Most citizens hold law enforcement and public safety
personnel in high regard, and are willing to do what they can to support them.
This sense of loyalty may lead you to donate to groups which align themselves
with causes related to police or fire fighters.
Solicitations, calls, and mailings from groups claiming to
have an affiliation with police or fire fighters should be looked at carefully.
These solicitations may have very little to do with local police or fire
Most calls for police and fire fighter groups are not made
by local officers, even though this is what you may assume or be led to
believe. Solicitors are usually professional fundraisers, who may or may not be
calling on behalf of a local public safety agency. People in Wisconsin have
reported being contacted by law enforcement and firefighter labor unions. When
a labor union collects money, it is divided between the professional fundraiser
and the labor union, not the local public safety agency. Local public safety
agencies are already funded by tax dollars.
Even if a group claims to be affiliated with a local
organization, this does not necessarily indicate that much of the money will
benefit the local public safety agency.
Other groups are for-profit companies which adopt a name
that sounds as if it is associated with law enforcement or firefighters, but
none of the funds go to any such groups or causes. This can include companies
that publish law enforcement or firefighting journals who call businesses asking
them to buy advertising space. Some of these companies have been known to send
invoices for advertising, even though the business did not agree to place an
How much do they get?
Another important fact you should know before making a
decision to donate, buy a ticket, or pay for advertising is to find out what
percentage of the money collected actually goes to the local public safety
agency. Professional fundraisers can legally keep 75 percent or more of the
money collected. This means that a public safety agency can end up with as
little as 10 percent or less of the donated funds. This is due to the high
costs sometimes associated with fundraising campaigns. There is also U.S.
Supreme Court ruling stating that it is illegal to regulate the portion of
contributions a fundraiser may take. Unfortunately, this means that local
police or fire agencies can become victims along with individual consumers or
businesses which give money to professional fundraisers.
Professional fundraisers typically raise more money than a
local public safety agency can raise on its own. Therefore, some public safety
agencies do enter into contracts with professional fundraisers in order to be
guaranteed a certain amount of money. The public safety agency may be willing
to settle for 10 percent of the money the fundraiser actually collects. You may
think it is quite an accomplishment when $56,000 is raised for your local
police or fire department, but may become disgruntled to find that $560,000 was
actually collected from people in your community.
Check your investment
In deciding whether to support a fundraiser who calls on
behalf of a law enforcement or public safety agency, ask the following
Where is the organization located?
Is the caller being paid or calling as a volunteer?
What percentage of your donation will actually go to the
local public safety agency?
What will the public safety agency do with the money you are
When asking these questions, listen for any hesitation or
uncertainty in the caller. Be suspicious if the caller is unable or unwilling
to provide this basic information.
Contact the Department of Financial Institutions to verify a
charity is registered at (608) 267-1711 or online at www.wdfi.org.
Additional information about charities can also be obtained
through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at (703) 276-0100.