make a donation to an agency I had heard of before. Normally, I would have said, “Sure,” but there was something about what he was telling me that didn’t quite make sense. I questioned the caller, but got vague answers. He also said he wouldn’t send me a packet of information about the agency’s program unless I agreed to send a donation. After all, it cost money to send this information out, he said.
That’s when I said forget it; I’ll donate my hard-earned money elsewhere.
After I hung up, I remembered that my husband and I are registered on the Indiana Telephone Privacy List through Att. Gen. Steve Carter’s office. The number of solitication calls we receive has dropped tremendously since we put our names on the no-call list at the beginning of the year. But I couldn’t remember what the attorney general said about calls asking for donations to charities.
I logged on to the Internet, went to the attorney general’s Web site, and found the information I was looking for: Registered charitable organizations can solicit donations on the phone.
Att. Gen. Carter’s page also described a new feature he’s offering.
“Through our registered fund-raisers’ list, Hoosiers who make charitable contributions through professional solicitors can find out how much of their contribution actually goes to the charity,” Carter said.
Professional solicitors are required to register with the attorney general’s office on behalf of the charities they represent. The charitable organizations also have to register, indicating the total amount of money raised and how much they received, compared to what the solicitor kept.
“According to documents filed in our office, 26 percent of the professional solicitors are keeping as much as 99 percent of donations made to the charity,” Carter said on his Web page. “Only 10 percent of registered solicitors kept less than 50 percent of donations raised in campaigns.”
Now I was really curious. I checked to see if the organization that had just called me was registered. There were about 340 registered agencies, including the one that had just gotten a “no” from me for a donation.
As I studied the list, I noticed the breakdown between what each charity receives versus what the solicitor keeps.
WOW! I had no idea that professional solicitation agencies were that profitable! No wonder they work so hard to get you to make a donation — it’s more money in their banking account!
I’m not suggesting that everyone stop donating to these worthy causes. There is a tremendous need for most of the registered agencies. However, I’ll echo Att. Gen. Carter’s advice to “choose wisely to help ensure that all or the majority of your dollars go to the group or groups that you are interested in helping.”
For more detailed information about how donated dollars are allocated and what percentage is spent on mission-related work, Carter suggests that you call the charity directly.
Carter’s list of registered fund-raising campaigns is to be updated monthly, allowing you to stay current with any charitable agency you’re interested in.
“There are numerous, well-deserving charities that put the contributions they receive to good use,” Carter said.
If you are like most people, you work hard for your money and you want to spend it wisely. When you hear from a solicitor aboout making a donation, don’t hesitate to ask for their phone number and tell them you’ll get back to them if you’re interested. Then log on to: www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/
You’ll be glad you did.

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