Information on Charitable Fundraising
The attorney general's office enforces the Professional Fundraiser Consultant and Solicitor Registration Act. This Act requires all professional fundraiser consultants and solicitors to register with the attorney general's office prior to beginning a fundraising campaign. A professional solicitor solicits contributions for, or on behalf of, a charitable organization. A professional fundraiser consultant is hired to plan, manage, advise, or act as a consultant in connection with soliciting contributions for, or on behalf of, a charitable organization. Unlike a professional solicitor, the professional fundraiser consultant does not actually solicit contributions. A charitable organization that solicits on its own behalf does not have to register with the attorney general's office.
Many charitable organizations use professional solicitors to raise money on their behalf. The fact that a charity uses a paid solicitor does not mean that you should not contribute to the charity. However, it is something for you to take into account when you are considering making a donation.
Professional solicitors usually either keep a percentage of the money they collect on behalf of the charity or receive a set amount of money from the charity. In many cases, the percentage of the total gross amount of money that the charitable organization keeps is low.
Before engaging in a fundraising solicitation campaign with a charity, Indiana law requires that professional solicitors provide the attorney general's office with information about the fundraising campaign, including the percentage of the gross contributions or revenue that the charitable organization will receive. Indiana law also requires professional solicitors to disclose to a consumer at the time of the solicitation and before the consumer agrees to make a contribution:
(1) the name and, upon request, the address of the charitable organization that is being represented;
(2) the fact that the person soliciting the contribution is, or is employed by, a professional solicitor, and the fact that the professional solicitor is compensated;
(3) the full name of the professional solicitor and, upon request, the telephone number the person being solicited can call to confirm the information provided; and
(4) the charitable purpose for which the funds are being raised.
If a professional solicitor solicits in writing or in person, the disclosures required by (1) and (2) shall be in writing. If a solicitor solicits by telephone, the disclosures required by (1) and (2) shall be made orally. Additionally, any written confirmation that the professional solicitor mails to consumers must also contain the disclosures required by (1) and (2).
Anytime you are solicited for a donation, ask the caller if he or she is working for a paid solicitor. If the caller is working for a solicitor, tell the caller you want to know the percentage of gross revenue that the charity will retain. If the caller tells you that the charity will retain all of the funds raised, the caller is not being honest with you. If all of the funds were truly going to the charity, then that would mean that the professional solicitor will not receive any money at all, which is highly unlikely. When a caller claims that all of the funds are going to the charity, ask the caller to give you the percentage of the gross revenue the charity will retain after the professional solicitor has been paid and all other expenses of the fundraising campaign have been paid.
Information containing a list of all current solicitation campaigns between a professional solicitor and a charity can be found on the Attorney General's web page on Registered Fundraisers.
Most charitable organizations are legitimate and use donations wisely. However, some charities are either phony, or spend most of the money that they receive from donors on administrative expenses or more fundraising. Since the Attorney General's Office does not register charities, our office does not keep records on the amount of money a charity spends on fundraising and administrative expenses as compared to the amount of money a charity spends on programs and services.
There are some independent organizations that have compiled financial information on charities, especially charities that conduct nationwide solicitation campaigns. The Attorney General's Office has included links to three such organizations. Before making a contribution to a charity, especially a national charity, you should consider contacting the following three organizations (links open in a new window):
At Guidestar.org, you will find financial information and other records on thousands of local and national charities, including copies of tax forms that the charities have submitted to the Internal Revenue Service. The other two organizations review financial statements and other records of national charities to determine whether they meet certain standards. The standards apply both to charities that use professional solicitors and those that do not. Even if the charity you are considering meets the standards of one or both organizations, you should still determine if the charity is using a professional solicitor, and, if so, the percentage of the gross contributions or revenue that the charity will receive, by checking out the Attorney General's web page: Registered Fundraisers.
Public Safety Organizations
You may be solicited to contribute to an organization claiming to represent police officers or firefighters. Many of these organizations use professional solicitors to solicit on their behalf. You should be aware that having the words “police” “law enforcement”, “trooper”, or “firefighter” in an organization's name does not necessarily mean that your local police officers or firefighters belong to or are represented by the organization. Any donations received from these type of solicitations normally go to a police or firefighter association, such as a union or other fraternal organization, and not to a police or fire department. If a caller tells you that a local police or fire department has authorized a solicitation on their behalf or will somehow benefit from the solicitation, you should call your local police or fire department to determine whether they have authorized a solicitation on their behalf.