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Report: Charities using telemarketers reap little cash

Long Islanders who receive solicitation calls for charity should know this: Only a fraction of each dollar they give through such calls actually reaches the charity.

That's the conclusion of an annual report released Monday by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office. The report, "Pennies for Charity," found that in 2008, Long Island nonprofits that used telemarketers to solicit funds received only 24.57 cents out of every dollar raised. The rest went to the for-profit telemarketers making the solicitation calls.

LINK: Click here to find out where your charity’s money is going

Charities in the Long Island region actually receive the lowest amount of money through telemarketing calls among all regions in the state - and lower than the state average of 39.5 cents, the report found. Still, Long Island is doing better than in 2007, when the region's nonprofits received only 16.81 cents per dollar raised through telemarketers.

In addition to the report, the attorney general's office unveiled a new Web site that allows the public to search specific charities and how much money they receive from telemarketing solicitations.

In a written statement, Cuomo said he hoped the report and the Web site would lead to a more informed donating public.

"Hopefully, it will encourage giving to those charities which keep and use more of the funds raised," the statement said.

The report included 49 charitable campaigns run by 43 Long Island-based charities. Two - the Suffolk County Police Conference and the Suffolk County Retired Police Detectives Association, both independent of the Suffolk County Police Department - received none of the money that their telemarketers raised. Another, the New York Veteran Police Association, received 91.96 percent of the money raised. Most of the nonprofits named received around 20 to 30 cents per dollar.

Claire Rosenzweig, chief executive of the BBB of Metropolitan New York, said ideally charities should receive at least 65 cents from every fundraised dollar.

"You don't want to hand away all this money to a telemarketer and end up with nothing," Rosenzweig said.

Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, said while nonprofits sometimes view any dollars they receive as a benefit, the public is often turned off by high telemarketing costs.

"The lesson learned from these reports is, again, when you're contributing to charity," Weiner said, "don't assume that charity is always going to get the majority of money you send."

LINK: Click here to find out where your charity’s money is going

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