Q: My elderly mother receives a lot of phone calls from professional solicitors asking her to make donations to charities all across the country. Some are groups we have never heard of before. Her number is on the National Do Not Call Registry. How can I get these phone calls to stop?
A: Many people are surprised to learn that the Do Not Call Registry does not apply to charitable fundraising. Registering your home telephone number with the National Do Not Call Registry will not prevent charities from contacting you. However, charities must keep a record of people who have asked not to be contacted again, so you can ask not to be contacted in the future. Charities also must honor Do Not Call requests sent in writing.
Q: Does Ohio law regulate professional solicitors who are hired to raise money for charitable organizations?
A: Ohio law requires such solicitors to identify themselves clearly as professional solicitors and state the name of their firm as well as the specific charity they’re representing at the beginning of each call.
Q: If I ask to be placed on a Do Not Call list during a call from a solicitor hired by a charitable organization, will my request be honored?
A: If, during the call, you ask to be placed on a Do Not Call list, your request must be honored whether the caller is a staff member, volunteer or solicitor for that charity. Given the number and the variety of lists being worked, removal of your name might take a few weeks. Solicitors must relay your request to the charity and then the charity is responsible for sharing the information with any other solicitors it might hire.
Q: Can I ask to have my name removed from more than one charity at the same time?
A: No; there is no way to remove your name from the lists of multiple charities simultaneously. In other words, there is no legal requirement for a professional solicitor to remove your name from the lists of all the charities he or she may represent.
Q: Are professional solicitors regulated by Ohio law?
A: Yes. Professional solicitors and charities asking for donations must meet a number of legal requirements and, of course, are prohibited from misrepresenting themselves or their intentions. For example, some solicitors may try to intimidate the elderly by using aggressive tactics, falsely claiming the consumer pledged or gave a gift previously, or using names that sound similar to those of other well-known organizations.
Q: Are there things I should be aware of when dealing with donation requests?
A: Always be wary of sharing bank, credit card or other personal information with an unknown or uninvited caller. Scammers are always looking for opportunities to steal financial data or even identities.
Also, it’s also a good idea to ask questions or request written information before donating. If a solicitor calls claiming to represent a particular charity, find out how much of your donation the charity will actually receive. Contact the charity directly and confirm that a fund-raising campaign is underway. See if family members or friends are familiar with the charity’s work and whether it’s a solid, reputable organization. Review online evaluations of charities from watchdog groups at sites such as www.charitynavigator.org
, and www.bbb.org/us/charity/
. You can also see a charity’s 990 return filed annually with the Internal Revenue Service at www.guidestar.org
Finally, it’s wise to prepare a giving plan that identifies the causes and charities you choose to support. By approaching charitable giving in a thoughtful, organized fashion, you’ll be prepared to make decisions in line with your priorities when you receive requests for donations.
Q: What can I do if I have concerns about charitable organization solicitations?
If you have concerns about charitable solicitations, please contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or file a complaint by calling 800-282-0512 or by visiting www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Beth Short, who is part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section.