Do you support a local or national charity? Most people I know do support charitable causes, whether it’s buying toys for at risk children during the holiday season or helping find a cure for cancer, they support something important to them or their family.  Some people I know go even further and have launched a foundation to support a cause that is important to them. They volunteer their time and talent to engage as many people as possible in an effort to make a difference. It’s extremely inspirational and admirable.

But not every charity is operating on the straight and narrow.

The Tampa Bay Times recently investigated charities across the country and found the top 50 that spend exorbitant amounts of money on solicitation of funds. Reporters also uncovered charities that had been set up fraudulently. The charities were spending less than 25 percent of the money raised on the cause. When you look at the list provided by the reporters, it shows that most of the money raised went back into paying the solicitors.

More than likely, those donating to these charities have no idea that the charities are not using the funds to support the cause. It’s a heartbreaking reality because donors truly believe they are helping to make a difference.  But are we?

Florida’s Department of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is working to put a stop to this atrocity. At least in Florida.  A Bill has been laid on Governor Scott’s desk to rewrite charity laws in Florida. It will change the regulations for charities soliciting donations in our state.  According to the article, charitable groups that have violated certain laws in other states will be banned from doing business in Florida and paid telemarketers hired by charities will have to undergo background checks.

Charities that collect more than $1 million a year but which spend less than 25 percent of the money on their cause must make detailed public reports to the state, including family relationships among board members.

The changes are a good start to dealing with the issue, but responsibility lies with us too. When you consider making a donation to a charity, and I encourage anyone to donate, do your due diligence. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Ask them for their tax documents, annual report, and a copy of their annual budget. You’re entitled to see this information under Florida’s Sunshine Law.