Using State Attorney General Records to Identify Telemarketer Payments by Charitable Organizations

Given the poor economy and the resulting decrease in spontaneous donations, more charities have been hiring telemarketing companies to solicit donations over the phone.  Charity officials justify the low return typically associated with these programs on the supposition that recent donors are more likely to repeat their donations in the future.  However, watchdog groups such as Charity Navigator disagree that the fees paid to telemarketers are worthwhile.  Here's how you can use public records to get the facts and draw your own conclusion. The Sacramento Bee recently reported that some California charities received less than 20 cents of every dollar raised through telemarketing campaigns in 2007.  To complete its analysis, the newspaper used records from the Registry of Charitable Trusts, which is maintained by the California Attorney General.  (Attorney generals in other states have similar sites as well.)  In the case of California, the Registry of Charitable Trusts includes links to databases of papers filed by charities detailing their fundraising practices and expenditures.  Financial disclosure documents for telemarketing campaigns are available in the Commercial Fundraiser Financial (CFR) Database.  Filings made in 2005 and prior years have been posted electronically to this site for the general public to download.  More recent filings (those made since 2006) need to be requested in writing.

The Crocker Art Museum, for example, was mentioned in the Bee for the ratio of its telemarketing expenses to its net proceeds from the campaign.  According to the museum's 2006 and 2007 Annual Financial Reports, revenue from these two campaigns totaled $27,351.00; expenses totaled $27,587.79 (of which telemarketing cost $21.641.50 or 78.4%) - meaning the museum ultimately paid $236.79 more than it raised.  To see what these Annual Financial Reports look like, click on the images below.

Crocker Art Museum (2006)

Crocker Art Museum (2007)

For more California examples, read the full article here.