Watchdog soft on solicitors

By Todd Cohen

Elaine Marshall, North Carolina’s secretary of state, is in the wrong line of work.

In fiscal 2005, she reports, paid solicitors kept nearly 45 cents of every $1 they raised for charities.

Charities and donors are mainly to blame: Too few ask telemarketers how much of each donation they pocket.

But Marshall, charged with overseeing charitable solicitation, offers little help.

In releasing her annual solicitation report, she said she was “very pleased” charities contracting with professional solicitors “received more than 55 cents on every dollar raised,” a record-high share.

She also touted the fact that giving through solicitors grew to nearly $204.6 million from nearly $145.6 million the previous year.

Yet her report, as in past years, provides no past data to show year-to-year comparisons on how much money individual solicitors raised for individual charities, and how much solicitors pocketed.

Instead of making it a useful tool to help charities and donors make informed decisions, respectively, about which solicitors to hire, and which charities to support, Marshall uses it to chase headlines, proclaiming that the coop has more chickens, and that the fox is not eating as many of them.

Instead of policing solicitors, Marshall is serving as their publicist.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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