Better Business Bureau Issues Warning on Charitable Solicitations from Police, Firefighter and Veterans’ Organizations

May 21, 2009

Columbus, OH - May 20, 2009 -  BBB Serving Central Ohio applauds the announcement today by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state government agencies over concerns about solicitations made by police, firefighter and veterans’ organizations. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance and BBBs nationwide receive over 130,000 inquiries annually from donors who want to know how a police, firefighter or veterans’ charity stacks up to BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

“For many years, BBBs across the U.S. have received numerous reports about the questionable practices of unscrupulous operators seeking to take advantage of American generosity and concern for police officers, firefighters and veterans in their communities,” said Kip Morse, BBB President .

Better Business Bureau is concerned about many practices that are common to police, firefighter and veterans’ organizations including:
• High fund raising costs with little remaining to assist the named cause;
• Excessive pressure in telephone fund raising appeals; and
• Lack of clarity about what programs donations will be assisting.

A consumer booklet by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “Donating to Police and Firefighter Organizations” is available online for free at and offers giving advice for vetting solicitations. Also available online at is the BBB Wise Giving Alliance testimony on Assessing Veterans’ Organizations given to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in December 2007. The testimony includes additional BBB guidance about veterans’ groups.

 “Certainly, police, firefighter and veterans’ charities fill an important need in society for current and former members of the armed services, police, firefighters and their families,” said Morse, “and we are pleased that a number of these charities meet our standards.  However, we also have some concerns.”

BBB offers the following tips to help donors make wise pre-donation decisions when considering police, firefighter, or veterans’ charities:

• Check with Outside Sources Before Giving. Visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance online at to access detailed charity reports and giving advice. Donors can also check out charities with their state government’s charity registration agency, usually a division under the Attorney General.

• Mistaken Identity.  Just because the organization includes the words “police” or “firefighter” in the name it does not mean that any member of the local force is involved. Also, many veterans’ charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form.

• Telemarketing Cautions. Telemarketing can be a costly method of fund raising unless carefully managed. If called, don’t hesitate to ask for written information on the charity’s programs and finances.

• On-the-Spot Donation Decisions. Be wary of excessive pressure in fund raising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Charities should welcome gifts whenever provided.

• Donating Cars. Find out how much of the auction price for donated cars actually goes to the charity. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price. Also be mindful of the latest IRS rules on deductibility of such gifts.

• Clear Program Descriptions. Look for a clear program description of the organization’s activities in its appeals and Web site. For example, if it says it is helping veterans, does it explain how (e.g., financial, housing, and/or counseling, etc.) and where it is doing so?  
For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB spokesperson, contact Joan Coughlin at 614-754-4561.

BBB Central Ohio Local Wise Giving Guides are published annully to help donors start with trust to make informed decisions. guides summarize evaluations completed by your BBB concerning charities based in Central Ohio that solicit locally, statewide, and regionally. More comprehensive Wise giving Reports on each charity are also available online. REports provide more detail about a charity's mission, leadership, program finances, fundraising methods, and any complaint experience, government action or custom comments.

About BBB
BBB of Central Ohio serves Columbus and 21 surrounding counties as a leader in advancing marketplace trust by encouraging best practices, celebrating role models, and denouncing substandard behavior. BBB sees trust as functions of respect, ethics, intent, delivering results and addressing concerns. Businesses and charities that earn BBB Accreditation have agreed to live up to our high standards and principals for trust. BBBs provide free and easily accessible Reliability Reports on businesses, Wise Giving Reports on charities, educational information, objective advice, and dispute resolution of marketplace complaints. The first BBB was founded in 1912, and today a network of 128 local BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million businesses and charities. Please visit for more information about BBB.