Before donating money on behalf of killed or injured police officers, firefighters or their families, consumers should be very selective in choosing the organizations to receive their contributions. Many charities that solicit by phone or mail have high overhead costs that leave little for the victims or their families.
Recent events have renewed the public’s attention on assisting police and fire families hit by tragedy, such as this alert put out in late 2009:
Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana has learned that “Police Protection” is attempting to solicit illegally. Homeowners in Kosciusko County have reported to the Sheriff’s Department there that “Police Protection” is attempting to solicit funds for the family of Sgt. Jeff Shaw, a fallen officer. There is NO such solicitation going on for the late Sgt. Shaw, who was killed in the line of duty last month on State Road 14.
The Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department detective division is currently investigating the fraudulent scam that provides an Indianapolis telephone number and website.
“This transcends the worse of the worse, that frauds would actually do this in light of the tragedy this family has already endured,” said Michael Coil, President/CEO. “BBB offers reports on both charities and businesses and encourages consumers to always check before giving any money to an organization that does telemarketing’ or emails asking for a donation. Unfortunately, these frauds have no scruples and will do whatever it takes to get your hard-earned money. “
Coil said that there are so many worthwhile charities that offer needed assistance to the communities they serve, but there are also those that stop at nothing to get what they want. “Consumers must always be diligent, even when frauds hit to the core of the heart,” said Coil. “That seems to be their mode of operation.”
Before donating to anyone who approaches you, contact BBB and let them assist you in making wise giving decision. Call toll-free at 1.800.552.4631 or visit our web site at www.bbb.org.
Whenever a tragedy like this happens, it can galvanize a community. People are moved to do whatever they can to help and that often means trying to get money to the families. It is crucial that the public know that the money is doing the most good possible.
Many national police and fire charities, sometimes called “badge charities,” spend the vast majority of the money they raise to pay professional telemarketers, direct mail companies, salaries or other overhead expenses. In some cases, less than $1 of every $10 donation goes directly to aid injured police officers, firefighters or their families.
A donor may want to consider making a contribution to a fund set up to help a specific police officer, firefighter or their families. However, such donations may not be tax deductible.
Find out whether a specific fund has been established to assist the family. In most cases, those funds have no overhead costs and all donations go directly to the police officer, firefighter, or surviving family members.
Ask the officer’s or firefighter’s department where it suggests donations be made. In many cases, a department has a preferred organization for donations.
- If you decide to donate to a local or national charity, ask detailed questions: Is the organization considered a charitable group in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service? How much of your donation will go directly to help the family and how much will be used to pay organization salaries and fundraisers? Can the charity send printed information on exactly what it does? Does it have an independent audit?
- If you are donating to any charitable organization, you should attempt to determine how transparent that charity is about its operations. Transparency in a charity is considered crucial for the public to understand how its money is being spent.