Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

AG Report: Nearly one-third of charitable donations go to professional fundraisers instead of charities

December 22, 2016

As published by Rochester First on December 22, 2016.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released his “Pennies for Charity: Where Your Money Goes; Fundraising by Professional Fundraisers” report, which found that fully one-third of charitable donations ended up in the pocket of the professional fundraisers.

This year’s report expanded its focus beyond telemarketers to include a broader range of solicitation methods conducted by professional fundraisers, including direct mail, email, and internet fundraising campaigns.

New Yorkers gave a total of $17.2 billion in reported donations in 2015 — the year covered by the report — the second highest giving level in the nation, after California.

Of this total, more than $1 billion was raised through 1,143 fundraising campaigns conducted by professional fundraisers on behalf of charities.

These campaigns are the focus of this report. The report and the searchable Pennies for Charity database that contains the data underlying it can be found at www.CharitiesNYS.com.

Of the nearly $1.1 billion raised through campaigns conducted by professional fundraisers, charities netted just over $718 million, or 65.5% of the proceeds, while professional fundraisers kept $379 million, or 34.5%.
“New Yorkers should know how their charitable dollars are being spent,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Our Pennies for Charity report shines a light on the portion of charitable dollars that is pocketed by outside fundraisers, and our Charities Bureau will hold unscrupulous or fraudulent fundraisers accountable.”

This year’s report included a much bigger data set than previous years’ reports, as it focused on various mechanisms for fundraising in addition to telemarketing, which was the sole focus of prior Pennies for Charities reports and which was found to be the costliest fundraising mechanism.

The “Pennies for Charity” report aggregates information from fundraising reports filed with the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau for campaigns conducted by professional fundraisers on behalf of charities in the previous year.

Professional fundraisers must register with the Office of the Attorney General and provide closing statements that break down the revenue raised and the expenses generated by the campaign.

Other significant findings from analyzing the 1,143 fundraising campaigns covered by this report include:

  • In 239 campaigns, or approximately 20% of the campaigns covered in the report, the charities retained 70% or more of the funds raised, with 30% or less going to cover the costs of the professional fundraiser.
  • In 622 campaigns, or approximately 54% of the total, charities retained less than half of the funds raised.
  • In 192 campaigns, or nearly 17% of the total, fundraising expenses exceeded revenue, for a total loss of $16.7 million.

The report also includes Tips for Donors, including specific guidance for responding to phone, direct mail, or online solicitations. Key tips include:

You can read the full report here.