Paid solicitors often take large percentage of charity donations made during cold-calls

Charity Watch: Consumers should ask questions before they donate
Paid solicitors often keep big percentage of charity donations
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jul 23, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS — At one point or another, you've probably received a phone call from a charity asking you to donate money for a specific cause or organization and while some of those calls may be legit, News5 discovered not all of that money ends up going to the people who need it most.

Unsolicited phone calls from charity organizations are nothing new. They often ask you to donate money to help support police, firefighters, military personnel, or even kids with cancer. You asked us to investigate whether these calls are legit and where the money is actually going.

News5 viewer Rob Schwartz writes "I received a phone call from the Colorado State Fire Fighters Foundation asking for a donation. They wanted to send me an email with a link or I can Venmo to them. If this is a legit donation supporting firefighters and their families I'm happy to contribute. I wanted to see if news5 investigates has any info."

This is a legitimate charity registered with the State of Colorado, but you might want to know more about who is making these calls and how the donation money is really distributed.

According to Colorado Secretary of State records paid solicitors for a company called PB Entertainment are making these cold-calls and the charity itself, Colorado State Fire Fighters Foundation, gets just 25% of the donations made through these calls. The telemarketing company keeps the rest.

Laurie Styron is the executive director of Charity Watch, a watchdog group that works to help consumers learn more about charities before they donate. She says what's happening here is common practice and many consumers have no idea.

"It's not unusual to see the professional fundraiser under contract be allowed to keep 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, of what you donate before whatever is left of your donation ever even gets to the charity," said Styron.

The Colorado State Fire Fighters Foundation was formed in 2016 to help fund firefighter training, as well as provide financial aid to firefighters and their families, across Colorado.

In a statement on its website the CSFFF says "If we as an organization were to try to perform this marketing campaign on our own, we would make less than 25% due to expenses for support staff, payroll, facilities, call lists, benefits and other set expenses."

Here is what the experts say you should do if you get a cold-call asking for a donation:
- Ask the person on the call if they are a volunteer, or if they're being paid to ask for donations.

- If they are paid, ask what percentage their company keeps. If they don't know that's a red flag.

- Research the charity and if you still want to donate, do it directly.

"You really need to before the fact, before you hand your money over, do a little research and make sure the charity you are donating to is going to use your contribution efficiently and effectively," said Styron.

If you can't find a whole lot of information on the company attempting to collect money on behalf of a charity, remember you can always donate directly to that organization. That's the best way to make sure your money goes where you want it to.

If you need help with something you can always contact us here at News5 for help.

If there's a charity you're unsure about you can check it out on the following websites: