Tips for Consumers: Constant Holiday Charity Appeals

Tips for Consumers
Constant Holiday Charity Appeals

Every year at this time the mailboxes in the Hagerstown area fill up with appeals from various charities. Soliciting organizations know that people are more generous during the holiday season--and end-of-year tax deductions are an incentive. Senior citizens are especially targeted because many are easily convinced to donate. But don't assume every charity is legitimate! Before you send a check to some unknown group, here are a few tips:
* The mail order appeals from charities sound sincere and ask you to "help the homeless," "veterans," or "overseas victims." But who are these groups asking for your money? Do you really know which charity you are giving to? For example, there are dozens which all claim to "fight cancer" or "answer sick children's wishes." Not all are legitimate. Some of these groups spend far more of your donation on soliciting and their own overhead costs than will ever reach the laboratories or victims. In some cases, for every dollar you give to the charity, less than 20% (or even less than 5%) ever supports actual program services. Needless to say, this does not meet our Better Business Bureau Standards (which call for at least 65% to go to the programs.)
* What about those telephone calls asking you to help the police, troopers, firefighters, handicapped or veterans? Don't assume that they represent a local organization; ask a few questions and you may discover they are commissioned professional fund-raisers. They often work for a profit-making telemarketer in a distant city. If you resist, they may become downright hostile and pushy. Ask these callers:
1) Are you a professional fund-raiser? If so, what percentage of my donation will actually go to the local chapter or charity before expenses?
2) How much of my donation is tax deductible? (Professional fund-raisers give very little to the charity so most is not deductible.)
3) Tell them you don't agree to unknown phone appeals and insist that they mail you details on their charity. If they refuse, say "no."
Please understand that we at the BBB encourage charitable giving. We just want you to have the facts. We have reports on hundreds of charities and can tell you if they meet BBB Standards.

To file a complaint visit: or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.