Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s annual “Pennies for Charity” fundraising report, which he released today, found that for-profit telemarketers operating in New York in 2012 kept the “lion’s share” of donations they collected on behalf of charities — more than $154 million that was intended to help the needy.
Telemarketers reported that they collected more than $249 million in contributions in 2012 and kept an average of 62 cents of every dollar they raised for their fees and expenses. In half of the 589 fundraising campaigns run by telemarketers, the charities kept less than 30 percent of the money raised, the report said. In 78 percent of campaigns, they kept less than 50 percent of what was raised. But in 91 campaigns, they were paid more than the amount the charities received.
“New Yorkers who open their hearts and wallets deserve to know how their hard-earned dollars are being spent and how much of their money is going to pay telemarketers’ salaries and costs,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Our annual report aims to help New Yorkers maximize the benefits of their donations by showing how much really goes to charity, versus how much remains in the pockets of fundraisers.
Some of the donations covered in the report went to charities related to Superstorm Sandy relief and aid for victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn.
Following last year’s report, Schneiderman’s office served subpoenas and opened several investigations on fundraising campaigns that repeatedly led to little or no money going to the charities. So far, the office has shut down three charities and one fundraiser. The attorney general said he expects to launch additional investigations based on this year’s “Pennies for Charity.”
Telemarketers file annual fundraising reports with the Charities Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office. Statewide, the rate of return was lowest for donations solicited in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to Schneiderman.
Schneiderman’s tips for donating via phone solicitation include resist pressure to give on the spot; ask the telemarketer how much of the donation will go to the charity and how it will be used; be wary of any organization that won’t provide written information upon request; review information about a charity before giving; give to established charities; and never give cash.
Potential donors can look up charities on the attorney general’s charities website. They can confirm a charity is eligible to receive tax-deductible donations by searching the IRS website. They can report suspicious organizations to the Charities Bureau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-416-8401.