Charleston, W.Va. – Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant has announced the beginning of the national Operation False Charity 2009, an effort to ensure legitimacy of charities and confidence for people who donate money and material.
Operation False Charity includes the Federal Trade Commission, secretaries of state, attorneys general, and local law enforcement.
“Badge Fraud” is the focus of the nation-wide sweep. Getting the most attention will be organizations that falsely present themselves as raising money for police and fire departments and veterans groups.
In West Virginia the focus will be on highlighting the improved Charities Section of the Secretary of State’s website. Even more information is now available when a potential donor is researching the charity they plan on giving to.
People who are donating money or material can check on the legitimacy of any one of West Virginia’s more than 2,500 registered charities by visiting the Secretary of State’s website at www.wvsos.com.
The new features on the Charities Section allow potential donors to see the percentage of donations from West Virginians used on initiatives in the Mountain State.
Also in the Charities Section, people can find information such as how much money was donated to the charity in the past fiscal year, how much money the charity spent on administrative costs and fundraising, and how much money the charity spent on initiatives in West Virginia.
Tennant said helping people become more informed will help them become more comfortable when donating to charity.
If a charity is operating fraudulently, she promised a zero tolerance approach saying every complaint of charity fraud will be investigated. Four cases of charity fraud were investigated in 2008, and the Investigative Unit of the Secretary of State’s office has open two new cases in 2009.
“My office takes charity fraud very seriously,” Tennant said. “People who run charity scams are taking advantage of the best qualities of West Virginians. People here care about their neighbors and people who are less fortunate, and the men and women who protect us by being police officers, fire fighters, or by serving in the military. But it’s not only false charities. I want to make sure people know which charities put the most money back into West Virginia. So really, it’s all about making sure that people who donate to charities get the most bang for their buck.”
In the last fiscal year, West Virginians donated more than $400 million to charities. The charities licensed to solicit donations in West Virginia spent more than $600 million on programs in the state.
On the web:
West Virginia Secretary of State Charities Division Database
Federal Trade Commission Public Information
Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance
American Institute of Philanthropy