Monday, November 30, 2009

Watch Out For Non-Registered Charities

Check Out Charity To Determine If Following Laws

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is urging consumers to check on the registration status and funding history of charities before agreeing to donate any money.  Many charities collect about half their annual contributions in the months of November and December during the holiday season.  But Bronson says it is prudent to take time to investigate a charity and ensure the money is being spent wisely.

There are several local organizations soliciting funds in Hendry and Glades county that are not registered with the Florida Consumer Services department including Lucy's Angels, soliciting locally for breast cancer. Although the group raised about $10,000 last year and gave a grant to the Sarasota Health Department, it is not properly registered with the state, so no financial records are available publicly. 

Florida law requires most charities soliciting in Florida to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services each year and provide financial information about income and expenses.  Religious, educational and government-based charities are exempt.  Registered charities are also required to disclose how much they raised the previous year, how much is spent on administrative costs including salaries, rent, etc., how much goes toward fundraising, and the amount that actually is spent on the charitable purpose.  There are more than 14,000 charities registered with the department, up from 10,800 charities just five years ago.

"Consumers can find out if a charity is following state law by checking on its registration status," Bronson said.  "But beyond that, they can also find out if the charity they are considering supporting is spending the donations in a prudent manner.  If an organization spends a small percentage on services, consumers may want to think twice about donating."

Consumers can find out if a charity is registered by calling the department's helpline at 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352), or 1-800-FLAYUDA for Spanish-speaking operators, or by visiting They can also check the complaint history of an organization.

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