AG: Professional fundraisers retain nearly 1/3 of charitable campaign

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NEW YORK – State Attorney General Letitia James, Friday, released the annual “Pennies for Charity: Fundraising by Professional Fundraisers” report, which found that nearly one-third of charitable donations ended up in the pockets of professional fundraisers.

This year’s report looks at trends in fundraising, such as the rise of online giving, as well as the percentage of funds raised that went to charities.

“Every year, New Yorkers give generously to charity. Unfortunately, not all the money they donate reaches the charities they intend to help,” said James.

The state has a robust charitable sector, supported by generous giving by New Yorkers. In 2019, more than $1.2 billion was raised in New York State through 824 fundraising campaigns conducted by professional fundraisers on behalf of charities. These campaigns, which are the focus of the report, used a range of methods including special events, direct mail, and telemarketing. The report and the searchable Pennies for Charity database containing the underlying data is posted at

Of the more than $1.2 billion raised through campaigns conducted by professional fundraisers, charities netted more than $918 million, or 72 percent of the proceeds, while professional fundraisers’ fees and expenses totaled $364 million, or 28 percent. This is in line with an overall improvement in amounts retained by charities, which the report attributes to a variety of factors including enforcement and donor education efforts by the Charities Bureau.

This year’s report also analyzed current fundraising trends, such as the rise in online giving. Telemarketing, while continuing to decline as a fundraising method, remained among the costliest mechanisms, with 196 telemarketing campaigns by fundraisers retaining more than 50 percent of funds raised for charities.

Other significant findings from analyzing the 824 fundraising campaigns covered by this report include:

  • In 254 campaigns, or approximately 31 percent of the campaigns covered in the report, fundraisers retained more than 50 percent of the funds raised.
  • Charities retained $918 million overall of the funds solicited from the campaigns; fundraisers retained $364 million.
  • In 144 campaigns (17 percent), fundraising expenses exceeded charitable revenue. In 2019, this loss to charities totaled more than $17 million.

The OAG actively investigates suspect fundraising practices. To assist charities in navigating the world of professional fundraisers, the report includes tips for charities hiring fundraisers.

The report also includes tips for donors, including specific guidance for responding to phone, direct mail, or online solicitations. Key tips include:

  • Take time to research the organization.
  • Know where your money will go.
  • Don’t be pressured by telemarketers
  • Ask to be put on a “do not call” list.
  • Be wary of deceptive tactics and emotional appeals.
  • Don’t disclose personal information.
  • If donating online or via text, donate securely.
  • Never give cash.
  • To help in a disaster, give to organizations you know or that have experience in this work.
  • Report suspicious organizations.

More information about the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau and organizations regulated by the Bureau may be found at