Public safety Fundraising Appeals – make your donations count

Every day, police and firefighters risk their lives to make your community safer. To show your support, you may consider making a donation when a fundraiser calls on behalf of a fire or police service organization. Before you write the check, please consider all the facts concerning Public Safety fundraising appeals.

  1. Who are members of the organization? Simply having the words “police” or “firefighter” in an organization’s name doesn’t mean police or firefighters are members of the group.
  2. Will my donation benefit my local community? Just because an organization claims it has local ties or works with local police or firefighters doesn’t mean your contributions will be used locally or for public safety purposes. The organization should be able to provide you with written information describing the programs your donation will support, and their fundraising costs before you donate.
  3. Will my donation be used to pay for the services of a professional fundraiser? Most solicitations for police and fire service organizations are made by paid professional fundraisers.
  4. Is my donation deductible? Donations to some police or firefighter groups may not be tax deductible. Many kinds of organizations are tax exempt, including fraternal organizations, labor unions, and trade associations, but donations to them may not be tax deductible.

It is important to find out where your public safety contributions are going. The Attorney General recommends asking the following questions to help ensure that your donation will benefit the people, organization or community you want to help.

  1. Who is making the call? Ask fundraisers for identification. In Pennsylvania, professional fundraisers soliciting on behalf of public safety organizations are generally not required to identify themselves as such or to name the organization by which they are employed during the solicitation, unless directly asked by the consumer. Do not be afraid to ask for the caller’s legal name and the name of his employer.
  2. How will my donation be used? Ask how your contribution will be used. Ask what percentage of your contribution will actually go to the public safety organization, department or program and how much will go to the fundraiser. Also ask if your contribution will be used locally. Request written information and review it before agreeing to make a contribution.
  3. Ask the public safety organization or your local police or fire department directly to verify a fundraiser’s claim that it is soliciting contributions on its behalf. If the claim cannot be verified, immediately report the solicitation to the Office of Attorney General or your local law enforcement officials.
  4. Ask if your contribution is tax-deductible. Ask for a receipt for your donation. Avoid cash gifts; cash can be lost or stolen. Instead, make your check payable to the official name of the group.

Be wary if a fundraiser suggests you’ll receive special treatment for donating to a public safety organization. For example, no legitimate fundraiser would guarantee that you won’t be stopped for speeding if you have a police organization’s decal in your car window. Don’t feel intimidated about declining to give. A caller who uses intimidation tactics is likely to be a scam artist. Report the call to your local law enforcement officials and the Office of Attorney General, Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section, at (717) 783-2853.