Solicitors pocket bulk of donations – Small share goes to nonprofits

By Todd Cohen

Professional solicitation firms that raise money for nonprofit organizations in North Carolina generated nearly $76.8 million in the year ended last June but passed on to the nonprofits only $31.4 million, or nearly 41 percent.

The solicitors, including telemarketing and direct-mail companies but not fundraising professionals or development officers, kept the remainder, or just over 59 percent, according to the annual report of the charitable solicitation section of the state secretary of state’s office.

The report is based on accounting reports that state law requires solicitors to file with the secretary of state’s office.

The total contributed to North Carolina nonprofits by individuals using professional solicitors grew by $18.9 million in the 12-month period, while the share of dollars raised by solicitors that actually went to  nonprofits grew from just over 38 percent from a year earlier.

The share of dollars raised by solicitors that actually went to charities ranged from zero for some groups to 100 percent for others.

In a statement, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall thanked “all those people who worked so hard to see that 80, 90 or 100 percent of the money went directly to the purpose that North Carolinians gave it to help.”

She also said that contributors should not “automatically condemn” a nonprofit or solicitor if its data to the state showed the nonprofit netted only a small share of the dollars the solicitor raised.

Professional solicitors can be controversial. While they do not need to subscribe to professional standards used by many fundraising professionals – such as ethical guidelines against accepting commissions on dollars raised — they do generate contributions that small nonprofits such as volunteer fire departments might not otherwise receive.

Fundraising experts also say that raising charitable dollars requires significant long-term investment in building awareness about a nonprofit – investment that may not pay off in dollars for several years.

The secretary of state’s office recommends that individuals who receive phone calls from professional fundraisers should note the date and time of the call and ask:

  • The name of the caller.
  • If the caller is being paid to make the call.
  • The name of the solicitation firm.
  • Whether the nonprofit organization and solicitor are licensed by the state to raise money.
  • How much of the amount contributed actually will go to the nonprofit.

For information, call 919-807-2214.

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