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Charities Tips

How to Avoid Unscrupulous Telephone Solicitors

Developed by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance -- a merger of the National Charities Information Bureau and the Council of Better Business Bureaus' Foundation and its Philanthropic Advisory Service

1. DO NOT succumb to pressure to make an immediate gift. A legitimate charity that wants your donation will welcome it just as much tomorrow or next week. Report harassing calls to your state's attorney general's office and to the Better Business Bureau in your area.
2. DO NOT give your credit card number, bank account number, or other personal financial information to unknown solicitors. If you want to contribute, mail a check to the organization's address after checking out the charity.
3. DO NOT hesitate to seek out additional facts. If you receive a telephone appeal from an unfamiliar charity, ask the solicitor to mail you information on the charity's programs, finances, and/or a copy of their latest financial statements.
4. ASK HOW MUCH THE CHARITY SPENT ON FUND RAISING IN THE PAST YEAR as a portion of total contributions received. The Alliance recognizes that the cost of an individual fund raising campaign using the telephone may exceed donor expectations for the use of funds. On an annual basis, however, the voluntary Alliance charity standards recommend that total fund raising costs should not exceed 35% of total related contributions.
5. WATCH OUT FOR NAME SIMILARITY. In view of the volume of charities (more than 850,000 organizations have received charitable tax exempt status from the IRS), there are many organizations raising money for the same cause. Unfortunately, some names are used to confuse potential donors by sounding similar to well-known organizations.
6. IF A POLICE OR FIREFIGHTER ORGANIZATION is using the telephone to solicit funds, ask what type of organization is soliciting (e.g., charity, fraternal group or union), if any local police officers or firefighters are involved, and what specific program(s) will the donation support? For additional advice on police and firefighter organizations, go to
CHECK OUT THE CHARITY with: 1. the BBB Wise Giving Alliance ( to find out if it meets the 20 voluntary Alliance charity standards, 2. the local Better Business Bureau (, if the inquiry is about a local charity, and 3. Connecticut's Public Charities Unit at charity registration office at