Educational Consumer Tips

Fraternal Organizations

Author: Better Business Bureau
Category: Service

The police and firefighters in your community put their lives on the line to protect you, your family, and your community. When you get a call or a letter asking you to give to a specific police or fire group, your first reaction is probably a generous one. Be aware there are some fraudulent merchants who are happy to take your money without giving you all the facts needed to make an informed giving decision. One of the most common problems with police organization "look-a-likes" is the way they spend the money they solicit from the public. Some of these groups have high fundraising costs while spending very little on program services. Other problems include an unwillingness to disclose information, misleading the public as to the nature of the organization or use of funds, and promising special "favors" from officers in exchange for donations.

Checking out an organization's history and asking basic, straightforward questions can help you to determine if you are donating to a truly worthy cause. Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:

• Ask how much of your money will actually go to the police programs. Is there a professional fundraiser being used for the program or event? If so, the fundraiser should clearly disclose the name of the fundraising firm and the fact that the solicitation is being conducted by a professional fundraiser and not the police organization itself. Find out how much of your money will go to the fundraiser. Ask what programs your donation will support.

• Your gift may not be deductible as a charitable donation. Police and fire organizations can be tax exempt under different sections of the Internal Revenue Code. Only some of them are eligible to receive charitable donations deductible for federal income tax purposes.

• Check on the reputation of the soliciting organization. Contact your local Better Business Bureau for a Business Review.