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Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Charities

All charities soliciting within the state of Florida (excluding religious, educational, political and governmental agencies) are required to register and file financial information with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

Call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or use our online Check-A-Charity tool to find out if a charity is properly registered. You can also find out how much the charity is spending on administration and fundraising and how much money goes to actual programming.

Select a question below to expand the answer.

Is my contribution tax-deductible?

Maybe. Although many organizations are tax-exempt and contributions to their cause are tax-deductible, this is not true of every organization that solicits contributions. Ask for the organization's tax-exempt number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Call the IRS for verification.

I have been solicited to make a contribution. What questions should I ask the organization?

Before agreeing to make a donation:

  • Ask to see written information concerning the organization.
  • Ask for financial information, such as a copy of the organization's IRS 990 income tax return, annual report or a breakdown of how the money is spent.
  • Ask how your contribution will be put to use.
  • If solicited by telephone, ask if the caller is a volunteer or a paid solicitor.
  • Ask the solicitor for their license number. 

How can I prevent solicitation telephone calls?

A telephone solicitor may not initiate an outbound telephone call to a consumer who has previously communicated to the telephone solicitor that he or she does not wish to receive an outbound telephone call:

  • Made on behalf of the seller whose goods or services are being offered; or
  • Made on behalf of a charitable organization for which a charitable contribution is being solicited.

If you receive a call from a professional solicitor or charity and you no longer wish to receive calls from that entity, tell the organization that you no longer wish to receive solicitations. Additionally, file a complaint with FDACS so that there will be a record that you have previously requested that the entity stop contacting you via telephone. Businesses and charities are required to maintain a list of consumers who have made a do-not-call request, and it is a violation to call a consumer who has asked to be placed on the company's do-not-call list.

What about those candy boxes or wishing wells that are found in retail establishments? Is the money really going to a charity?

Sometimes. If a charitable organization placed the donation receptacle at the establishment, then it is probably receiving the funds.

Other situations exist where the charitable organization identified on the donation receptacle may not receive all the contributions. Some individuals buy donation receptacles as a business and place them at various establishments. The individual agrees to pay a flat monthly fee to the charitable organization, notwithstanding the actual amount of donations deposited in the receptacle. Under such an agreement, the charitable organization may receive as little as $2 per box monthly with the rest kept by the individual.

I have been solicited by groups alleging to represent my local law enforcement officers and firefighters. Are these really law enforcement officers and firefighters calling? Does the money really go to the local agencies?

These organizations, referred to in the law as sponsors, are fraternal organizations and are not a part of your local law enforcement agency or fire department. The members are law enforcement officers or firefighters who may or may not be from your area.

Often these organizations contract with professional fundraisers to do the soliciting on their behalf. In that case, a portion of the contributions collected on behalf of the organization will go to pay the expenses of the fundraiser.

How much of my contribution is actually spent for the purpose of the solicitation?

Every organization has administrative expenses, such as salaries, rent, utilities, telephones, etc. Therefore, the amount spent for the organization's stated purpose will vary depending on the individual organization.

Some organizations may spend as much as 95 percent on their purpose or cause, while others spend as little as 1 percent — with the remaining portion devoted to administration.

Some organizations hire businesses — professional fundraisers — to solicit contributions on their behalf. In those situations, the businesses are paid a portion of the money collected for their efforts.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that solicitation of contributions is a form of speech and, therefore, no government entity can limit how much an organization may spend on fundraising, administrative fees, etc. It is up to the prospective donor to ask for the financial information before making a contribution.

Consumers can get information about registered charitable organizations from FDACS by using the online Check-A-Charity tool.

Do solicitors have to provide me with financial information about the organization if I request it?

According to the Solicitation of Contributions Act, if you ask, the organization must tell you who to contact to obtain the information. The information must be provided to you within 14 days.

Federal law also requires that a copy of the IRS tax return be made available on request.

You can get information about registered charitable organizations from FDACS by using the online Check-A-Charity tool.

If I agree to make a contribution over the telephone and later change my mind, am I obligated to send the money I pledged?

A contribution is not a debt; therefore, you are under no obligation to follow through on a pledge.

Do all fundraising organizations have to register with the state?

No. The Florida Solicitation of Contributions Act does not apply to bona fide religious or educational institutions, government agencies or political groups. These groups do not file with FDACS.

I often see requests for donations for a named individual or a family. What should I know about these types of solicitations?

Sometimes individuals or groups solicit donations for local families or people in need, such as individuals who require expensive medical care and cannot afford it, or families who have lost their homes to fire. This type of charitable solicitation is governed by special guidelines. Before donating, make sure the guidelines are met. 

Keep the following in mind:

  • The law requires that all contributions be deposited in a trust account opened by a trustee who has authority to spend the money.
  • The money may also be placed in a depository account. In this case, the circuit court has jurisdiction over distribution of the funds.
  • Do not give cash. Contribute by check that is payable to the trust fund, not to an individual.
  • Contact the banking institution or circuit court to verify the existence of the account.
  • Check locally to confirm that there really is such a need.

Visit our online Check-A-Charity tool.

How do I check on a charitable organization?

Prospective donors should contact the FDACS toll-free hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or use our online Check-A-Charity tool to verify registration and financial information.

You can also visit http://www.give.org the website of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, where you can access reports on nationally soliciting charities. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluates charities against comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountabilityto help donors make informed giving decisions.

Where can I find more information?