Senator Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. and Assemblyman Dave McDonough hosted a public hearing on charity fundraising on Jan. 30 to explore if donors and consumers are fully informed of where and how much of their donations actually go to their intended charity.
Senator Charles Fuschillo (right) speaks to Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
The hearing collected testimony relative to charitable solicitations, especially those made by professional fundraisers, and to address concerns of donors, charity organizers and government regulators. Experts offering testimony included New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Nassau County Consumer Affairs Commissioner Roger Bogsted, 1 in 9 - the Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition President Geri Barish, and representatives from the Direct Marketing Association - Nonprofit Federation.
"As displayed by the outpouring of support to those in need after the tragic events of September 11, New Yorkers have traditionally been generous contributors to charities," Fuschillo said at the hearing. "Therefore, during these tough economic times, we must ensure that donors are fully informed about how much of their donation reaches the cause they are supporting and that they are aware of the ways they can learn about their charities prior to making a donation."
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, New Yorkers gave more than $11 billion to charity in 2000. Though volunteers are sometimes used as a cost-effective way to raise funds, telephone solicitation of charitable contributions is often performed by professional fundraisers. In a New York State report "Pennies for Charity," prepared by the Attorney General's Charities Bureau, it is revealed that in 2001, 588 charities hired professionals to solicit donations. Of the $184.7 million raised, these charities received $58.9 million, or about 32 percent on average (New York Times, Dec. 27, 2002).
The state report ranks Long Island as the area with the lowest percentage of funds raised through these professional fundraisers in the state, with 23 percent going to charities. New York City was ranked highest with charities receiving 54 percent of recipients.
Of the estimated $212 billion total United States charitable contributions in 2001, $160 billion of that came from individual donors according to the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy. And while estimates vary from study to study, 60 percent or more of American adults made financial donations in the wake of September 11 (NCCS & Association of Fundraising Profession) with the average household donation of $134 (Association of Fundraising Professionals).
"The DMA Nonprofit Federation appreciates the opportunity to participate with Senator Fuschillo and other New York leaders in a dialogue to provide New Yorkers with a fuller understanding of the fundraising process" said Gene DeSantis.
"Residents who care enough to give their money to a charity must be provided the necessary tools to ensure that their donation is being used as it was intended to be such as providing food to a child, funding research for a cure to a disease, care to the elderly or disabled, and much more," McDonough said. "[This] hearing will help determine how best to educate donors and ensure they are best protected from being misrepresented."