Public Safety Organizations
Residents often ask if a telephone solicitation on behalf of a police or fire organization is legitimate. Usually, it is. However, how the organization intends to use the money may differ from the resident’s expectations or assumptions.
Several legitimate organizations are, or have, engaged in telephone-based fundraising. These include professional groups like the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association and the Wisconsin Narcotics Officers Association, and labor unions like the Wisconsin Troopers Association and Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association.
Such organizations usually register with the state and IRS as non-profit entities, so their revenues aren’t taxable. However, they are not charitable organizations and donations to them are not tax deductible. This doesn’t imply that they would use your donations improperly. Not registering as a charity gives the organizations more flexibility in how the funds are used and relieves them of complicated reporting requirements. For example, one organization uses donations to support public outreach programs as well to support training opportunities for its members.
Because their members typically lack the time and resources to conduct solicitations, organizations usually hire an outside firm to do it for them. These firms keep most of the revenues as payment for their services; commissions run from 80-90%.
If you are contacted by a telemarketer, ask the following questions:
- Is the organization a registered charity? What will the donation be used for? Are scholarships (if mentioned) available for anyone or only for members’ families? What percentage of the donation will be retained by the telemarketer?
- As long as you make a well-informed decision, there’s nothing inherently wrong with supporting these organizations.
Those who would like to help a particular police or fire department can always make a direct donation. Donations to government agencies are tax deductible, and none of the money would be lost to a telemarketer.