Report: Charitable donations rose in 2020 with large portion retained by professional fundraisers

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FILE – A Salvation Army bell is rung by Michael Cronin as he staffs the charity’s red donation kettle in front of a grocery store, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Lynden, Wash. In the wake of the most devastating public-health emergency in a century and the resulting economic uncertainty, Americans provided more charitable dollars to United Way Worldwide than any other nonprofit focused on direct aid, followed by the Salvation Army and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, according to new rankings by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- With Giving Tuesday hours away, the New York Attorney General’s (AG) office wants people to know where their donation dollars are going. Almost a third of the money raised by professional fundraisers stays in their pockets, according to an annual report.

The “Pennies for Charity” report shows professional fundraisers earned more than $380 million. It also shows the COVID pandemic didn’t slow people down from handing out money to charities. Over $1.4 billion was given to charity in 2020, an increase of $179 million from 2019.

“As New Yorkers get ready to give to their favorite charities tomorrow on Giving Tuesday, they deserve to know where their money is going,” said AG Letitia James. “With the holiday season upon us, I encourage all New Yorkers to use our tips as a guide to make informed contributions and ensure that their money is going to a trustworthy source.”

Other report findings:

  • In 339 campaigns (47%) surveyed, charities received less than 50% of funds raised, with professional fundraisers retaining the rest
  • In 150 campaigns (21%) surveyed, fundraising expenses exceeded revenue, costing charities more than $10 million

The AG’s office said people should take the following precautions before making a charitable donation:

  • If contacted by a telemarketer, ask questions. In New York telemarketers raising money for charity are required to tell potential donors their name, who they are employed by, and if they are getting paid. Potential donors can also ask what part of the donation will be paid to the fundraiser.
  • If a charitable appeal is sent in the mail, verify the soliciting organization and doublecheck. Is the organization well known? Is the mailing following up on a previous pledge?
  • Donating online? The AG’s office said do research first and make sure the organization is legitimate. Also make sure the website is secure, the web address should start with “https” unless the charity uses a separate site for payments. Be cautious of fundraising emails that have links or attachments because they could be phishing scams.

Charity scams can be reported to the AG’s office at (212) 416-8401 or by email Charities.Bureau@ag.ny.gov. Check out the “Pennies for Charity” report below:

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