Charitable Solicitation

Check it out before you give

Helping out others by donating your time, money or goods is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Now, faced with increased costs, the loss of government funding, and greater demands for their services, charities are responding by asking for larger and more frequent contributions from more donors.

While most charities provide essential services and resources for many good causes, millions of dollars are lost every year to fraudulent charities. You must carefully choose your donation recipients and require accountability from the organizations receiving your support.

Whether you receive a donation request by mail, telephone, or in person, make sure you’re giving to a worthy cause by asking questions and checking facts:

Would you state the name of the organization and your first and last name? Some high-powered appeals deliberately trade on confusion by soliciting under a name similar to that of a better-known organization.

Know the charity’s name, address and phone number, and know the full name of the person you are talking to. Ask for the name of a person you can call if you have questions. If the call is from the mainland, find out what state the person is calling from.

How will the money be spent? What are the programs and services of the organization, and how will my donation be used in particular? What are some examples of work in Hawaii with which I may be familiar?

Is my donation being used in Hawaii, out of state, or outside the country? If it’s important to you that your donation dollars are used locally, this is a good question to ask.

Do you have something in writing that you can send me? Be skeptical of an organization that won’t give you printed, verifiable information about itself and its charitable programs.

You may wish to ask to inspect or obtain a copy of a published annual report or the organization’s IRS 990 tax report before you contribute.

Would this donation be tax deductible? If your ability to deduct your contribution from your taxes is important to you, ask for this information.

Are you a paid solicitor or a volunteer? The majority of telephone solicitations are done by professionals. Frequently, the charity receives a percentage of the money contributed and the remaining amount goes to the professional solicitor.

Ask the caller to tell you what percentage of each dollar donated is going to the charity so you have a better idea of how your donated funds are being spent.

Can I take some time to think about it? Don’t give money on the spot or allow a runner to pick up a contribution. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute immediately if you are unfamiliar with their services.

If you decide to give, pay by check whenever possible. And make it payable to the charity – not an individual.

Avoid giving cash if at all possible. If you must give cash, get a receipt.

Gifts and prizes. You are not obligated to pay for or return any tickets, key rings, stationery, prizes, calendars, etc. that you receive through the mail but did not order or agree to purchase.

Appeals should not be disguised as bills, or invoices, or past due notices, and if you receive what appears to be an invoice or bill for donations you did not agree to make or for items you did not purchase, you are under no obligation to pay.

Appeals that include sweepstakes promotions should disclose that you do not have to make a donation to be eligible for the prizes offered.

Get some independent information about the organization. Contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 586-2630 and the Better Business Bureau to find out if they have any information on or have received any complaints about the organization.

If you know what state an out-of-state solicitor is calling from, the Office of Consumer Protection can help you contact the appropriate regulatory agency.

If you are dissatisfied with the solicitation, or if you feel that you have been unduly pressured into contributing, call the Consumer Resource Center at 587-3222. Also, call the organization the solicitor claims to be representing. Let them know the solicitor’s name, the nature of their appeal, and the reasons you were suspicious about the request.

If you do not want to receive mail solicitations from a particular organization, write to that organization and request that your name be deleted from their mailing list (be sure to include the address label that appeared on the outside of the envelope).

You can also request that your name not be included in any list that is sold, exchanged or rented by the organization.