OLYMPIA...Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna
today urged Washingtonians to make wise choices with their holidays
gifts to charity and avoid greedy fundraising groups.
Reed and McKenna joined forces at the Senior Services Lillian Rice
Center in downtown Seattle, releasing the 2012 Commercial Fundraiser
Activity Report and announcing that the report will be updated weekly
"in real time" to keep donors well-informed. The two statewide officials
also shared tips for everyone - young and old - on how to give wisely.
Overall this year, charities that used commercial fundraisers received
an average of 46 percent of contributions, a drop from the 56 percent
mark in the 2011 report and much lower than the 77 percent reported in
2010. Once again, the percentage that individual fundraisers retained
was wide-ranging: Some fundraisers kept less than 10 percent and sent
the remaining funds to charity, while other fundraisers' fees and
expenses were more than the amount raised.
The report, compiled by the Office of Secretary of State's Charities
Program, spotlights recent financial information for commercial
fundraisers who solicit or collect donations on behalf of their charity
clients. The causes vary widely and include police, firefighter and
veteran organizations, medical research, animals, civil liberties, and
the environment, to name a few.
Seniors 65 and older - a group that makes up about 13 percent of
Washington's population - are especially targeted by solicitors, and
thus should be very careful and research where their donations are
going, the two state officials cautioned.
"I've been so impressed with the generosity of Washington residents over
the years," Reed said. "So many people here give money to help those who
are struggling in our state or elsewhere. We know that individuals will
want to donate money this holiday season and beyond to help others, but
we also know that they can get burned by not doing their homework before
giving to a charity.
"That's why we want to make sure donors are well-informed about where
their money is going. We want contributors - regardless of age - to know
which commercial fundraising groups have a bad track record when it
comes to passing on donated money to the intended charities," Reed
"Those in the commercial fundraising business earn money by raising
money," McKenna said. "People should always contact charitable
organizations in your community and ask how they spend donations to
ensure you are truly helping those you wish to help. Never be afraid to
ask how much of your donation will go to the charitable purpose. It's
The report, which has existed since 1995, has been revamped so it now is
updated on a weekly basis. Consumers will be able to run their own
reports in real time and get current registration information on
commercial fundraisers, the state officials announced.
"The public really will benefit from having access to fundraiser
information that is up to date," Reed said. "It will allow people to
make even better decisions on where to give their hard-earned money."
Commercial fundraisers use many methods to solicit the public, including
the telephone and sending mailers asking them to give money to a cause.
Commercial fundraisers, who are compensated for their efforts, take a
cut of the donations before sending money to the charitable organization
or charge a fee for their services.
"People should remember that when someone asks you for a donation,
there's a chance it's a third party getting paid to make that
solicitation," Reed said. "While most of these commercial fundraisers
help keep many crucial charities afloat in Washington, some use a large
portion of donations to pay for administrative costs and expenses - or
to make a hefty profit."
Read the Report:
Full 2012 Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report
The information in the report is from the commercial fundraiser's
registration on file with the Secretary of State. It is not confirmed or
verified by the Charities Program.
There are currently 10,041 charities registered in Washington State. Of
those, 712 report using commercial fundraising services.
Each month hundreds of people use Reed's online charities search at
http://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/search.aspx to get instant financial
histories and other information on fundraisers and charities. Consumers
can also call toll-free 1-800-332-4483.
Those who believe they are victims of charity fraud should contact the
Attorney General's Consumer Resource Center between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
weekdays at 1-800-551-4636 or file a complaint online at www.atg.wa.gov
The 2012 Charities Fundraiser Activity Report at a glance:
* A total of $518,958,444 in contributions was raised in Washington and
elsewhere by the 114 commercial fundraisers included in the report. This
amount is about one-third less than the $773,204,935 collected in 2011.
* The average percentage of contributions returned to charity clients
was 46 percent overall ($237,708,456). That is slightly lower than the
average annual historic rates of return over the last decade.
* About 20 percent (23) of the commercial fundraisers returned less than
20 percent to charity.
* Only eight of the commercial fundraisers (7 percent) returned more
than 80 percent to charity.
* The fundraiser with the highest percentage rate returned 99 percent to
* The fundraiser with the lowest percentage rate was at minus 603
percent, meaning the charity lost money on the partnershi