Charitable giving grows

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. – Professional solicitation firms working in North Carolina raised $316 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, up from $126 million a year earlier, a new report says, although some of that money may have been raised outside the state on behalf of national charities.

Those firms kept 47.35 percent of the dollars they raised overall, down from 56.72 percent a year earlier, the state Secretary of State’s Office says in its annual report on charitable solicitation.

As a result of that decline, plus the surge in giving, state and national charities represented by those firms netted nearly $166.5 million in the most recent fiscal year, up from $54.7 million a year earlier.

State law does not require solicitors to report how much of the money they raise for national charities is raised in North Carolina, says Liz Proctor, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, which regulates and tracks charitable solicitation.

While the share of dollars they kept fell on average, some solicitors kept a lot more than the average, the new report shows.

Solicitor Benny H. Davis of Kinston, for example, raised $235,760 for 27 police, sheriff and fire departments in Eastern North Carolina, and kept all but $32,600 of the total raised, including the entire $8,000 he raised for the Dunn Fire Department.

Dunn Fire Chief Austin Tew says the department does not participate in charitable fundraising, and that Davis simply had asked the department if he could photograph firefighters for a calendar he was publishing.

Davis also says he does not raise charitable dollars but runs a calendar business for which he sells advertising, and for which he says he must register with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Liz Proctor, a spokeman for the Secretary of State’s Office, says Tew and Davis both signed a final accounting report on their charitable activities that the Davis submitted to the office.

In the year ended June 30, the Secretary of State’s Office says, it reviewed 379 possible violations of the state law regulation charitable solicitation.

It found violations in six cases involving the North Carolina Troopers Association in Claremont and a charitable solicitation firm it hired, Civic Development Group in Edison, N.J.

The firm and the association each were fined $1,000 for each of two pledge reminders the firm sent on behalf of the association to two citizens for pledges they had not made, Proctor says.

The association also was fined another $1,000 for each pledge reminder because the two reminders violated a consent order from the Secretary of State’s Office that the association had signed in 1996, she says.

The office found no violation in 306 of the cases it investigated, and investigations are continuing in the other cases.

USA Today reported Jan. 11 that solicitation firms that previously sold commercial products and services are turning to charitable solicitation because charities are exempt from a new law that has prompted more than 50 million Americans to sign up for a national do-not-call registry.

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