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Everyone receives countless solicitations by mail and telephone asking for donations to what all seem like worthy causes. The problem is how to distinguish between legitimate charitable organizations and those that mimic the name while using the money in a dishonorable fashion. Below are some questions you can ask to ensure that your donation is actually helping the cause you have chosen to give it to:



Ask the solicitor or review the written materials sent to you to determine if the organization is registered to solicit in your state.

You are entitled to write and obtain a free copy of the registration documents and financial statement from the agency handling the registration. In Florida, you may contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Tallahassee, Florida, to obtain this information. You may also want to contact the National Charities Information Bureau at (212) 929-6300, as well as your own state and local consumer agencies, to determine if the charity you are donating to has any outstanding complaints.


Solicitors requesting donations for a law enforcement or emergency services group:

Cannot claim to be a member of such a group if they are not. Solicitors are frequently paid hourly or a percentage of the amount of donations they collect and may not be affiliated or associated with the group on whose behalf they are collecting.


Solicitors are prohibited from stating:

If you fail to donate to a law enforcement group you may receive reduced services than if you had donated.


While the law does not require that charities:

Expend a certain amount or percentage of donations on the charitable purpose, you are always entitled to request information on the amount of money spent on the purpose, as well as how much is spent on salaries and other expenses. If you don't receive a satisfactory response, you can choose not to give that group your donation.


Beware of copycat organizations:

Ones that use a similar name to a well-known charity in order to confuse you. Before you donate, make sure this is the charity you think it is.


Don't feel pressured into sending money right away.

Many organizations will offer to send a courier to your house or office for immediate pickup of the donation. Tell them you would like to think about it or that you will mail it to them yourself.

Source: Originally developed by the Florida Attorney General's Office

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