BBB has been receiving requests for information about giving to police and firefighter charities. Most frequently, callers report that they are being telemarketed by these charities, but, in some instances, callers also indicate that these charities are engaging in door-to-door solicitations. If you are considering supporting police and firefighter causes, BBB advises you to consider the following.
1) Some police and firefighter groups are not charities. While some groups are 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charities, others are labor organizations, fraternal groups, or benevolent associations. Make sure to ask the group for its tax identification letter to determine whether your contribution will be tax-deductible.
2) Local police officers and firefighters are not always involved. Don’t make the assumptions based on the name alone; the words “police” and “firefighter” in an organization’s name does not necessarily mean that local members are involved.
3) Don’t believe promises of special treatment. If such suggestions or threats are used, contact your local police department, your state’s attorney general, and BBB.
4) Ask for written materials. Learn more about the organization’s finances before giving. It should “raise a red flag” if the organization is unwilling to provide this information.
5) Find out how much of your gift will be spent on fundraising costs. In some cases, fundraising expenses for police and firefighter organizations can be as high as 90% or more of the funds collected.
6) If asked to buy tickets to send needy kids to an entertainment event, ask how the children are chosen, how many will attend, how tickets will be distributed, and if transportation has been arranged for the children. Many times the soliciting organizations have not made arrangements with local children’s charities, might not provide transportation for the children, or few children may actually attend the event.
7) If your business is asked to buy advertising space in a police or firefighting journal, ask how many copies of the publication will be distributed, who will receive them, if there is a cover price, the estimated publication date and ask to see a copy of the draft and published version of the ad. In some cases few copies of the publication are ever distributed and those that are given out may be done haphazardly.