Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Piggy backing on the surge in appeals and charitable giving that occurs at the end of the year, at least four states have recently issued reports on paid fundraising targeting their residents. We previously blogged about the annual New York Attorney General's report "Pennies for Charity" issued last month. Now the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and Vermont, along with Washington's Secretary of State have issued similar reports. Not surprisingly, the reports highlight that fundraising involving paid or commercial fundraisers returns on average 42 percent or less to the participating charities, but they also note that the percentage going to charities varies enormously, ranging from over 90 percent to less than 10 percent. Interestingly, the Vermont AG's report provides some of the most detailed data, including breakdowns by types of fundraising methods used.
These and similar reports by other state officials raise several important questions, including:
* Is the amount of attention paid by state officials to the activities of paid fundraisers too much or too little as compared to resources devoted to other types of charity oversight?
* Does the information provided in these reports actually change donor behavior, particularly when contacted by a paid fundraiser?
* Do such reports draw too much attention to fundraising ratios as compared to other measures of a charity's worthiness (even though the reports are usually careful to note that fundraising ratios do not tell the whole story about a charity's merit)?