"Pennies for Charities"

Created: 02/27/2014 6:46 PM WHEC.com
By: Brett Davidsen

When you donate over the phone to charities, do you know how much of your money is actually reaching those organizations? A new report out by the New York State Attorney General says for-profit telemarketers in New York kept the lion's share of donations they raised on behalf of charities. 

According to the attorney general's report, charity fundraising is big business for some professional telemarketers hired to solicit your donations. In 2012, telemarketers registered in New York reported raising $249 million in contributions. Yet, statewide, the report says only 38% percent of it actually went to charitable organizations.

Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, said, "It's important that donors, when determining which charities to support, understand exactly how much will be spent on charitable programs and how much will be used to pay telemarketers' salaries and other fundraising costs.”

Overall, the Rochester region fared comparatively well against the rest of the state. Fifty-two cents of every dollar went to the charity, while 48 cents went to the telemarketer.

Kiwanis Club of Rochester kept about 25% of what was solicited. The Rochester Philharmonic did much better, keeping 68% of what was donated.

A couple of national organizations, like Mothers against Drunk Driving, received 26% of the solicited donations while Easter Seals Incorporated, based out of Chicago, cleared a little more than 7%. 

Several of the organizations News10NBC spoke with say the numbers don't tell the whole story. One of the groups on this list is a child advocacy group known as Caring for Our Children Foundation. According to the AG's report, professional telemarketers solicited a total of $318,680 in donations; yet, the organization received just 10% of that. News10NBC spoke by phone with the treasurer of Caring for Our Children Foundation. She says they are paying the telemarketer to not only solicit, but also to provide outreach over the phone to the community. She says any dollars they receive over the phone are above and beyond what they would have taken in had they not hired someone. 

Melody Gibson, Caring for Our Children Foundation, said, "Because we're retired and semi-retired ladies, who want to do something for at-risk children, we consider it very valuable. It's something we can't do by ourselves. We depend on professionals who know how to reach the public to make contact for us. When we stop calling, funds don't come in.”

Easter Seals Incorporated echoed that saying they use telemarketers as an investment to reach out to people who had stopped giving in hopes of bringing them back to the donor rolls and that it's a small piece of a much bigger fundraising program.  

In the meantime, when you're trying to decide who to give your money to, the attorney general offers this advice, ask the telemarketer how much of your donation will be used for charitable programs or, you might find that you can give directly to the charity instead.

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