Fund raising for law enforcement and fire fighter groups

Patricia Hafermann • Benefit Specialist

Most citizens hold law enforcement and public safety personnel in high regard, and are willing to do what they can to support them. This sense of loyalty may lead you to agree to donate to groups which align themselves with causes related to police or fire fighters.

Solicitations, calls, and mailings from groups claiming to have an affiliation with police or fire fighters should be looked at carefully. These solicitations may have very little to do with local police or fire organizations.

Professional Fund Raisers

Most calls for police and fire fighter groups are not made by local officers, even though this is what you may assume or be led to believe. Solicitors are usually professional fund raisers, who may or may not be calling on behalf of a local agency. People in Wisconsin have reported contacts from several state police or fire association labor unions. When a labor union collects money, it is divided between the professional fund raiser and the labor union, not the local department. Local departments are already funded by tax dollars.

Even if a group claims to be affiliated with a local organization, this does not necessarily indicate that much of the money will benefit the local agency. Other groups are for-profit companies which adopt a name that sounds as if it is associated with police or fire fighters, but none of the funds go to any such groups or causes. This can happen with companies that publish law enforcement journals and call businesses asking them to buy advertising space. Some companies send invoices for advertising, even though the business did not agree to place an ad.

How Much Do They Get?

Another important fact you should know before making a decision to donate, buy a ticket, or pay for advertising is to find out what percentage of the money collected actually goes to the group. A professional fund raiser can, and often does, legally keep 75 percent or more of the money collected. This means that a law enforcement group can end up with a little as 10 percent or less of the donated funds. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal to regulate the portion of contributions a fund raiser may take, due to the sometimes high costs of a campaign.

Unfortunately, this means that local police or fire organizations can become victims along with individual consumers or businesses which give money to professional fund raisers.

Since professional fund raisers typically raise more money than a law enforcement group can raise on its own, some local agencies do enter into contracts with professional fund raisers in order to be guaranteed a certain amount of money. The organization may settle for 10 percent of the money the fund raiser actually collects.

You may think it is quite an accomplishment when $56,000 is raised for your local police or fire organization, but may become disgruntled to find that $560,000 was actually collected from people in your community.

Check You Investment

In deciding whether to support a fund raiser who calls on behalf of a law enforcement or public safety agency, ask the following questions:

Where is the organization located?

Is the caller being paid or calling as a volunteer?

How much of your donation will actually go to the local organization?

When asking these questions, watch for any hesitation or uncertainty in the caller. Be suspicious if the caller is unable or unwilling to provide this basic information.

Is It Registered?

All charities not exempted by law which are soliciting in Wisconsin must be registered with the state Department of Financial Institutions. Charities that comply with Wisconsin’s charitable solicitations law must disclose the true name of the charity, its actual location, and its primary purpose.

You can contact the Department of Financial Institutions at 608-267-2722 or online at http:// to verify if the charity is registered.

Additional information about charities can also be obtained through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at (703) 276-0100

For more information, information about complaints filed against specific organizations, or to file a complaint, visit our website or contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Bureau of Consumer Protection, 2811 Agriculture Dr., P.O. Box 8911, Madison 53708-8911; e-mail: DATCPHotline@wisconsin. gov; website: datcp.wisconsin. gov; toll-free in Wisconsin: (800) 422-7128; (608) 224-4976; fax: (608) 224-4939; and TTY: (608) 224-5058.

If you have any additional questions, you may call Pat Hafermann, Elderly Benefits Specialist with the Aging and Disability Resource Center at (920) 467-4076.

Sources: Bureau of Consumer Protection Consumer Facts l:\cpcic\ facts\FundraisersForLawEnforcement133 08/12

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