Building Philanthropy for a Better Florida

If considering gifts in wake of Orlando attack, make sure organizations are reputable and registered

Publication date: 
June, 2016
Source(s): 
Fresh From Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With a declared State of Emergency in response to the terrorist attack in Orlando, Commissioner Adam H. Putnam announced that strengthened laws governing charitable organizations are now in effect in an effort to prevent unscrupulous individuals or organizations from taking advantage of this tragedy. Floridians looking to make donations should visit FreshFromFlorida.com, where they can research charitable organizations by using the department’s Gift Givers’ Guide. 
 
Charitable organizations are required to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services prior to soliciting contributions in Florida, and those that raise $50,000 or more in the aftermath of natural disasters or other crises must submit specific documentation to the department.
 
“As we all mourn the loss of these innocent lives, may we be here for each other as a family and provide support. If any Floridians are considering charitable gifts in the wake of this tragedy, I encourage them to research the charitable organization on our website,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
 
In the wake of a disaster, charitable organizations must submit financial information regarding contributions and program service expenses on a quarterly basis, except for charitable organizations that have been registered with the department for at least four consecutive years. The department will post a notice on its website of each disaster or crisis which is subject to the reporting requirements of this section within 10 days after the disaster or crisis. s. 496.4072, F.S.
 
Consumers can help protect themselves from charity-related scams by:
  • Asking questions, such as: “Who is the fundraiser and who will benefit from the donation?”; “How much of the contribution goes to the charity mentioned in the request”; and “How much of the donation goes toward administrative and fundraising expenses?”;
  • Be wary of emotional appeals, and be suspicious of organizations with only vague plans for dispensing the funds;
  • Visiting our online Gift Givers' Guide by clicking here or calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) to find a charity’s current registration status and financial information about the charity, including how much of a donation will go toward the individuals the charity intends to help versus operating expenses; and
  • Reporting any suspicious charitable solicitations by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).
 
Commissioner Putnam worked closely with the Florida Legislature in 2014 to strengthen laws to protect consumers from charity-related scams by: banning organizations that have violated certain laws in other states from soliciting funds in Florida; prohibiting felons from soliciting funds for charity; requiring professional solicitors who operate like telemarketers to provide fingerprints for background checks; requiring a charity that receives more than $1 million, but spends less than 25 percent on its cause, to provide detailed information; and increasing fines for fraudulent or deceptive acts in violation of the law.
 
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