When you’re not sure about organizations claiming to collect funds on behalf of law enforcement agencies, your BBB offers the following general advice:
The police in your community put their lives on the line to protect you, your family, and your community, and because people are generally supportive of our police, they want to support them financially through charitable organizations. So when you get a call or a letter asking you to give to a specific police group, your first reaction is probably a generous one. But wait. There are some fraudulent merchants who are happy to take your money without giving you all the facts needed to make an informed giving decision.
One of the most common problems with police organization “look-a-likes” is the way they spend the money they solicit from the public. Some of these groups have high fundraising costs while spending very little on program services. Other problems include an unwillingness to disclose information, misleading the public as to the nature of the organization or use of funds, and promising special “favors” from officers in exchange for donations. Checking out an organization’s history and asking basic, straightforward questions can help you to determine if you are donating to a truly worthy cause.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips.
1. Ask how much of your money will actually go to the police programs. In general, the higher the percentage that goes to the program, the better. A good threshold is a 60% – 40% split with 60% going to the programs.
2. Is there a professional fundraiser being used for the program or event? If so, the fundraiser should clearly disclose the name of the fundraising firm and the fact that the solicitation is being conducted by a professional fundraiser and not the police organization itself. Find out how much of your money will go to the fundraiser. Ask what programs your donation will support.
3. Your gift may not be deductible as a charitable donation. Police organizations can be tax exempt under different sections of the Internal Revenue Code. Only some of them are eligible to receive charitable donations deductible for federal income tax purposes.
4. Check on the reputation of the soliciting organization. Contact your local Better Business Bureau for a reliability report.
5. Ask the soliciting group for printed information — a brochure describing the programs, a list of its board members, its latest financial statements, etc.
6. Do not be intimidated by groups using hard-sell tactics to secure your donation. You are not obligated to make a contribution on the spot or have a “representative” of the organization come to your home or office to pick up the contribution.
7. Keep records of all previous donations, so you can easily verify whether you donated to a group the prior year.
8. If you’ve made the decision to support the organization, write a check, rather than give cash.
9. Finally, check with your Attorney General’s office. Professional fund-raisers are required to be registered with the Attorney General’s office in many states, such as, Indiana.
For more information you can trust, visit evansville.bbb.org.