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State AG: Charity Telemarketers Keeping Lion's Share of Donations

Annual “Pennies for Charity” fundraising report says the bulk of donations are going to telemarketers and not those in need.

Telemarketers running fundraising campaigns for charities in New York keep an average of 62 cents of every dollar they raise for themselves, according to a new report released Thursday by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. 

In half of the fundraising campaigns run by for-profit telemarketers, the charities retained less than 30 percent of the funds raised, according to Schneiderman's annual “Pennies for Charity” fundraising report. In 91 campaigns, telemarketers were actually paid more than the amount that the individual charities received, the report says. 

A portion of the donations covered by the report were made to charities related to Hurricane Sandy relief and aid to the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. 

Telemarketers registered in New York reported raising more than $249 million in contributions in 2012, but more than $154 million of that amount that was intended to help those in need instead went to cover the telemarketers' fees and expenses, the report says. 

“New Yorkers who open their hearts and wallets deserve to know how their hard-earned dollars are being spent and how much of their money is going to pay telemarketers’ salaries and costs,” Schneiderman said. “Our annual report aims to help New Yorkers maximize the benefits of their donations by showing how much really goes to charity, versus how much remains in the pockets of fundraisers.”

In 459 of the 589 (78 percent) campaigns analyzed in the report, the charities retained less than 50 percent of the funds raised.

Statewide, the rate of return was lowest for donations solicited in Nassau and Suffolk counties, the report says. 

In Suffolk, for example, $117,630 was collected for the Suffolk County Police Memorial Fund in 2012, but just 40 percent of that amount–$47,052–went to the fund itself, the report says. The rest went to the telemarketer, Holbrook-based D & D Telemarketing. 

In Nassau, Campaign Center Inc., based in Lindenhurst, collected $148,280 on behalf of the Nassau County Council Veterans of Foreign Wars. Of that total, just 20 percent–or $29,656–went to the charity, the report says. 

Last year, following the release of the 2012 "Pennies for Charity" report, Schneiderman served subpoenas and launched several investigations focusing on fundraising campaigns that repeatedly result in little or no money going to charities. So far, the office has shut down three charities and one fundraiser. Additional investigations are expected to result from this year’s report.

Read the entire report here

Schneiderman issued the following tips when making donations via phone solicitation:

Resist Pressure To Give On The Spot. If you receive a call from a telemarketer, do not feel pressured to give over the phone. You can ask to receive information about the cause and a solicitation by mail.

Ask The Telemarketer. Ask the caller what programs are conducted by the charity, how much of your donation will be used for charitable programs, how much the telemarketer is being paid and how much of your donation the charity is guaranteed.

Ask How Your Donation Will Be Used. Ask specifically how the charity plans to use your donation, including the services and organizations your donation will support. Avoid charities that make emotional appeals and are vague in answering your questions. Be wary if an organization will not provide written information about its charitable programs and finances upon request. Any legitimate organization will be glad to send you this information.

Look Up Charities. Review information about the charity before you give. The Attorney General’s interactive website allows potential donors to easily search the "Pennies for Charity" report by the name of the charity or by region in New York State. (A link to the search tool can be found on the Attorney General’s charities website at www.charitiesnys.com.) Users can also see how much money was raised by a professional fundraiser and how much money actually went to each charitable organization. Also confirm that the charity is eligible to receive tax-deductible donations by searching the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

Give To Established Charities. Donate to organizations you are familiar with or ones with a verifiable record of success in meeting their charitable missions. Closely examine charities with names similar to more established organizations.

Never Give Cash. It's best to give your contribution by check made payable directly to the charity. This is safer than giving by credit or debit card and far safer than sending cash. Be careful about disclosing personal or financial information; never give out such information to an organization or individual you don't know.

Report Suspicious Organizations. If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam is taking place, please contact the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau at charities.bureau@ag.ny.gov or (212) 416 8401.


Rollo Tomasi February 27, 2014 at 02:05 PM
Interesting story...I have a lot of respect for the AG...but for almost 13 years The Gear Up Foundation has been running one of the largest questionable scams in N.Y...in the country...formed from the ashes of murdered 1ST responders on 9/11...the money never goes to them as stated by GUF...but lavish trips around the world...buying and selling used fire service equipment to 3rd world nations is their MO...the founding member wears a store bought uniform with bogus medals to fund raising events...his claim if being trapped in the debris...questionable...he was also kicked out of his FD for all his questionable actions...the AG has received numerous requests to investigate...we are still waiting...
"Pride of Bonac" February 27, 2014 at 04:10 PM
What is this? - - Where's the LOCAL News? This is supposed to be East Hampton Patch, We want the East Hampton News AND FOLLOWUPS on Past Newsworthy Items like the East Hampton Village Cop sex scandal. Not the UP ISLAND News - We Don't Care about a man running down the road NAked , Print The East Hampton News Or Re-Name it to "Up Island News" - What a Hype--
"Pride of Bonac" February 27, 2014 at 04:18 PM
What does this say when you delete posts that are not suitable to you because you don't want to print the truth? -- Your NON_ NEWSWORTHY ITEMS like the guy running naked down the expressway are just page fillers and we don't want the Up-Island News --- I am very unhappy with your actions. What happened to the Cop Scandal?
CommackMom February 27, 2014 at 11:48 PM
I, like most of you, have Caller ID. I make it a point to NEVER answer the phone for a private or blocked call. Nor do I answer when I don't recognize the number. This way I won't ever get duped into a scam or end up donating to a questionable charity on the spot. When I do give to a favorite charity, the calls are initiated by me-this way I know who I am dealing with. Don't be taken advantage of by scammers. They are out there preying in the uninformed. Home remodelers. Charities. Medical alert systems. Computer virus repairs. Be aware and KNOW who is on the other end of the phone!
Big_E February 28, 2014 at 05:46 AM
When I get a call from someone asking for money, I tell them I don't do anything over the phone. End of call. When I select a charity - and it's always a known one like JDRF - I do it myself, on-line or I call them.
the owl February 28, 2014 at 06:21 AM
Most large charities and quite a few small ones have been thoroughly vetted by the group known as Charity Navigator....the website lists charities a to z and contains a LOT of information on the charities, expenses, how the funds are spent, executive salaries, etc. Before giving to any charity check it out...and yes, forget the telemarketers. All charities have some admin expenses and some fundraising expenses but most are reasonable and keep nothing like these sums reported above. And there are always the local food pantries, they are strained right now and can't even afford to fundraise....go checkout their operations and give to those in need in our community.
Sue February 28, 2014 at 06:41 AM
There are many local, all volunteer organizations that desperately need help. If you are not comfortable donating money, many of these places have a supply list. This way, you know your donation is going to those in need. I spent 17 years volunteering for animal shelters. Trust me when I say no marketing company is looking for your paper towel, toilet paper or postage stamp donation but those items go a long way helping a shleter.
Ivan Ivanovich February 28, 2014 at 07:04 AM
A crook giving advice about other crooks ,
Vincent February 28, 2014 at 07:44 AM
Same old same old story. Anyone watching a smidgen of TV news will see this at least twice a month.
Vincent February 28, 2014 at 07:55 AM
Big_E: You said, "When I get a call from someone asking for money, I tell them I don't do anything over the phone." I do the same. Or I ask them to send me their balance sheets. They hang up.
D.R.St-Jacques February 28, 2014 at 08:31 AM
Aside from the bogus charities, I feel that the AG should be investigating the whereabouts and users of the multi-millions of dollars that have been collected and stated to be for the victims of the Sandy storm. I believe that there are people in government; be it federal, state, local, who have been accessing some of the funds for uses other than their intended use; assistance to those who have had major losses to their homes and have not received the proper dollar amount from their flood insurance carrier (FEMA) in order to rebuild. Too many properties appear to be still in disrepair and this will lead to blighted neighborhoods.
John Kramer February 28, 2014 at 08:37 AM
But they were up front about it: PENNIES for charity!
Vincent February 28, 2014 at 08:53 AM
D.R.St-Jacques: Excellent post!
Louise February 28, 2014 at 08:54 AM
When a telemarketer calls for donations, you really have no idea if s/he is representing the charity. So, as an earlier writer suggested, say you do not give to anyone over the phone, ever. If the pressure increases, hang up. I have my phone service through Cablevision. If the caller's number appears on my ID, I jot it down, go to my online account with Cablevision, and block the call (this is a free service). My phone is much quieter now.
the owl February 28, 2014 at 09:36 AM
Louise, thank you so very much for that information...I will put it to the test immediately, I've had enough of those intrusive calls.
knee jerk February 28, 2014 at 09:43 AM
Hey Bonac: The East Hampton Cop Scandal is old news, and perhaps that naked Expressway Runner was headed for East Hampton.
Chris Vourtis February 28, 2014 at 10:38 AM
NEVER EVER GIVE TO CHARITIES THAT CALL. The worst offenders are the ones that call for the Police Department. They call for 99 different police functions under 99 different names. When they call, ask them if they are employed by the PD. Or better yet, call your local PD and ask them if they are aware of these collections. The PD will also tell you never to give to those callers.
Chris Vourtis February 28, 2014 at 10:46 AM
Your right D.R.St-Jacques. Even NYRising (our ray of last hope) is suddenly no longer helping. Instead they decided to spend the bulk of the money on sea walls in Bayville. Really, the north shore? They had nothing compared to the south shore. 1 in 3 houses are not repaired in my neighborhood. So who is responsible for this disgusting decision?
localguy February 28, 2014 at 01:58 PM
Chris Vourtis--- you are right about the police "charities". Even back in the day (1976-78) it was a scam. I worked for a company, I think it was called Roy Radin productions. We worked in basements of office buildings up and down the easy coast calling businesses mostly. We would try and get the to take an ad in the show journal, if that didn't work we would ask for a donation and if that didn't work we would ask if they would sponsor under privileged children by buying tickets to the show. Milton Berle, George Gobel and few others did the shows. I quit because I had trouble with the integrity of the whole scam. here's something I found about it. Throughout the 1970s, Radin's company Roy Radin Enterprises, had multiple shows running at the same time. The tours were creatively financed, always showing as sold out but sometimes sparsely attended.[3] Tickets were often sold as benefits for handicapped children, police officers, fire fighters or local causes. Advertisements by local communities were purchased in the souvenir magazine distributed at the venue.[4] The financing was investigated by New York state Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz in 1975 after he found that only 27% of the funds were going to one of the attributed charities.[5] I guess things haven't changed much... And one last thing, most of those nice little collection cans on the counters of pizza places, stationary stores and 7-11's are like throwing money away. How much do you think goes to where you expect it to. And the gumball/candy machines that support the blind??? think again, maybe 10%..... what a world!
Get Off My Lawn February 28, 2014 at 02:13 PM
Almost as bad Gov't wasting tax dollars.
Doris Schneider February 28, 2014 at 02:33 PM
I don't answer 'unknown' or blank calls. The few times I goof and get one, I tell them to send all the literature via regular mail, and I will read up on it and make a decision. Nine times out of ten, I don't receive anything. It's disgusting how scammers take advantage of people that want to help out in times of disasters, etc. Many people are still waiting for the 'Sandy' funds to reach them.
knee jerk February 28, 2014 at 04:16 PM
I practice saying no by turning away the door to door bible salesmen
TJ Eckleburg February 28, 2014 at 05:34 PM
I gave at the office.
Phil Konigsberg February 28, 2014 at 08:04 PM
@commackmom: Your method on relying on CallerID I'm sure has been an effective way to avoid scammers, but I understand that scammers now use software that provide false CallerID information to disguise the caller's true identity. @localguy: Your post regarding the counter collection boxes is not accurate. There are many volunteer ambulance corps (at least in Queens Country) that rely on them for a source of income and are collected periodically. It's not a burden on many to put in their loose change or even a buck they receive at the cashier and if the location is high volume the charity can be helped.
Doris Schneider March 01, 2014 at 12:18 AM
The scammers are expert on getting funds for just about anything. We just have to learn to say "NO". Sometimes when I do answer and they are doing the spiel, I just hang up while they are speaking. Recently a woman called about vitamins and supplements and got very nasty when I asked for written information and asked some questions about the ingredients being safe, etc. She starting yelling at me that I didn't know anything about what she was saying and I shouldn't rudely interrupt her when she was speaking, so I just hung up. What else can you do? They are invading your privacy and then get angry, because you ask a question.
GLENN March 01, 2014 at 02:20 PM
I love when they call and ask for money, I just keep asking them a hundred questions, they get so fed up we get disconnected most of the time. I only give to the wounded worrier project. Nothing to any other scam charity ever!
Vincent March 02, 2014 at 06:55 AM
knee jerk: reaction?
knee jerk March 02, 2014 at 07:22 AM
Vincent?: OK I don't answer ,then use the caller id # to call them back. If a live person answers I berate them- nicely. The other method is I have a childs' toy musical horn that plays various barnyard animal sounds like a cow or pig or chicken or duck or sheep. When a live person is on the other end I play those animal sounds into the phone until they hang up.
TJ Eckleburg March 02, 2014 at 03:48 PM
Knee, you obviously have way too much time on your hands
knee jerk March 12, 2014 at 09:46 AM
Hey, TJ: Yes I do, but I use it wisely.

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