NJ Officials Remind Residents “‘Tis the Season to Investigate Before You Donate”

NEWARK – As the holidays remind us to think of those in need, and the time for year-end tax deductible charitable gifts approaches, the State Division of Consumer Affairs reminds New Jerseyans: ‘Tis the Season to Investigate Before You Donate.

Bringing increased transparency to the ways non-profit organizations use donated money, the Division today released the latest list of New Jersey’s Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities, with pie charts illustrating each charity’s spending during its most recent reported fiscal year. The full list is available at http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/charity/inquired/#list.

The New Jersey Police Officers Foundation, based in Lyndhurst, and the Christian Appalachian Project, based in Lexington, Kentucky, stand at the extremes of the list announced today.

When the New Jersey Police Officers Foundation spent donors’ money during its most recent fiscal year, only 11 cents of each dollar went toward the organization’s stated mission to provide support to other charities, and work for the advancement of the Italian-American community. The bulk of each dollar – 87 cents – was spent on fundraising. The remaining two cents were spent on management and general expenses.

By contrast, of each dollar the Christian Appalachian Project spent during its most recently reported fiscal year, 91 cents went toward the group’s stated mission to provide physical, spiritual, and emotional support to poverty-stricken residents of the Appalachian region. Five cents of each dollar went toward fundraising, and four cents toward management and general expenses.

The information about their expenditures is based on each charity’s most recent fiscal year report to the Division of Consumer Affairs.

“At this time of year, people are making decisions about donating to the causes they find most meaningful and important,” Thomas R. Calcagni, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “Our Investigate Before You Donate campaign urges consumers to decide not just with their hearts, but with their heads. Before giving to a charity, find out how much of your donation dollar will be spent on charitable programs, as opposed to fundraising or management costs. Take a close look at the charity’s stated mission, and the specific ways it works to fulfill that mission.”

The list of New Jersey’s Top 10 Most Inquired-About Charities is drawn from consumers’ calls to the Division’s Charities Registration Hotline, 1-973-504-6215. The list announced today provides information on the 10 charities most often asked about by consumers who called the Hotline from September through November 2011. A high number of inquiries may mean a charity solicited donations or held a campaign drive during the months in question.

The Better Business Bureau’s Standards for Charity Accountability state that a charity should dedicate at least 65 percent of its expenses toward program activities, and no more than 35 percent toward fundraising. Consumers can compare that guideline with the expenditures reported by the charities for their most recent fiscal years.

The State Division of Consumer Affairs encourages New Jersey consumers to learn about charities before making a donation. For example:

  • Find out whether the charity is registered in New Jersey, or is exempt from having to register. (Certain religious and educational organizations, and charities whose annual income includes less than $10,000 in public contributions and fundraising, are exempt from having to register with the state).
  • Find out how much the charity spent during recent fiscal years on program costs, management costs, and fundraising.
  • Learn about the charity’s stated mission.

Consumers may obtain information about a charity in several ways. They can ask the charity itself (reputable charities encourage you to do so); visit the charity’s website; visit the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration page at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov; or call the Division’s Charities Hotline at 1-973-504-6215 during regular business hours.

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