Colleen Chen, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahomans are known for giving when there is a need, and the call to action is no greater than the holiday season when charities ask Oklahomans to give to a variety of causes. However, the Better Business Bureau said those looking to donate need to make sure they know where their money is going.
Often telemarketers take a big chunk of the donations they help get for a charity. One cause a lot of charities help are holiday presents for the less fortunate. For instance, the children at Edgemere Elementary are being sponsored by the Oklahoma City Junior Chamber of Commerce known as the OKC Jaycees. Nearly all the students are at poverty level.
"Most of our kids probably wouldn't get very many Christmas gifts if we didn't have a sponsor." said Principal Dennis Gentry.
The Jaycees adopt a school each year. It's one of their main efforts. Letters have gone out along with phone calls to drive donations.
The donation drive is handled by the telemarketing company S.H.O and Associates of Del City. Their office location lists no signs of their existence. Tax Exemption records show in 2009, the company helped the Jaycees raise more than $208,000, and the telemarketers took 89 percent of the funds. In 2007, 89 percent of funds raised went to pay for fundraising efforts. In 2006, it was 30 percent that went to paying S.H.O. and Associates.
"BBB standards are we don't like to see more than 35 percent going to fundraising costs," said Bob Manista with the Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma.
Manista said there are no laws that govern how much money a solicitor can take.
"There is a big business in charity and the solicitors is where that is at," Manista added.
Well known and reputable charities like the Oklahoma Police Chiefs Training Foundation said they feel stuck. They also use S.H.O. and Associates to bring in funds and are charged 85 percent for the service.
"They're making a good living off of it," said Oklahoma Police Chiefs Training Foundation Executive Director Stacey Puckett.
She said small non profits don't have the manpower to fundraise on their own and are forced to depend on telemarketers to bring in funds even though they don't like it.
"People just don't give without being asked first. In our case that is 15 thousand that we would not have had otherwise, but they took 85 thousand," Puckett said.
While the BBB said their non-profit telemarketing payment standard is no more than 35 percent, Puckett said companies like that don't exist.
"I would love to find somebody who would offer me that. They're not out there," she said.
There is a fix and it comes from those who choose to donate.
"If a solicitor gets you excited about a charity, there is nothing wrong with hanging up from that solicitor, asking for more materials, and making a donation directly to the charity. That way you're sure most of your money is going to the charity and not to a solicitor," Manista said.
You can research charities and their funds for free by going to guidestar.org.
S.H.O. declined requests for an interview. The Jaycees sent a statement saying they've been contracted with S.H.O for years and the company takes a portion of the proceeds for administrative costs.