Charities & Paid Solicitors

Before You Donate: Tips for Consumers

Questions to Ask Before You Give:

Who wants your money? If you are unfamiliar with the charity, get its full name, address, and telephone number. Many organizations have names that are very similar to well known charities. Ask whether the organization is listed as a tax exempt public charity by the IRS and if your donation will be tax deductible.

Ask whether the person soliciting the money is a paid solicitor. Under Alaska law, a paid solicitor is required to disclose that they are paid to make the call and who they work for before asking for a donation.

How Does the Organization Use Donated Funds? Dramatic, heart-rending descriptions of need may get your attention, but you should know more before you give. Find out the substance of the appeal and the planned use of your money.

Before making a donation, request printed information about the charity's programs and finances. How many of your dollars will go to helping people and providing services? Your charity should be able to provide you with an annual report and financial documents that describe how donations are spent.

How much do they spend on paid fundraisers and administrative expenses? Paid fundraisers are professional fundraisers who generally keep a percentage of the money they collect on behalf of the charity. Sometimes this can be a high percentage. This means more of your dollars goes to paying their costs, not helping people or providing services.

Tips for Avoiding Scams:

  • Request identification from the solicitor first. You should always ask fundraisers to identify themselves and name the charity for which they are soliciting. If a solicitor comes to your door, ask for identification.
  • Take the time to research the charity to make sure it is legitimate.
  • Before you decide to donate, request printed materials about the charity.
  • Watch out for look-alike, sound-alike names; scammers choose names to deliberately confuse you and rely on your confusion to make their money.
  • Don't send cash, pay cash or give a credit card number to anyone over the phone. Even if it is a legitimate charity, pay by check. Always make the check payable to the charity, never the individual soliciting or collecting the check.
  • Don't give in to high-pressure "hardball" solicitations that demand an instant commitment. If the charity is legitimate, it should be willing to give you time to make up your mind.
  • Be wary of charities that offer to send a courier to collect your money.
  • Do not respond to letters that say you pledged money unless you are certain that you did.

Complaints:

To file a consumer complaint with the Alaska Attorney General's Office regarding violations of Alaska's charitable solicitation laws or unfair or deceptive acts or practices relating to a charitable solicitation, you may download a complaint form, or request a consumer packet from the Office of the Attorney General and return the complaint form to the following address:

State of Alaska
Office of the Attorney General
1031 W. 4th Avenue. Suite 200
Anchorage, Alaska 99501

For More Information about Charities and Charitable Giving:

The Better Business Bureau of Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington
1000 Station Drive, Ste. 222
DuPont WA 98327
Phone: (206)431-2222
Fax: (206)431-2211
Email: info@thebbb.org

GuideStar

Charity Navitagor

The Federal Trade Commission

IRS Exempt Organizations

Alaska Non-Profit Corporations