Near Veterans Day, consumers across the United States contact Better Business Bureau to vet charities and other organizations soliciting on behalf of military members and veterans; however, not all donation requests come from non-profits.
Agents or “independent contractors” from Freedom United Sales LLC and Smartraiser LLC—of Beaverton, Ore.—are traveling the country requesting donations to send military care packages to U.S. soldiers serving overseas; in some cases, agents are selling magazine subscriptions in exchange for contributions. Yet, some consumers say representatives are falsely implying non-profit status while soliciting on doorsteps or at public venues.
Freedom United Sales tells BBB that it trains its solicitors to disclose that it is for-profit, but can’t control possible misrepresentations made by agents.
State Attorney Generals’ offices in Alaska, Oregon and Washington—and many other states—require charitable organizations to register before seeking donations. Further, some counties or cities require permits before selling door-to-door.
If approached for donations, the BBB encourages people to ask questions:
Who? Collect credentials, identification, and in most areas, solicitation permits. Write down organizations’ names, addresses and websites. Legitimate charities should be listed with irs.gov; also, do research on guidestar.org, charitynavigator.org and bbb.org/us/charity-reviews.
What? Find out what percentage of the funds go toward charitable efforts. Most organizations spend a portion on fundraising or solicitations so be skeptical of claims that all money goes to the cause. BBB Standards for Charity Accountability suggest that entities should allocate at least 65 percent toward program activities and spend no more than 35 percent on fundraising.
When? Where? Why? Plan donations ahead of time; utilize BBB’s Charity Review Program to find local organizations and access giving tips. Before donating, contact local American Legion offices for recommendations and use BBB Military Line for resources.