PHILADELPHIA (AP) - It's the season for giving, but the state of Pennsylvania also wants people to be wise when making charitable contributions around the holidays and beyond.
The Department of State
has released its annual charities report
, which includes registrations, investigations and audits of charitable organizations operating in Pennsylvania. For instance, the report outlines what percentage of every donated dollar goes to the charity and how much is charged by the solicitors or counsels for their services. It also gives consumer tips on making charitable-giving decisions.
"We are in the season during which many generous Pennsylvanians want to share their blessings with others," Secretary of State Pedro Cortes said. "Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous individuals and organizations that will try to take advantage of this generosity. We encourage all potential donors to become fully informed before contributing to any charitable organization."
Cortes encourages consumers to use the department's website to search for their charity of choice and confirm that the organization is on the up-and-up.
Information and tips include:
-- Write a check payable to the charity so there's a record of the donation.
-- Find out if the contribution is tax-deductible.
-- Always ask to see a solicitor's identification, if solicited in person.
-- Ask who will benefit from the contribution.
-- Find out if the charity is registered.
-- Don't give to a charity you know nothing about.
-- Don't be fooled by a convincing name that sounds like a well-known charity.
-- Don't give cash, credit card numbers or bank account numbers.
-- Don't feel pressured into giving on the spot or allowing someone to come to your house to pick up a contribution.
-- Don't commit to donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization.
The report highlighted the work of professional solicitors in the state. Professional solicitors are agents paid to solicit contributions for or on behalf of charitable organizations. During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, professional solicitors took home half the revenue that was raised in those campaigns. State regulators say charities received 51 percent of the total revenue raised by professional investors, up from 43 percent in 2015 and 38 percent in 2014.
The department has an online database of charities that is easily searchable. Consumers can find charities that have faced disciplinary action, and ensure any organization they are considering is properly registered. Those without internet access can also call 1-800-732-0999 to access the same information.