Raleigh, NC-- They say charity starts and home and in North Carolina, that rings true. Tuesday, the NC Secretary of State's Office released stats indicating that North Carolinians gave less to charity in 2011 than 2010.
The report also stated that people in North Carolina supported non-profits that got better returns from their fund-raisers than charities supported by donors in other states.
The 2010-2011 Secretary of State Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division Annual Report states that charities licensed by the NC collected $26,716,762.18 from North Carolinians during the 12 month period recorded.
It shows that of the money collected, $13,215,195.17 went directly to the charities for which the fund-raising campaigns were being conducted. That averages to a 49.46% return to the charities for each dollar donated. That number is a decrease over last year's 53.73% return to charities from a total of $30,685,913.07 raised by professionally run events.
A silver lining in the numbers however, is that the new percentage compares well to a study of the fund-raising events where the fund-raising campaigns were conducted in other states in addition to North Carolina. This year's average percentage nationally shows that just 46.52% of all those monies raised went directly on to the charities. "This means," Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall said Tuesday, "that when you look at the choices North Carolinians made, in many cases our folks gave to the more efficiently run fund-raising events than people in other states did."
This is the second year in a row where the North Carolina-only donations percentage came in higher than a comparable multi-state percentage.
The new number still does not match the all-time high percentage hit in 2007-2008 when the average return to charities was 59.78 percent of every dollar given.
The annual report does not look at all charitable and non-profit causes operating in North Carolina. It specifically examines charitable groups that choose to use paid solicitors registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office. Data in the report breaks down how much of each dollar given by the public is taken for fund-raising costs.
"This report is essentially a snapshot in time," Secretary of State Marshall said. "It gives us one good look at how certain charities were doing both with the public and with their own fund-raisers during a 12 month period.
"The new numbers show us that the public is trying to make good decisions about who to give to," Secretary Marshall said, "and it tells us that North Carolina charities appear to be making fairly good business decisions with the fund-raisers they hire."
One particular concern the study raises, Marshall said, is the overall decline in giving. "The numbers reflect what so many of us continue to hear, that charities are facing a big demand for services but donations are not growing to meet that demand," Marshall said.
"We have so many good North Carolina charities needing support right now," Marshall added, "I hope this year's report gives all of us who can help a holiday reminder to make that donation to the cause or causes we support."
To highlight that need for services, Secretary Marshall released this year's CSL annual report at a press conference at the NC Children's Hospital in Chapel Hill.
Joining her in making the announcement were officials with UNC Health Care and also the Me Fine Foundation, a non-profit that specializes in giving emergency financial and personal supplies assistance to families who have critically ill children being treated at the UNC and Duke medical centers. Marshall praised Me Fine for providing both financial and emotional support to families in crisis.
The public can read detailed information on this year's reported fund-raising events online at the Secretary of State's website. Marshall urged North Carolinians to use the data to make smart choices when giving. "You can go to www.sosnc.com and click on the 'Check Before You Write One' icon and get case by case information. You can also find other information about charities and fund-raisers operating in North Carolina and read what kind of questions to ask before you write that check," Marshall said.
The charitable solicitation licensing section of the website offers advice on how not to get scammed and gives links to other organizations that can help people make informed choices before they give.
There is also a Donor Checklist on the site that people can use as a guide to ask charitable solicitors questions to help determine if they want to donate to an organization.
A complete copy of the 2010-2011 Annual Report of Charitable Solicitation Licensing, report is also posted on the Department's website.
Marshall did caution people to read through the reports with an understanding that sometimes there may be a valid reason for a charity and its professional solicitor to have lower than expected numbers in the report.
"For example, extensive educational efforts are an integral part of their fund-raising program as well, but that's counted as part of the expenses," Marshall said.
"Also, the Annual Report reporting date may come at the beginning of a fund-raising cycle when expenses are high but not a lot of the expected donations have been received," she said. "In some of those cases funds that eventually are raised get counted in the next report."
Donors interested in a given charity should try to look at its reports on file over a multi-year period, Marshall said, to get a clear picture of group's relationships with solicitors. Also, donors may request financial information directly from the charity.
"The bottom line is, if you see something that upsets you about a charity you support," Marshall said, "get as much information as you can, and then decide if you feel they have earned your continued support."
The Secretary of State's Office licenses charities and non-profit organizations that use professional fund-raising services for their solicitation campaigns, compensate their officers, or that raise at least $25,000 and are not exempt from state law for reasons such as being a religious institution or volunteer fire department or educational institution.
Many charities in the state are covered by these exemptions, so the report does not reflect their fund-raising or spending activities.
People with questions about individual charities or charitable solicitation activities in general can call the Secretary of State's Office, Charitable Solicitation Licensing Division at 1-888-830-4989 (toll-free in North Carolina) or 1-919-807-2214.