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Seniors Legal Rights

Charitable Giving

Know Where Your Money Goes

Most of us have received phone calls and mailings asking for money to support a charitable organization. These charities usually sound worthy, with names and goals promising to find cures for cancer, help veterans, end hunger, provide needed services, and other worthwhile causes.

While most charities are honest and put their charitable dollars to good use, many do not. Americans lose millions of dollars each year to fraudulent charitable appeals. Therefore, it is important to obtain information about a charitable organization’s operations and how contributions are used before you donate.

Many charities use professional fundraisers, who may be paid a significant portion of your donation. Minnesota law does not require a charitable organization or its professional fundraiser to disclose to you how much of your donation goes to the cause. The burden, therefore, rests with you to find out how much of your donation will be applied to the organization’s mission and how much is going to the professional fundraiser.

Further, soliciting charities should be willing to tell you how they carry out their charitable mission, how much of the money they collect is used for program services, whether contributions are tax-deductible, and how much goes to fundraising and administration. You should not hesitate to ask these questions to help you decide whether to contribute. A charity that refuses to answer your questions or takes offense to them should give you pause.

Some additional guidelines for smart giving include:

For more information on charities and wise giving, contact the Attorney General’s Office Charities Division:

Minnesota Attorney General’s Office
Charities Division

445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1200
St. Paul, Minnesota 55101
(651) 757-1496 or (800) 657-3787
TTY: (651) 297-7206 or (800) 366-4812

To look at summary information from registration materials filed by charities, use the Charities Search page of the Attorney General’s Office’s website.